This has turned into an interesting thread in a few ways.
One thing worth noting is that Phil is normally talking about the film industry and how we don't have much of one whereas Wolf Hall is a production for the BBC so is probably as about expensive as it goes in the UK short of the big Hollywood stuff that shoots here.
We do have a TV industry and a very significant one that I think is actually way ahead of the game and is probably the future of TV elsewhere. Having said that there is some talk by the current government to possibly do away with our TV industry so we will have to see how that turns out.
I think it's also interesting how we are now even talking about TV productions and Movie productions interchangeably here, which I think is right because the two are becoming more and more the same thing.
I once got to be on set for a BBC shoot for a commercial (yes I know that's a strange concept but there we go). For me it was a lot of fun to be there I had a great time although I was surprised at the glacial pace that it moved at and the inability for any actual shooting to take place. In fact they spent so long doing things like setting everything up one way and then changing their mind and reversing the entire direction of the shoot (cherry pickers and all) that they lost the dark (it was a night shoot) although it worked out great as the shot with the sun coming up actually was the best thing in the whole video and made it work. I hate to think what the other days shoots were like because the footage from them that ended up in the finished video was beyond terrible and looked more like something you would expect to have seen from a self shooter working in a great hurry and to a tiny budget.
The shoot was the biggest British shoot I have ever seen. Not only did they have a huge cherry picker that you could see for miles but they also had techno cranes and stuff sitting on stand by just in case they needed them. It dwarfed the Guy Richie shoot I once saw (for Rock N Rolla). A lot of the equipment just sat around on the truck or in the street etc and was never used. It was there just in case.
The weird thing about all this is that it's not something you see on the screen. Although the BBC funded stuff has access to all these amazing resources it doesn't end up looking any different really to the stuff made on much lower budgets elsewhere in the UK TV industry. Wolf Hall might be a case in point. There are large parts of it that just look like someone with a digibeta camera running around filming stuff in existing light. The low light candle lit stuff looks like it could have been shot by someone with a Sony A7s DSLR for example. I could even see it as being quite inspirational from that point of view as a lot of the cheap Alexa shot TV productions (Ripper Street etc) are the kind of thing that seem out of reach to ordinary folks with a DSLR but Wolf Hall is something where you can see someone thinking "I could do that too"!
It's interesting to see behind the scenes on Wolf Hall as it becomes clear that they did actually have quite a bit of a budget and equipment on site and it really isn't someone just running around with an Alexa. While watching it I did often think that the Amira would be the perfect camera for doing stuff like this.
...and yes it's just plant hire style stuff but they have a lot of them and no doubt once they tell them they are with the BBC they will give them their "special TV rates".