Interview with Rowan Bray, managing director, and Jess Nottage, technical director of Clear Cut Group about the opening of their new post-production facility.
Clear Cut has recently opened a new state-of-the-art facility located in Digbeth, Birmingham, equidistant to The Custard Factory, The Banana Warehouse, The Bond and just a stone’s throw away from the BBC’s new HQ, The Tea Factory. This new venture for Clear Cut will offer fully flexible post-production in the heart of the UK with 4K capabilities both remote and onsite.
Why did you choose Birmingham?
Clear Cut has a proven track record in Birmingham, having previously launched a pop-up facility in 2016 to meet specific production requirements; this has now grown into a fully-fledged post-production operation. In recent years, there has been significant planning, drive and enthusiasm to create a full TV and film ecosystem in the West Midlands – it’s been extraordinary! This has been led by the team at Create Central and driven by the West Midlands authorities, building on established local talent. The creation of a complete production community has advanced considerably following the 2022’s Commonwealth Games, the development of Digbeth Loc and the launch of The Bond as a creative hub – all within yards of our new office. Several production companies are establishing themselves in the area, augmenting the production community that is based in the West Midlands. This planned growth is reflected in the commitment of the BBC to establish a large presence at The Tea Factory and Channel 4’s investment in new production teams.
What services does your new facility provide?
Situated in a Grade 2 listed building with industrial heritage, Clear Cut have delivered a full service post-production house complete with adaptable suites with initial capacity for up to forty remote offline suites and onsite suites as needed (offering Media Composer, Premiere Pro and Da Vinci Resolve), plus online and grade suites giving clients the ability to handle complex post-production tasks and final mastering. To complement these post-production facilities, there is also 24-hour operational support, a production office for up to twelve, outdoor space with secure car and cycle parking.
How have you found recruitment and do you anticipate challenges?
We already have a small cohort of local staff, including a BBC-sourced apprentice. The operation is led by local champion Caroline Hewson, who has significant experience in post-production and is passionate about building the services we offer in Birmingham. It was taken into consideration that we might face challenges with recruitment, however, we were surprised by the number of talented people already available in the West Midlands area. Every member of the Clear Cut team has a bespoke training programme and, going forward, our Birmingham team will be no different. We have already committed to meeting any shortfall of suitably trained staff through our own training when sourcing local talent. Working with The BBC Apprenticeship Hub has proved to be a great way to identify local talent, with the right passion, who we can develop alongside our existing cohort of staff.
Has the rise in remote production helped with this move?
The move to remote is helping considerably to establish regional hubs – the production and editing talent is far more widespread and the option to work remotely is adopted more widely than in the London model. Our Birmingham building is designed to deliver an elegant solution for dispersed production teams. Clear Cut’s solution is agile, enabling editing and production teams to seamlessly switch from working remotely to working at the facility, or even a combination of both.
How does the future look for this new regional venture?
We are already seeing growing demand, as all the PSB broadcasters have committed to commission the greater proportion of their content from across the UK. Examples include the transfer of productions like Masterchef and Silent Witness to Birmingham; the investment in new production teams by Channel 4 for their main channels and digital output; Steven Knight’s considerable drama pipeline; and the established output of All 3 Media – who have three production entities in Birmingham already.
We have been supported in so many ways by Create Central and the production community in the West Midlands who have welcomed our arrival so warmly. Digbeth is set to be a huge production centre for the TV and film business and it has been massively exciting to set up our office in this vibrant, creative location – particularly as the first post-production house. We really feel we are completing a missing link in the ecosystem of Birmingham.