Lights, Camera…Action!

This year is set to be a significant year for Twickenham Film Studios, which has experienced great success but also near failure over the course of a century. We sent Cathy Cooper to investigate this hidden gem…

This little movie industry hidden in the backstreets of leafy St Margarets started out in the silent film era when it was the biggest studio in the UK. The talkies then took over and eventually huge Oscar-winning blockbusters with directors like Carol Reed, Sam Peckinpah and Richard Attenborough walking through its doors. It was considered ‘nice, modest and domestic’ yet it almost closed down in 2012 and was saved at the last minute.

Situated across the road from the railway station, its sign, which states it was established in 1913, is partly obscured by a bus shelter. Outside main reception an iconic quote by Michael Caine from the film The Italian Job is printed on the wall and next to it etched on the glass doors are the symbols of newly branded logo which represent: Studios + Picture + Sound + Workspace + Social.

This ‘Home for Filmmakers’ is being refurbished and expanded within the existing site to provide a new campus with state-of-the-art facilities, a creative hub, a café, cinema and heritage centre, and will very much involve the local community.

There is certainly a rich history spanning the decades, but I am here to meet with the Marketing Director, Victoria Poole to find out about the new developments and the future of TFS. 

We sit up in the roof terrace lounge beneath a framed poster of the film ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ and I am whisked back to 1964 when on a dreary day in the back streets of Milford Haven I queued up outside the Empire Cinema to see the Beatles’ debut on screen.  Partly filmed in the studios and in locations around the area, it became a ground breaker of the 20th Century and gave the studios the boost they needed.

Since then they have been adding to rolling credits on movies, videos and commercials for their studio services and specialist sound effects known as Foley. More recently the box office hit No Time to Die, the latest in the James Bond series, utilised the Foley team to create effects from high-heeled shoes in cocktails bars to ropes being hoisted through roof windows.

I am given a brief tour of the site but unfortunately Studio 1, which was used in the movies A Hard Day’s Night and Help was busy.

The Beatles also hired this space to rehearse new songs for their last album together, Let It Be. Tapes from these sessions in January 1969 were restored and digitized by director Peter Jackson resulting in eight hours of footage put together for a three-part documentary on the Disney Channel.

When I eventually watched this riveting documentary, Get Back, I felt that I knew Studio 1 very well but would I ever get my chance to stand on the hallowed concrete floor? 

Well on the 15th January, TFS welcomes the charity SLEEP POD to the campus and invites volunteers to spend the day helping to build these one-person lightweight emergency shelters for rough sleepers in severe weather conditions, keeping them warm and dry.

So not only will I get my Beatles fix but I will also spend the day doing something worthwhile to help others.

Watch this space!

For more info on TFS:

TFS History:

Sleep Pods:

UPDATE: The Sleep Pod event on 15 Jan mentioned in the article will unfortunately not be going ahead due to Covid.

Words & Photos: Cathy Cooper

Twickenham Wildlife Photographer

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