Park Village: A Few Of Our Favourite Things
Taking us through their working space/studio, Park Village's Adam Booth, Leonie Ellis and brothers Jack and Tom Webb share memories and mementoes of its unique history.
As a production company, Park Village has worked with some big clients, nurtured top directors and picked up serious awards in its history.
However, as a studio space, the Village has, arguably, been even more formidable, positioned, as it is, just around the corner from London zoo and citing the Rolling Stones as its first visitors.
A unique location deserves a unique take, so we've asked Managing Partner Jack Webb, Managing Director Tom Webb, Business Development/EP Leonie Ellis and Managing Partner/EP Adam Booth to take us on a virtual tour, pulling out moments of note from its 50+ year history.
The Big Yawn
Jack Webb - Managing Partner: I love this photograph that hangs in the studios.
The image is from the Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers session shot by my dad [renowned photographer Peter Webb] in 1969.
The shoot didn’t quite go to plan! Dad changed his original concept at the last minute (the band in a Magritte-inspired Victorian boating scene) because Jagger was yawning throughout the entirety of his pitch and, without mobile phones, he spent the remaining week convincing himself it was a terrible idea.
When the band turned up for the session they revealed their excitement for his original idea only to find out it would now be a straight portrait shoot. To top it off the negatives were lost for 40 years until they were finally discovered in an unmarked box in my uncle’s attic in Kentish Town!
Andy Warhol and Craig Braun came up with the Sticky Fingers "Zipper” concept relegating the image to the inside album sleeve, but I guess there are worse people to be bumped by…
The Chris Levine Event
Jack Webb: We've had all sorts of weird and wonderful shoots and events at Park Village over the years but these prints remind me of one of the most memorable, an exhibition by multidisciplinary artist Chris Levine - Inner (Deep) Space.
We hosted the show in tandem with Frieze Art Fair and the event’s preview night to raise funds for the Elton John Aids Foundations was pretty special.
Levine cloaked the main studio in a thick haze and reflected laser beams off a 100-tonne meteorite fragment whilst an otherworldly soundtrack had our production office walls humming and vibrating us into a transcendental state...
The Miniature Street Set
Tom Webb - Managing Director: This miniature Brooklyn street set is definitely one of my favourite items in the building.
It’s been here since the mid-70s, a beautifully hand-crafted model built for a short film directed by my father, Peter Webb.
The film Butch Minds the Baby went on to win a BAFTA. Shot over two years, is an adaptation of a Damon Runyon short story, and I played the part of the lead baby for all of 30 seconds when my cousin outgrew his cot.
So, basically, I’m a BAFTA-award-winning actor!
The Viewing Balcony
Tom Webb: For me, the balcony is the central point of the building which has always been such an important part of my life.
Since I was a child I've peered through and, eventually, over the balcony.
Personally, it's a place for reflection and thinking of all of the people that have played their part in the Park Village story over the years.
I recently found an image of Robet Downey Jr leaning against the cove.
I also discovered that in Victorian times I would have been looking over a roller-skating ring down below.
Leonie Ellis - Business Development / EP: It’s actually incredible to think of the transformation, many lives and things this room has witnessed. Some we shouldn’t print!
Kicking off as actual stables for the horses owned and used by the residents around Regents Park to now, a film studio.
When you come to Park Village you’ll notice The Stables are on the first floor so the horses went up a now English Heritage protected cobbled ramp that lives under the stairs.
In the ’60s the stables was a bedroom for Peter Webb who took over the then derelict building and started Park Village.
I mean imagine, perhaps not too much, but it had to be one of the largest bedrooms in London.
It then became a meeting room for production in the 80’s complete with sofas, TV’s and a full-sized snooker table which kinda reflects advertising at the time and I can totally picture the scene through the cloud of fag smoke and a waft of G&T in the air.
Rumour has it the snooker table was built because the late John Webster loved snooker and he would write scripts whilst playing and hand them on to Park Village directors.
Then it was a casting space, and in walks Robert De Niro and gets the part for The Mission.
As more work came in the snooker table etc had to leave and the space is now completed freed up to be one of our three studios - but the original Victorian tiles that the horses would have looked at all day are still there.
Leonie Ellis: As most people know, I am well into food/restaurants/wine so when I heard Park Village had in-house pro kitchen and ex Andrew Edmonds & Anchor and Hope chef at work I was delighted!
The kitchen is right opposite the production office so the temptation to see what Mattie is making is sometimes too tempting. He is an incredible chef and makes the most delicious, ethical and sustainable menus and Tom even said he’d turn vegan permanently if he could eat his dishes every day!
As they say, the kitchen is the heart of the home, so I am really excited that when restrictions lift we'll be hosting regular supper clubs at Park Village and we have some fantastic guest chefs lined up from some of London’s best restaurants.
The front door
Adam Booth - Managing Partner / EP: As an entrance to work, it’s not a bad one!
A cobbled courtyard leading up to the 120-year-old oak double doors, swathed in ivy, with the PV logo above it and a church pew to perch in the sun.
It’s like something out of Harry Potter and it’s definitely seen the comings and goings of some real characters over the years.
It’s pretty cool to think that some of the industry’s brightest and best from all around the world have passed through these big old doors over the years. We’ve got pictures of Penelope Cruz, Kate Moss, De Niro, The Stones, Salma Hayek, Paul McCartney, Naomi Harris….the list goes on. Be it for shoots or parties, quite the mix of people have staggered, strolled and swaggered through, and I think you feel that unique atmosphere once you’re inside the reception hall. Pay attention to whose behind reception though as Robert Downey Jr once switched places with the receptionist when he was in much to the confusion of a new director who came in for a meeting.
A nice little anecdote I also like to point out is the plaque on the wall: "Brown Bear - Spitfire, housed for the duration of the war” - being an old riding school, the building was big enough to house the elephants, giraffes and a Brown Bear from London Zoo to protect them from the Blitz.
Pretty amazing to think it’s been around that long, and has always been a focal point for the surrounding community.
The Coffee Machine
Adam Booth: But I’m not talking about any old instant coffee vendor. We’re talking a La Spazialle pro, frothy flat white macchiato coffee machine. As Samuel L Jackson might say “this is some serious gourmet shit”.
The first time I dropped into PV, I was asked ‘do you want a coffee’ and being a self-confessed coffee snob, there’s always a moment of apprehension when you’re thinking “do they mean instant in a JD sports mug?” So, I was relieved when it arrived in a PV branded paper cup with the signature barista rosetta in the foam.
It shouldn’t be a big deal, but anyone that’s been on a shoot knows, little things, like decent coffee can make or break a production, and if you can get people onside with a little treat, you’re winning.
All the studio assistants at PV are trained up to make proper coffee, and that combined with a few moments to yourself in the courtyard garden, (in amongst the rhubarb and oregano we’ve got growing for the kitchens) and you’ll forget you’re in Central London.