RTS Futures took a behind-the-scenes look around Pinewood Studios’ state-of-the-art television and film facilities in mid-September.
The sold-out tour featured the complex’s world-famous Underwater Stage, post facilities and the TV studios where many of the UK’s top TV sitcoms and panel shows are shot.
Head of television Sarah McGettigan, who hosted the tour, offered advice to the RTS Futures visitors starting out on a career in telly: “Make yourself useful, and be interested; you can never ask too many questions.”
McGettigan began as a runner at indies such as Hat Trick, before joining Pinewood in 2001, first as a resource coordinator and then moving into sales. She says that working on “both sides of the TV business – the technical and commercial” in various roles at Pinewood over the past 16 years has helped her to build a career in the industry.
Senior technical manager John Stemp showed the RTS Futures visitors around Pinewood’s TV studios, explaining how shows are recorded and allowing them to try out cameras. Working days can be long, he said, from early morning set-ups and rehearsals to recording a show in front of a studio audience during the evening to finishing off at night.
Dave Shaw of Diving Services UK was on hand to talk about the underwater stage, which he designed and manages for Pinewood. The permanently filled stage, which is 20 x 10 metres wide and 6 metres deep, is heated to a toasty 32oC. Bourne and Bond sequences have been shot in the tank, as well as hundreds of TV shows and commercials.
Having filmed, say, a car being driven off a cliff on location, Shaw’s team of experts can replicate the moment the car falls into the water on the underwater stage and then, seamlessly, film the actor escaping from the wreckage.
The facility mixes the high tech – green-screen filming – and more homegrown techniques, such as using mushed-up broccoli to create an algae-filled lake.
Classic movies, including Great Expectations, Goldfinger and Batman, were shot at Pinewood’s Buckinghamshire studios, which opened in 1936.
Pinewood is home to many TV comedy shows including Taskmaster and Would I Lie to You?, and provides shooting facilities for sitcoms such as Still Open All Hours starring David Jason and Lee Mack’s Not Going Out.
Recent dramas include Sherlock and the Ian McEwan adaptation, The Child in Time.
When working at full capacity, Pinewood is home to up to 4,000 people a day, employed in the workshops and production offices, and on the stages and back lots. It is also a base for some 250 independent companies who service the creative industries.
All photography by Phil Lewis.