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The Times (18/May/1920) - Film Production in England

(c) The Times (18/May/1920)



Within a month or two it will be possible to begin film production on an extensive scale at the new studios which the Famous Players-Lasky British Producers Company are equipping at Islington. Already one of the two large studios is practically ready for use and the electric power is installed.

It is difficult to realize that a few months ago the building at Islington was the derelict power station of the Metropolitan Electric Supply Company. The interior of the building has been practically gutted, and little except the outside walls remains. Thus it has been possible to build the studios according to the latest plans with the most up-to-date devices from the United States. It was impossible to find a contractor prepared to carry out the reconstruction within the specified time, and it was accordingly decided to carry out the work by direct labour, a method that has proved entirely successful. There are two large studios, one on the ground floor and the other on the first floor. The ground floor studio is about 102ft. length by 65ft., and one of the most remarkable features of it is the large water tank which has been sunk into the middle of the floor. When this is not required it can be covered over, but on the shortest notice it can be prepared for water scenes and, if necessary, the water can be raised to 65deg. without trouble. Windows have been let into the sides of the tank to simplify the photographing of under-water scenes.

By an ingenious use of high pressure and low pressure pipes it is believed that the one great difficulty, the London fog, has been successfully surmounted. The fog, if it enters the studio, is at once forced into the centre and is expelled from the roof, and during a recent heavy fog the experiment was tried with complete success. At the side of this studio is a large scene dock, and as the scenes are painted they can be dispatched direct to the studio, or by an elevator to the second studio on the first floor. The second studio is a large and well lit room, and it is so arranged that six scenes can be set and photographed simultaneously. One of the difficulties that have had to be surmounted has been the fact that the London County Council classifies the building as a theatre and not as a factory. It has therefore necessary to construct the studios in such a way that there are always duplicate means of escape. Overlooking the second studio are the offices of the art director and some of the principal dressing rooms. There are other dressing rooms on the floor above, and dressing rooms for the crowds in the basement, and it is claimed that 300 people can dress for a production at the same time. There are also tailor's shops where the necessary costumes can be made, while the ladles' dresses are brought over from Paris, as it has to be remembered that the fashions have to be anticipated. Otherwise the films would be out of date when they came to be shown to the public. A large restaurant is now being built for the convenience of all taking part in the productions, as the studios are not situated in a district where food can be easily obtained, while a garage for half a dozen cars and accommodation for the unloading of all incoming goods are provided at the back of the building. A projection theatre, dark rooms, and painting rooms are established in the basement, and the administrative offices are to be found on the ground floor.

All the work of the studios will be done by artificial light, and in order to obtain sufficient power it has been necessary to lay a special cable for a mile and a half from Shoreditch. The current is received at 8,000 volts and is transformed down by means of two 250 k.v.a. static transformers to 220 volts, which feed four motor generators and is then capable of giving 800 amps. at 125 volts.