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Word from our Chief Executive: Star Wars in the UK

Date posted: 30.11.2015

In recent months there has been a lot of well deserved attention given to the US-financed British-made blockbusters that have been gracing screens worldwide and projecting a fantastic tourist image of the UK in general, and London in particular.

Spectre and Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation are the most prominent and glamorous examples of these (although even Minions featured a massive sequence in an animated version of central London). But the biggest global blockbuster to hit screens before the end of the year will be the first film in the newly reinvigorated Star Wars franchise, helmed by JJ Abrams of Star Trek relaunch fame.

On the face of it the latest Star Wars film might not seem to the casual observer like something which projects 'Great Britain' (or more accurately that Britain is Great), and certainly in terms of simple tourism eyeballs the outer space setting doesn't offer immediate benefits to tourism agencies or visitor attraction operators.

Yet scratch below the surface, and for our creative industries, Star Wars is equally as important in projecting UK PLC.

Lucasfilm's decision to come and base themselves in the UK, to shoot both Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the spinoff Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, is a vast vote of confidence in our creative talent, infrastructure and tax reliefs.

Certainly with regard to the latter, securing Star Wars for the UK sent out a positive signal about the competiveness, efficiency and stability of our fiscal inventive regime. In turn this has encouraged more big-budget studio films, medium-budget independent films, high-end multi-part television and animation productions to work here.

Regarding our creative talent, Star Wars: The Force Awakens has drawn massively on our local talent pool. With a cast including John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Gwendoline Christie, Peter Mayhew and Simon Pegg, to name but a few of the British faces appearing alongside some of the more familiar star names returning to the franchise, it is proof that we have one of the most exciting reservoirs of front-of-screen emerging and established talent anywhere in the world right now.

Behind the camera, Star Wars is drawing on top-flight UK technical crew that run into a cast of hundreds, if not thousands, at different stages of the production process. The visual effects, of course, have a major starring role of their own, and in order to service the massive requirements of the films, Lucasfilm created a new division of its own VFX studio, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), in London. This has created hundreds of new jobs to further swell our magnificent repository of world class VFX and post facilities, both in London and other hubs throughout the UK.

The decision to land the franchise in the UK and use Pinewood Studios as a base has not only had an immediate benefit for this iconic British studio, but I would think it also assisted their case to progress expansion plans, with the multi-million works now in full swing.

All of these effects radiate out from Star Wars being based here, and that is without considering all the other related vendor companies contracted to supply various pieces of equipment, goods and services - from vehicles to catering - that such a mammoth film project requires.

The net result is that Star Wars means investment into the UK economy, with significant spend with UK companies, lots of jobs being created and supported, a huge number of new opportunities for our talent, all of which contributes to the economic health of our creative economy. It's why we at Film London, the British Film Commission, and all our partners and colleagues across the UK industry are so pleased and proud to be, even in a small way, associated with this incredible production.

So when you see Star Wars: The Force Awakens when it reaches cinema later this month, remember the Force really is with us - right here in the UK.

Adrian Wootton
Chief Executive, Film London and the British Film Commission

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