Dragon International Film Studios
The main gates of the studios
|Industry||film and television production|
Dragon International Film Studios, also known as Valleywood, is a complex of film and television studios at Llanilid in Wales, United Kingdom about 5 miles from Bridgend, 14 miles (23 kilometres) from the Welsh capital, Cardiff. The project was developed by the consortium Dragon International Studios, chaired by Richard Attenborough.
The construction of a film studio in south Wales was first proposed in 2001, with two developers, Fairfield Properties and Westair Properties backing the production of a 350-acre site in Llanilid near Bridgend. The Welsh Assembly government at first objected the plans, unhappy with proposals to link the studios to the M4 motorway by building a new junction to connect the site. Discussions in October 2002 between the Assembly and Rhondda Cynon Taf local council, Assembly member Pauline Jarman and the consortium behind the bid resolved the issues. Agreements were reached that any new access links to the M4 would only occur if a percentage of the development was completed and the construction of a theme park, which was part of a "Phase 2" of the plans. The initial proposals had an estimated budget of £350m, rising to a cost of £1bn after the completion of a screen academy and the theme park. Lord Attenborough, who was the chair of Dragon International Studios Limited, promised the studio would create 1,700 local jobs, with the local council believing a further 6,000 jobs would be created from a proposed adjacent development by the Villard Partnership, which planned to build hotels, a conference centre, health spa and a new hospital. Due to the collapse of heavy industry in south Wales over the previous decades, the development, itself built on the site of a former open-cast coal mine, was seen by those involved as a major economic boost to an area with high unemployment.
The following year, despite approved planning and a proposed completion date of 2004, no work had commenced at the site. The then chief executive of Dragon International Studios, Steve Villard, accused the Welsh Assembly of holding up the project through failing to approve grants needed to begin construction and threatened to move the whole project to a rival site in Newport. The government's response was to state that they gave assistance to cases that provided "truly viable business case". In August 2004 commencement of work was finally declared.
In early 2005, with no buildings complete, work was delayed again after dormice, a protected species in Britain, were found on the site. Despite Lord Attenborough's belief that the studio would be completed by 2004, a hold up in a grant meant that by May 2005 work at Llanilid had not commenced. In July 2005 work again halted when the firm was found not to have the necessary permits to carry out sewage works. This was followed by further delays when bad weather hampered progress until March 2006. Six years after the project was first proposed and nearly four years after planning permission was granted, construction work started on the first phase of the scheme in August 2007.
Productions and finance
In March 2008 administrators PricewaterhouseCoopers were called in to resolve the financial situation after both Dragon International Studies and Westair Ltd went into administration. The companies owed £15m to creditors including £3m to Barclays Bank and £600,000 to the Welsh government. The administrators appointed Edward Symmons to advise them, who as of 2012 was continuing to seek a buyer for the stages as well as looking for television and film opportunities. One option open to the administrators has been to sell off the additional land on the site that was ear-marked for the "Phase 2" developments. This has led to various proposals by businesses to develop the land next to the film studio including plans for 2,000 homes, a primary school, health centre, library, recreation facilities and shops.
Despite their financial issues, in October 2009 filming began for the studios' first film, Ironclad. Starring Paul Giamatti, the film focuses on the great siege of Rochester Castle when, following the signing of the Magna Carta, King John gathered an army to reclaim his power and exert bloody revenge on those who defied him. The television series Doctor Who utilised the studios in September 2010 to film sequences within the TARDIS corridors for the fourth episode of the sixth series, The Doctor's Wife.
Dragon Studios have also been used by the BBC for the filming of series 1 of Upstairs Downstairs, the series Whites starring Alan Davies, and Merlin. S4C filmed a live audience show there with X Factor's Rhydian.
The complex has four silent sound stages, ranging between 10,000 square feet (930 m2) and one of 20,000 square feet (1,900 m2) in size. Each stage has a large concrete apron and clear height to eaves of 10.30 metres (33.8 ft). The stages sit on a large site with car parking and a surfaced back lot of roughly 5 acres (2.0 ha). Each stage has a two-storey office block attached.
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