Gravity

the oscarsAs the credits rolled on the Oscars for another year (and Gravity pulls us all back down to earth eventually), it was a joy for everyone at 20TheBarons to see so many golden statuettes migrating to the trophy cabinets of the West London region’s famous film studios. Gravity, which won 7 Oscars including Best Director for Alfonso Cuáron, was filmed nine miles down the road at Shepperton Studios. Operating as a film lot since 1932, Shepperton’s credits include The Third Man (1949), Dr Strangelove (1964) and previous space odyssey and Academy award winner Alien (1979), and it is now part of the thriving Pinewood group. Pinewood Studios, in Iver Heath, are themselves home to Glenn Freemantle of Sound 24, who won the Academy Award for Gravity’s Sound Editing. Developed as a film studio in 1935, by J Arthur Rank and Charles Boot, Pinewood’s credits include the James Bond movies and its studios feature the world famous 007 Stage. Closer to home, on our doorstep in fact, Twickenham Film Studios’ Foley Mixer Adam Fil Méndez was part of the Gravity Sound team that has also just won the Cinema Audio Society award for Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing. One need only see the bustle brought to St Margarets by recent productions at Twickenham Studios, such as Frankenstein (starring Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy) and Cuban Fury (starring Nick Frost) to realise the impact of a thriving film industry. Of course, it is not just London’s grand old studios that are in such rude health. The capital’s diverse young talent is breaking new ground in movie-making, with the work of Soho’s Framestore at the forefront. Tim Webber’s team won the Academy Award for Visual Effects for creating Gravity’s stunningly believable and panoramic spacescapes. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney were rigged up and filmed within Framestore’s innovative Lightbox, named one of the best inventions of 2013 by Time Magazine, while the 3D vastness of space, the Earth, 30 million stars, space shuttles, the International Space Station, and the devastating explosions and debris were generated through a combination of innovative filming techniques and cutting-edge CGI. Gravity also won Best Original Score for Steven Price, who recorded at London’s Abbey Road studios and attempted to replicate the sound of the strings on The Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby. The other notable Oscar success was, of course, 12 Years A Slave, winner of three Oscars including Best Picture. Its director Steve McQueen grew up in West London, attending Drayton Manor High School, while leading man, Chiwetel Ejiofor, was born in Forest Gate. Over £1 billion was spent on film production in the UK last year, and London has regained its rightful place at the centre of the movie world. A successful film industry, whether in the Sixties or today, is a key player in a vibrant London, and a vibrant London in turn attracts the best film-makers. As Amanda Nevill, chief executive of BFI, noted in the Financial Times: “If you ask the top actors and their families whether they’d like to shoot in London for three months, versus a desert somewhere, it’s not a difficult question to answer.” London has developed its own movie-making ‘gravity’, attracting the biggest stars into its glittering orbit.

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