Update on the Sands Film Studios

Regular readers will remember the strange situation the delightful little film studios just down the road in Rotherhithe found themselves in a few months ago, when the landlord of the 19th Century warehouse containing the studios, costume ateliers and picture library, not to mention Olivier’s little screening room where he shares unusual movies for free to all comers every Tuesday, decided to turn the whole lot into luxury flats and a supermarket.

Olivier took the brave decision to try to buy the building’s freehold so that this thriving local business could survive, and set about raising the money via individual shares through the government’s Enterprise Investment Scheme. Originally he thought that it would just be major investors and City boys buying the shares, but he was both surprised and delighted when he realised that it was local folk and people who actually used the studios – actors, producers, directors – who invested.

He deliberately pitched the shares at low-ish minimum investment so that it was available to as many people as possible, made it easy to invest without brokers and held open days throughout the summer where he took anyone interested round the extraordinary building, showing them what he and his team do – the tiny studios, sound-stages and workshops – and then explained the deal over a cup of tea and cake that he’d made himself.

I was entranced, but I shared Olivier’s worry that the landlord knew damn well that he had Sands over a barrel – that they wanted to buy the freehold and he could charge whatever he liked. They always feared that they’d get enough money then the landlord would demand more – in Olivier’s own words – they lived with ‘the ghost of a price increase’ or that he might just refuse to sell and go for the flats/supermarket option after all. I suspect this may have put off potential investors, though frankly the worst that would have happened is that Olivier would have had to give all the money back.

But I’m delighted to announce that the landlord has accepted the purchase offer. Olivier tells me “we have a contract, we have certainty over the price of the property and therefore the feasibility of the whole scheme.”

Now all they have to do is raise the rest of the cash they need before the completion date – 2nd April, 2012. Of course that will mean that City people will be interested as it will be somewhere they can offload tax liability before the end of the financial year, but Olivier is still keen to get ordinary people who have a love of film, but not multi-millions to spend because this is a labour of love, not a dull make-cash-quick-and-sod-anyone-else deal.

Ever-tireless, Olivier and his gang are once again inviting potential investors to visit the studio and ask all the questions they need to about the EIS scheme and the Sands Films business. Those informal events are great for the him too: giving him the chance to meet with investors and understand them better.

This is a genuine, local business, employing local people, often across generations and it is IMHO A Good Thing.

If you’ve never seen the inside of this extraordinary place, I suggest you hop on a 177, visit a fabulous historic warehouse full of amazing things, meet Olivier, drink tea, eat his home-made pear and almond cake, watch a film that has strong associations with the studio and think about this deal. It’s obligation-free – but if you’re not charmed by the passion of – and the work done by – Olivier and his team, I’ll be surprised.

He’ll be opening his doors every Saturday from 17th Jan – if memory serves, at 4.00pm (though I’m sure he’ll put me right if I’m wrong.) And though I shouldn’t say it, even if you’re not planning to invest you really should go along anyway and see this building /business. It is unique.

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5 Comments to “Update on the Sands Film Studios”

  1. Lara says:

    The boyfriend and I were in the area visiting The Brunel Museum last September during Open House and happened upon this place as it was open for OH too. I can indeed confirm it is a gorgeous old building with a wonderful picture library.

    We had a good nose around the pictures and although the promised tour didn’t materialise we had an excellent poke about.

  2. Wolfe says:

    Might want to get the 188 though,the 177 doesn’t go there…

  3. Pam Percy says:

    We too visited in September, made the tour, drank the tea and was entranced. It’s a wonderful building and great work goes on there. We have invested in the scheme, supporting film making, local business, and local employment. Why not put a few bob there yourself?

  4. D’oh! Of course. Silly me. Guess which bus I was planning to get on when I finished the post…

  5. noel says:

    you are right – quite apart from being a wonderful institution that pear and almond cake is good…