People, Places, Business

Da Vinci's Demons Production

Da Vinci Filming Sparks Local Renaissance of its own!

CLOSE working between Neath Port Talbot Council, Tonto Film & TV productions and Starz TV has led to a major new international television production being based at the previously vacant Visteon site on Fabian Way.

The ‘Da Vinci’s Demons’ production is an eight-part historical fantasy series about Leonardo Da Vinci’s early life in Florence. The brainchild of Hollywood writer, producer and director David S. Goyer; whose credits include the ‘Blade’ trilogy, ‘Ghost Rider’ and the latest Batman films including recent blockbuster ‘The Dark Knight Rises’; the series is set to hit screens across the globe next year.

The site was one of several identified by the Council’s Business Services team following a request from a locations company to find somewhere suitable to set up a film studio and supporting functions.

Having decided on the Fabian Way site, the following months have seen a rapid transformation of the site, with the current location potentially being one of the largest production facilities in Europe.

Initially, the plan was to secure working space of around 70,000 square feet, but the site has provided an opportunity too big for the filmmakers to ignore. At approximately 265,000 square feet, with a further 8,000 of adjacent office space, the former industrial premises provide plenty of room for creativity to attract further productions!

The site also boasts another 70,000 sq ft of office space and 12 acres of land which could provide opportunities for other productions, offices and related creative businesses to be attracted and develop as this series forges ahead.

In addition to the Fabian Way sets, filming has been taking place at locations across South Wales during the summer, with Margam Castle playing a starring role. Working in harmony with the restoration undertaken since the disastrous fire in 1977, the interiors of the Victorian mansion have provided the perfect canvas for recreating renaissance Florence. Several rooms in the building are doubling as the palace of the Medici family, patrons to the young Leonardo Da Vinci. Neath Abbey and other local sites have also been used for filming.

With a budget of approximately £20million for the first eight episodes, the series has provided a boost to the local economy and the production team have been working closely with the council to source local services, contractors and suppliers. Close links have also been made with schools and colleges in the area, with a number of students undertaking work experience, and several progressing to employment on the production. It is hoped that, following a successful debut season, the filming of a second series could provide further local benefits.

Fighting off competition from other options in the UK, Ireland, New Zealand, and Canada, Neath Port Talbot has been hailed as an inspired choice by the production team.

Executive Producer Julie Gardner, who originally hails from Glynneath and can list Life on Mars, Doctor Who and Torchwood among her previous successes, said:

“There were a number of potential sites under consideration, but being based in this area has had several benefits. Fabian Way has given us so much space to work within that we have been able to base everything at the one site, which is a tremendous advantage for a production of this size. The convenience of the location has also provided us easy access to all our filming locations across South Wales. The area also gave us access to the necessary expertise and experience needed, in terms of businesses, resources and people.

“We are really pleased with the proactive approach and support that Neath Port Talbot Council and its Business Services Team has shown for this project. They have helped us from the very beginning, and have proved to be an invaluable point of contact for us.

“Coming back to Neath Port Talbot with this series is full circle, having studied at Neath College. It’s great to see such a large production being made in my local area, and the opportunities it provides to the South Wales region. It has been fantastic to be able to use a venue like Margam Castle. It is unique, and has everything you want from a film location”.

Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council Cllr Ali Thomas warmly welcomed the development, saying: “Securing this production for the local area is a massive success for Neath Port Talbot Council. With over 2500 people being involved throughout filming, this investment will certainly provide employment and business opportunities which will benefit the local and wider economy.

“Importantly, it also shows that Neath Port Talbot can compete with the more established locations and become a key player in attracting film production”.

“I would also like to congratulate and thank Roy Thomas for his vision and for pulling out all the stops to make this happen”