Over the years, the South West has attracted a multitude of top production studios, spearheaded by the likes of BBC, Aardman Animations and ITV. As the region is home to a growing and flourishing creative tech scene, when looking to access regional talent outside of London, Bristol, Bath and the wider South West is an idyllic choice.
So, we’ve put together this list to shine a light on a handful of brilliant production studios based here in aid of CreaTech Month at TechSPARK. We hope you get inspired!
Ever since founders Peter Lord and David Sproxton created Morph – a small plasticine man – for their first professional production Take Hart in 1976, they captured the nation’s hearts and began a legacy of cultivating sweet, loveable characters to push the right buttons of nostalgia in spectators across the globe. At the ripe age of 45, Morph is still entertaining the next generation of children.
Aardman had the most humble of beginnings; Peter and David started with tabletop productions and built an Oscar Award winning, world class studio, which Bristol is the proud home to. The studio began specialising in clay stop-motion comedy animations and has retained its trademark image as it’s transitioned to computer-generated animations.
Other classic productions include Wallace and Gromit, Shaun the Sheep, Chicken Run and Sledgehammer, all of which quickly became family favourites for millions of people. Their multi-award-winning productions are novel, entertaining, brilliantly characterised, and full of charm that reflects the unique talent, energy, and personal commitment of the very special people who make up the Aardman team. The studio’s work is often imitated and yet the studio continues to lead the field producing a rare brand of visually stunning and amusing independent and commercials productions.
Aardman has an extensive and versatile history, which you can read in full here.
The BBC is simultaneously the world’s oldest and largest national broadcaster, employing over 22,000 staff in total. Bristol is famously home to the Natural History Unit (NHU) of the BBC which was established in 1948. Prior to this, Bristol’s BBC hub was founded in 1934 after winning a battle to have a broadcasting house to represent the West of England. The broadcasting house went on to play a fundamental role for journalism during World War II, and shortly after the NHU was up and running.
The NHU welcomes some of the country’s biggest production and broadcasting talents, such as Johnny Morris and David Attenborough. Iconically, the Planet Earth series was produced at the site – with more set to come – as well as Springwatch and Greta Thunberg: A Year to Change the World. The extensive filmography is incredibly vast.
The BBC has stayed at its location on Whiteladies road ever since its conception, and now provides technical facilities for BBC Radio & Music Production Bristol, BBC West and BBC Radio Bristol, as well as the NHU, providing significant work and opportunity for the film and television industry throughout the region.
Since Channel 4 was created in 1982, it has been at the centre of national conversations and a catalyst for the creation of a world-beating production sector in the UK. They describe their purpose as “creating change through entertainment” which they do “by representing unheard voices, challenging with purpose, and reinventing entertainment.”
Their unique model – commercially funded but publicly owned – means that we’re able to offer independent and distinctive, universal content reflecting the interests of different communities across the UK. Bristol welcomed Channel 4 to the city only last year as they unveiled new offices in Finzel’s Reach to become one of two ‘Creative Hubs‘ outside of London.
Channel 4 CEO Alex Mahon said the new base would enable the broadcaster to tap into the deep pools of talent in the South West and Wales.
Alex says, “Bristol gives Channel 4 an amazing opportunity to tap into the talent and rich and diverse culture that exists in the South West and Wales. By having our people in communities across the UK we’ll be able to better represent the UK, and I believe we will become more creative, distinctive and relevant as a result.”
Complete Control is a double BAFTA winning children’s interactive production company based in Bath, specialising in creating original online content for children’s entertainment. They are a creative development studio producing HTML5 games, native Apps for the most loveable children’s brands.
The team produce series for the likes of Nickelodeon and the BBC, they also took over the digital design base for the Children in Need campaign and reimagined and redesigned their website.
Complete Control is experts in what they do, having been in the business for 20 years. They involve children at every stage of development and production, taking on board their feedback and adjusting storylines, characters and sound accordingly – which perhaps is one of the fundamental reasons behind their success. Complete Control explains, “They are our most important consumers, so we put them at the forefront of everything we do.”
Out of the ITV franchise, ITV West Country represents our region. ITV’s base is on Bath Road in Bristol – the operations of the building has evolved recently, but ITV News West Country still uses Bath Road Studios as its headquarters.
ITV West Country are also required to produce 13 hours of non-news programming a year – currently, the only non-news programme in production is The West Country Debate, a monthly political programme. Other non-news content is included in ITV News West Country.
For an insight into the tight-knit family-esque team at ITV West Country, you can check out presenter Ellie Barker’s account of a day in life at the studio.
Plimsoll Productions is an internationally renowned studio that creates and produces motion picture content from their offices in Bristol, Cardiff and LA. The studio is relatively new in comparison to others on this list, but since being founded in 2013, Plimsoll has enjoyed roaring success.
The team has created numerous hits and been aptly rewarded with BAFTA, Emmy and RTS awards. And there’s a plethora of work in the pipeline, with plans to work with all the big names in the business, from Netflix to the BBC and Disney to National Geographic.
Plimsoll has been named one of the fastest-growing companies in the UK by the Sunday Times SME Fast Track 100, ranking in at third place. Some of their work includes Big Cat Country, Tiny World and Veganville.
The team has a real dedication to diversity and sustainability. Plimsoll says, “Our aim is to create an inclusive workplace that reflects the diversity of Bristol, where everyone feels supported, and able to produce their best work.”
Plimsoll has partnered up with Babbassa to deliver on this mission, offering work experience placements to support local people. Together Plimsoll and Babbassa produced a film called Hear Our Stories which highlighted the journeys people from disadvantaged backgrounds have made to become the successful people they are today.
‘Bristol Creates’ is made by young Plimsoll filmmakers featuring Bristol’s first Poet Laureate, Miles Chambers; the film was also integral to Bristol’s bid for the Channel 4 Creative Hub.
Founders Ru Howe and Kate Dimbleby took the plunge to set up Stornaway in Bristol when they decided to stop waiting for someone else to do it first.
The concept behind Stornaway is to aid filmmakers with creative storytelling tools to make it super easy for creatives to dream up and deliver fun, complex, multilayered non-linear stories without having knowledge of coding and without complexity.
They realised that now is the right time to build the tools they wanted to use theirselves: when audiences, streaming technology, and demand have reached a new tipping point for interactive stories. The world is ready for new kinds of stories for the 2020s – and Stornaway.io is here to unlock their creation.
Stornaway helps filmmakers across the globe add new dimensions to their stories, business leaders bring their training tools to life and educators to engage their students in creative ways. You can find out more about their journey and experience of Silicon Gorge here!
The Yogscast is an entertainment company based in Bristol that primarily produces video gaming-related videos on YouTube and Twitch, and also operates the Yogscast multi-channel network for affiliated content creators.
To watch their content, check out their Youtube channel – their Twitch streaming schedule can also be found on the website. The team rose to popularity for their playthrough of Minecraft and their self-produced role-playing series Shadow of Israphel set in Minecraft, the group is now more widely known for its videos of Garry’s Mod.
Yogscast also utilises its platform to raise money for charity. They host an annual Christmas live streaming charity drive named the Jingle Jam, which has cumulatively raised $20 million for various charities as of December 2020.
Yogscast also donated thousands to a teenage girl’s crowdfunding campaign to purchase Bristol-based Open Bionic’s hero arm.