On 11th April a group of thirty members of Bristol Civic Society were invited to tour the Bottle Yard Studios. Site Director Fiona Francombe guided us around the vast site with three hundred thousand square feet of buildings converted from the former Harvey & Sons bottling plant. Clients range from the BBC to Walt Disney.
During the visit active filming was taking place for a scene for a new Jane Austin TV series ‘Sanditon’ on an eighteenth century street specially constructed on the studio backlot.
The studio has a number of ‘stages’ created from the former industrial buildings amounting in total to 300,000 square feet. As well as filming space the studios contain premises for range of film industry tenants covering all aspects of film production. One of the most impressive is the 30,000 square foot warehouse of Bristol Costume Services containing 90,000 costumes of all types, periods and sizes for hire. Also there is a company run by real firemen who have a side business, based at the studio, specialising in providing fire engines for the film industry and also providing fire protection services to productions.
Part of the tour included a studio containing a mammoth green screen for special effects and also the set of the TV series Crystal Maze.
We visited the set of a major American television mini series ‘The Spanish Princess’. The set was a multi-room recreation of the sixteenth century Palace of Westminster, complete fire places and fake tapestries. Even standing right next to the fake walls they are indistinguishable from the real thing – a tribute to the skill of the craftsmen who convert chipboard to stone.
As well as the visit to the filming stages, Fiona explained the role of the studios and the film industry in the Bristol economy and also covered, the perhaps questionable, future plans to move part of the operation to Hawkfield Business Park to free up land for housing.
A fascinating tour. Many thanks to Site Director Fiona Francombe, Emma Reid and Rebecca Old who showed us around. Photography on the tour was not allowed for understandable reasons but an example of what is produced there can be seen on The Bottle Yard Studios show reel.
Graham Egarr, Events Team