Could your Suffolk home be featured in a Hollywood film?
- Credit: Gregg Brown
Yesterday. The Dig. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I. What do all of these films have in common?
All of these motion pictures were filmed right here in Suffolk - and with Britain’s film industry slowly getting back on its feet as lockdown restrictions ease, one pair are hoping to put the county firmly in the spotlight – and explain how you can get involved.
Rachel Aldridge and Jim Horsfield both work for Screen Suffolk as operations and business development managers. It is their job to help put Suffolk on the map, with the aim of making it the most film-friendly county in the UK.
“We have several different responsibilities. We look after all of the council-owned locations and properties, such as any buildings and parks they own. If anybody wants to close a road for filming for instance, we look after that too.”
“We also engage with private property owners, to see if anyone wants to register their property as a filming location,” adds Rachel.
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It comes as no surprise that while a lot of films are set in cities such as London, many of the locations featured onscreen aren’t actually in London. But why is that?
For starters, Suffolk is less densely populated than London. With a lot more space for people to move around – and with social distancing still key, that makes East Anglia an especially appealing place for film crews and production companies.
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“Another great thing about Suffolk is that we’re so open to filming. In London, a lot of the residents have had enough of film crews - but down here in Suffolk, our residents tend to welcome it. They see it as exciting, and there’s always a real buzz whenever a film crew comes to town,” Rachel adds.
Not only does filming bring a sense of excitement to the region – it’s also a great boost to the local economy, as Jim explains: “We worked out that around £11,500 goes into the Suffolk economy for every day of filming. We’ve done 650 filming days since Screen Suffolk’s inception – so we’d estimate that over £7 million has come into Suffolk simply by bringing filming here.”
With the uncertainty of international travel still looming overhead, people are instead planning to flock to domestic coastal locations such as Suffolk for their getaways this summer.
This, coupled with Suffolk’s recent onscreen boom thanks to films such as Yesterday and The Dig, means the county can expect to become even more of a popular hotspot in the months to come.
“A lot more people are choosing to visit Suffolk as they’ve seen it on screen. We’ve got some wonderful locations, and if they’re on film, it’s a fantastic advertisement. A lot of people I’ve spoken to didn’t realise Sutton Hoo was in Suffolk, or even the significance of it. We also found that with Yesterday, people were surprised it was set and filmed only 90 minutes away from the centre of London.”
If helping putting Suffolk on the map is something that interests you, there are a number of ways you can help – and you don’t need a sprawling, stately manor to be a part of the action.
“You never know what a film is going to require, so we’re not restrictive when it comes to locations, and we seek all sorts of housing stock. From one-bedroom flats, right the way through to stately homes. For example, if someone’s filming a TV drama, chances are they want an everyday house on an average street in suburbia,” says Jim.
“Yesterday, we had a phone call from someone who wanted to do a film about houses of multiple occupancy, and they were looking for a ground floor flat – so it really is a wide range of facilities and locations that we get asked for.”
As well as private residences, offices and businesses can also provide the perfect location for a film or television show.
“We don’t just represent Suffolk in film, and in the past, places such as Ipswich’s Endeavour House have acted as The Shard in London. So we can double as other locations, which is another reason why Suffolk is an attractive place to film,” adds Rachel.
If you feel your home or building has got what it takes to star on the big or small screen, there are a number of ways to get involved.
Firstly, you can register your home by filling out a form on the Screen Suffolk website.
“We can come out and take photos, or you can send photos in – but we’re happy to chat with people who wish to find out what sorts of houses we’re looking for. It’s a very easy process,” says Jim.
Once a house has been selected, the homeowners will then sign an agreement, and a financial reward is agreed upon in return for renting out the house. This will depend on how much time is spent filming there, and the size of the crew.
Before filming takes place however, sometimes homes may be redecorated for production purposes - but are always returned to their original state once filming has wrapped.
“What we find is that an art director could come in and say they love a home, but may wish to make one small change, such as painting a wall red. That would then be discussed with the homeowners, to see if they’re okay with it.”
Professional decorators are then sent in, and if the homeowner actually prefers the change, they are welcome to keep it – but otherwise Screen Suffolk will always return the house to how it was found.
Once the home is set up, filming can soon get underway. Dependent on how long a home is required for, residents are often put in a hotel overnight while filming takes place.
It is worth noting that while filming has commenced since the start of the pandemic, a number of Covid-safe measures are now in place to keep both the film crews and homeowners safe.
“We were one of the first industries to implement very strict Covid protocols,” explains Jim.
“We work with local suppliers who will mist the entire home before filming, and then we have professional cleaners who come in again at the end to sanitise the house.”
In addition, the cast and crew are under the watchful eye of the set’s Covid marshall – a newly-created role that ensures that social distancing, regular PCR testing and masking wearing are all adhered to, regardless of whether it’s an indoor or outdoor film set.
As the entertainment industry slowly gets to grips with the ‘new normal’, a handful of top-secret film and television productions are currently underway in Suffolk – and locations are always needed. Could your home be the next film set?
“As we said, we’re always looking for all types of homes to use – as long as people are open to having people in their house, do get in touch. We’re trying to make Suffolk a one-stop-shop for filming,” adds Rachel.
To find out more about letting your home out for a film or TV show, visit www.screensuffolk.com