Transforming sterile buildings into film and TV studios can improve bottom line
With two main film studios booked out, empty industrial or commercial properties have become a boon for film-makers looking for sets
Irish Times fashion shoot with Love Hate actors Aoibhinn McGinnity and Aaron Heffernan at the former John Players factory off the South Circular Road in Dublin. Photograph: Alan Betson
Industrial and commercial buildings can look cold, sterile and not something you would associate with the perceived glamour of film and TV.
There are, however, quite a few buildings around Dublin currently without anchor tenants that are a hive of TV and film activity.
Ireland has two main film studios capable of taking big projects – Ardmore and Ashford. And both are booked out long term with TV productions Penny Dreadful and Vikings respectively.
There is a huge squeeze already on space from film companies that require studio time to deliver projects. The availability of buildings originally constructed as commercial or industrial properties, but currently unoccupied, has become a boon for film companies looking to shoot here.
This situation looks likely to continue, given new tax incentives giving film-makers bigger tax breaks from 2015 till 2020.
Upsurge predictedMore suitable premises are needed for the predicted upsurge of film-makers looking to avail of the tax regime. So will this be a potential goldmine for landlords with suitable premises or more trouble than it’s worth?
Jarlath Lynn, associate director at CBRE, said, financially, it would depend on the type of project, building required and length of tenure to make it a viable proposition for a landlord.
“It can be quite temporary. We get calls from people who ask can they use the place for a day, and we say “No”; and the reason is there’s no money in it. We’re not trying to be unhelpful, it’s just there can be more for a landlord to lose in terms of risk than gain.
“For some landlords it can work well for them, whereas others would see it as too temporary. Some landlords might be afraid of losing a longer-term deal. Then again it could be an American movie and pay a higher rent.”
O’Carroll Mulhern Services (OCMS) specialises in identifying and managing under-utilised commercial and industrial spaces and turning them into “pop-up” studios for film and TV crews.
The company also set up Blackthorn Studios in Sandyford industrial estate where popular programmes such as Love/Hate are filmed.
“Our challenge is to identify suitable places for film companies looking to film here,” said Conor O’Carroll, OCMS director and co-owner.
“With Ardmore and Ashford booked out, we look to create what we call pop-up studios, so when Universal or Paramount come to film their big projects they have somewhere to go. Ardmore is too small and can only take one big job at a time. Penny Dreadful is there now and Ashford has Vikings; this means that no one else can be there and both look like they’ll be in occupancy to the summer of 2015.
Suitable properties“Even if they were both free, there wouldn’t be enough space for two jobs at the same time, so we find suitable properties to film in and we make sure the film board know it’s there. We do deals with the owners and local authority and we’re ready with options and alternatives.”
O’Carroll s said film companies are looking for a minimum space of 2,320sq m (25,000sq ft), with a height of 10-12m, plenty of car parking areas and low noise. For instance one of the most popular sites used is the Airfreeze facility in Dublin’s dockland, built as a refrigerated facility – so it comes soundproofed and is an ideal space for filming.