January 20, 2016
Last weekend, a swarm of Suffolk-based filmmakers descended on Bentwaters Parks, firstly to come and meet others they may not have known were working in their industry across the county, and secondly (and more importantly!), to find out from the Bentwaters team what our former US airbase HQ has to offer as a filming location.
We kicked off the morning at Bruizer, where guests had the opportunity to see our recently renovated offices and studio, and our kit and crew in action, and hear about how we’ve used Bentwaters’ facilities in our own films over the years. We pulled out all the stops, even decorating the old Fire Station with a couple of vintage fire engines that just happened to be hanging around on the base. The visit also took us to arts hub Old Jet, where we heard about their next project to convert a former flight simulation room into another smaller studio on the base, which will eventually offer space for photography shoots, band rehearsals, and potentially green screen filming.
After brunch in the picturesque shepherd’s cottage, we headed out on a tour of the base’s main locations, including our old favourite, the Hush House, then the ‘Star Wars’ building whose name comes not from its strange, futuristic, concrete façade (originally built as emergency protection against the nuclear weapons housed in the bomb stores opposite throughout the Cold War!), but from the techies who worked inside. Finally we viewed the new ‘Black Hangar’, which has recently been made available as yet another filming location, followed by a visit to the Bentwaters Cold War Museum which was opened up specially for the occasion.
We finished off the event hearing about plans for a Suffolk Film Office and longer term goals to expand Bentwaters’ facilities. Film and television is currently Britain’s biggest growing sector, generating a whopping £8 million per hour for our economy. Yet with no film studio cluster of the likes of Bristol’s Bottle Yard Studios in the East of England, Suffolk’s estimated contribution to this total is just six minutes a year! A recent report showed that in order to change this, Suffolk is in real need of a film office such as those found in Somerset, Liverpool and Kent, not to mention organisations equivalent to Northern Film and Media and Screen Yorkshire in the North East, which channel productions into the area and provide them with much needed funds and investment. Suffolk is both underrepresented and underfunded, and excitingly, Bentwaters Parks are on a mission to change this. Saturday’s event, which we hope will become a regular occurrence after last weekend’s success, was just one of their first steps towards putting Suffolk on the map as one of the UK’s top areas for filmmaking. We hope to see the base become home to a new squadron of producers, directors and cameramen over the coming years!