Josh Berger: Harry Potter Key to UK VFX Boom

By Mitchell, Wendy | Screen International, June 4, 2014 | Go to article overview

Josh Berger: Harry Potter Key to UK VFX Boom


Mitchell, Wendy, Screen International


It was the growth of the Harry Potter franchise that set up the UK film industry to be a world leader in visual effects, Josh Berger, president and MD Warner Bros. Entertainment UK, Ireland and Spain said today during his keynote at MBI's Creative Week Media Summit.

"As I think it had been discussed pretty broadly during the Gravity campaign, much of that team had worked on Potter. Potter, it's fair to say, was very important to the growth of the VFX industry in the UK. Some people say it was the thing that propelled the industry here."

Berger noted that with the first Harry Potter film in 2000, less than 15% of the VFX work was done in the UK. By the final film's production in 2010, more than 85% of the effects were done in Britain. "There was an expansion of the skill base, the assets, the sheer numbers of people working in the industry."

It was that base of skills and talent that Warner could again tap into for the groundbreaking Gravity, with London-based Framestore leading the VFX.

"Gravity in a way is a crowing achievement in that period of growth and expansion," Berger added. "The great thing for our industry here is that those skills are here. With successes like that, companies like Framestore and Double Negative can expand, people can start their own firms -- with continued investment, the ecosystem is expanding and growing."

Warner Bros itself is part of that growth, after acquiring Leavesden Studios. "[Shooting at Leavesden] worked out incredibly well, so much so that we decided to buy it after the Potter series was finished. It might have been better to buy it at the beginning, for example.," he said with a laugh. "The truth was that it wasn't in the cards during the production. Once we finished we had a chance to reflect on what we had done and what we'd be doing in the future. It was such a superlative experience that we decided to plant our flag and make it our permanent home and invest for the future. …

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