Inside £4,000,000 Essex mansion bought by Black filmmaker hoping to turn into UK’s version of Tyler Perry Studios
James Bond has Pinewood Studios, Harry Potter has Warner Bros. Studios – and now an aspiring Black filmmaker hopes to turn a £4million Essex mansion into the next best thing in the film industry.
Antoine Dixon-Bellot may not be a familiar name to some but there’s a reason he’s being dubbed the UK’s Tyler Perry. The successful entrepreneur has bought a stunning estate just outside the East of London where he’s in the process of transforming it into a movie studio lot – think Hollywood or Perry’s very own impressive Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta.
It’s the natural step for a man who has already produced music videos and campaigns for the likes of Stormzy and Little Mix, a commercial film studio, camera lens company whose products have been used in Netflix’s Ozark, and a £15m property portfolio.
In 2014, the 39-year-old made the decision to stop directing movies himself and move into producing and his journey has led him to this point, where he’s in the process of developing what promises to be an exciting moment for British TV and filmmaking.
Antoine said: ‘Black ownership of the facilities I own in the film industry didn’t exist. Having resilience, my head down and not feeling sorry for myself I think was the key.
‘I was aware of the problems and issues and I wanted to solve them myself. Now being in a position where I can be a platform and opportunity for other up and coming ethnic minority filmmakers – anybody really, whether you be ethnic minority or not, a platform is a platform and I’d like to look at some of my companies as an incubator of talent.’
Noting how ‘tremendously difficult’ it can be for Black talent in the British film industry, Antoine recalled of his own experience: ‘I’ve found it very difficult, not just to open my own doors, but to get opportunities where an entity wouldn’t trust the service for whatever reason, but also having doors closed on us that we didn’t even know were open.
‘An example of that would probably be not winning big jobs, not having a big organisation wanting to do a contract with you.’
Looking to the future, what does one get for a $4m countryside estate?
According to Antoine, the property is spread across 52 acres and includes a main Georgian mansion, 14 outbuildings and a small private lake. The businessman has spent the last three months planning and developing the different areas of the land and he’s aiming for ‘presidential standards’.
Antoine is particularly excited about the backlot space the estate has, noting: ‘When you have a backlot you can build a castle, you can do Saving Private Ryan. It’s already designed as a shooting location as is, to support any future movies that I intend to make.’
It’s not hard to see then, that Perry is a huge inspiration for the filmmaker.
‘He was self-made and self-driven, obviously he had a vision of representing a market that was underrepresented,’ Antoine explained.
‘He’s gone from strength to strength. We have a similar journey of him making his own content and then as time’s gone on, to have a facility house in order to facilitate these productions and that is the progression I’ve been able to do on a smaller scale.
‘That is a journey I would like to emulate as close as possible.’
His own manor, which doesn’t have a name just yet like Hollywood or Tyler Perry Studios, will be open to all so we may see Tom Cruise shooting Mission: Impossible 27 there in the future.
Antoine said: ‘It’ll be open, it’ll be universal. I’m going to always represent the underrepresented and being in the position of where I am, some say I’m the most powerful Black producer in the country because of the facilities that I own single-handedly. I own every company by myself.
‘I will always champion Black people, ethnic minorities and hope to fill the voids that we’ve not been able to bridge across based on people not being able to make the right decisions to give people the opportunities.
‘I will champion that always but it is open to all.’
Source: Metro, 9 Nov 2021