Our Friend in the Thames Valley

Our Friend in the Thames Valley

Thursday, 9th March 2023
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Jennie Marwick-Evans wants young people considering a career in TV to seize new opportunities in the Home Counties

What makes it to our screens, whether large or small, trickles out to influence the national psyche. In particular, this affects young ­people’s views on everything from diversity to their own self-image. Con­sciously or unconsciously, they absorb opinions and beliefs based on what they see in films and on television.

As audiences, we look to the content on our screens to create a positive impact. We want to be uplifted and entertained, of course, but, for younger audiences, it’s also about seeing what’s possible. Films and television are where the next generation glimpses potential futures. Seeing someone who looks like them on screen can have a huge impact on a young person.

The effect of what’s on TV or TikTok is not always rosy. The promotion of a certain look or body shape, and the objectification of men, as well as women, by shows such as Love Island and other reality series featuring a lack of body diversity, can create a false ideal that young people feel they have to strive for. Love Island came in for criticism in a report by the Mental Health Foundation, which contained some worrying statistics.  

Add to that, the mushrooming number of heavily curated social media feeds that give a very skewed view of real life, and young people’s self-image can take a battering, regardless of gender.

But it is not all doom and gloom. Behind the screen, there’s a brilliant opportunity to show young people from all backgrounds that our industry has much to offer them.

Here, in the Thames Valley region, over the last few years we have seen significant investment in new studio facilities. Not only is this preparing our region to become still more important for the screen industries, it is creating new jobs and opportunities for young people.

Due for completion in 2024, the 18-stage Shinfield Studios Film and TV Production and Innovation Hub in Berkshire has already opened four of its sound stages. Disney was its launch customer.

Also in Berkshire, Pip Studios, which opened its doors in 2020, is a purpose-built audio post-production facility. Its six Dolby Certified Atmos stages feature a number of leading-­edge technologies and support all aspects of audio services for feature films, TV, gaming and streaming.

The county’s Bray Film Studios, known for its association with the iconic Hammer Films, is investing in a major expansion project. Plans include four workshops, a rehearsal building, offices and even accommodation. The studio expects to generate an additional 1,500 full-time jobs. 

Also in the works is Marlow Film Studios, in Buckinghamshire. This 168,000m2 production facility will be a major new centre for British film-making.

Buckinghamshire County Council recently approved plans for a 130,000m2 expansion at Pinewood Studios. The investment is expected to create a further 21 purpose-built sound stages, a backlot filming space and an education and training hub. There are even plans for a nature reserve as part of the site.

These new investments are creating a buzz for the media sector in the Thames Valley region. They provide a fantastic opportunity to inspire the next generation with our collective passion and love of innovation.

There has never been a better time to take up a rewarding career in film and television, whether technical or creative. Who knows, one of the new intake might create the next Black Panther or Bridgerton, breaking barriers and charting new territory for our industry’s future evolution.

Jennie Marwick-Evans is Chair of RTS Technology Centre.

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