Black Hangar Studios: Open for Business – movieScope

Located at Lasham Airfield, Kent, Black Hangar Studios is offering a more “intimate and bespoke” shooting experience for film and television productions looking beyond Pinewood and Shepperton studios.

The studios boast a Special FX department headed up by Harry Potter special effects supervisor Digby Milner and art department run by Oscar-winner Simon Lamont, who designed the water tank.

The studios have already proved themselves with a number of shoots, most notably Lasse Hallström’s recent film Salmon Fishing In The Yemen, produced by BBC Films.

Chief Executive Officer Carole Siller, formerly a senior figure at the now defunct Tartan Films,  told movieScope: “We’ve been getting small shoots, second-unit shoots, commercials and promos down to the studio, which in a way has put us a little bit behind.

“There’s always challenges setting up any business no matter what you’re doing; the challenge lies in letting people know what you can deliver, how you will deliver it, and getting them familiar with the area. But we’re optimistic about Black Hangar because we have an amazing space to work with.”

Black Hangar is currently focused on marketing its capabilities, and Siller is liaising with UK organisations including the British Film Commission, Film London, Creative England. Black Hangar is also sponsoring this year’s UK pavilion at the Cannes Film Festival.

“The challenge is to let the independent companies know we’re here, and we really want to be a great provider for them. My team come from big budget productions, and they want to be more intimately involved in art direction and special effects on some smaller projects.”

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The studio’s 5,000 sq ft water tank…

Siller is conscious not to market Black Hangar as direct competitors to the behemoth studios at Pinewood and Shepperton, but is hopeful Black Hangar can pick up more independent productions:

“You aren’t going to be able to compete with the bigger studios. You can fault them; we all love them, we’ve all worked in them, we will work in them again, and we are hoping to work with them.

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CEO Carole Siller

“But we want to invite people into a more intimate and bespoke environment and that’s what we’re about. I think we’ll get a lot of good picture second unit work for the big pictures, and that’s fine. It’s quite often the big studios like Pinewood and Shepperton can’t service their clients with another big stage, and we can help them with that.”

Due in part to the disruption caused by changing digital production and distribution models, the “mid-budget” film production – which has such a proud tradition in British cinema – has latterly struggled to find breathing space among so many micro and mega budget films. Black Hangar hopes to provide an affordable home for productions that budgets in the early millions:

“With the well-documented changes in the film industry in terms of distribution, it’s hard for filmmakers to know what the right budget is to get a return. I’m finding this with filmmakers a lot; they feel they need to go high-higher, or low-lower. I feel like they’re getting stuck on a lot of different messages.

“In the UK production sector, look at how many Hollywood productions are shooting here; Prometheus, Thor, Hugo Cabret,  even Fast and the Furious, which is a very American project. Why? Because throughout all the missions of the Film Council and all the tweaking of tax incentives – whether some have worked or not – it has resulted in driving a lot of production here and it’s produced some of the best technicians in the world. People will keep on coming back and shooting their films in the UK as a result.”

More information on Black Hangar studios can be found in movieScope magazine issue 27, on news stands now.