Two blockbuster movies set to film in Suffolk in 2019
PUBLISHED: 17:00 11 January 2019
Fresh from another busy year bringing filming to Suffolk, the county's film office Screen Suffolk reflects on some of the highlights and looks ahead to a promising 2019 complete with more blockbuster films.
EXT. Angel Hill – Day.
A buzzing film set comprising over 200 cast and crew mill around on Bury St Edmunds’ Angel Hill.
The iconic Angel Hotel is the backdrop to a car park transformed into a Victorian London street.
Horses and carts, straw and extras adorned in period attire clutter the set.
Leading young British actor Dev Patel is among the throng to decamp onto Angel Hill.
Watching on are scores of locals witnessing a full-scale movie production on their front door for the first time.
The appearance of film crews outside a quiet Bury landmark may not be the usual affair for a quaint Suffolk town on a balmy midsummer Tuesday, but the jovial atmosphere and intrigued onlookers speaks of a county slowly emerging on the filmmaking map.
Just two years on from winning the contract to be a dedicated film office for the county, Screen Suffolk has brought three blockbusters in.
Not bad for a brand new organisation tasked with drawing film, TV, photography and advert productions to Suffolk.
A week of filming by Ridley Scott for All The Money In The World in 2017 provided a solid foundation, but with veteran comedy genius Armando Iannucci bringing his new picture, The Personal History of David Copperfield to Bury, and top British duo Danny Boyle and Richard Curtis setting their as-yet-untitled Beatles-inspired flick in Halesworth, Dunwich and Shingle Street, Screen Suffolk has started to establish its credentials.
“It’s been an absolutely fantastic year, 2018, for us because we have had two major blockbusters in the county” says Rachel Aldridge, operations and business development manager with Screen Suffolk.
Jim Horsfield, who shares Rachel’s job title, adds: “David Copperfield was a new one for Screen Suffolk with the size and scale of it.
“We’ve got experience from the London parent company [Film Fixer] but it was six months of planning to make that happen for a one day set dress.
“It was the first time all the departments of the councils got together and worked together to make something happen.
“We had lots of requests to take lampposts down, and street furniture out, and all the councils were really up for it.
“As a model going forward people can now see what it’s like, see how it works, see that when a film company comes in they are professional.”
As the Screen Suffolk team attests to, the county is “undiscovered” for film crews, but from the picturesque coastlines in the east to the rural villages in the west, urban landscapes of Ipswich, and large open areas of country park, Suffolk has everything productions need.
Screen Suffolk operates as a ‘one-stop-shop’ for whatever productions need, be it locations, film permits, reputable catering firms, hotels for cast and crew to stay at, local talent who can join at a moment’s notice, and all the legwork of getting roads closed.
One of its unique selling points is its position of having all county, district and borough councils working together to allow productions, with all signing off on the formation of Screen Suffolk two years ago.
It means the county has already attracted a reputation as being a ‘can-do’ filming space, where councils can get things done and location managers are spreading the word to their peers.
Rachel says: “The feedback we get from location managers is they are blown away by how helpful we are and the councils are, and how quickly we get information back to them because that is not what they are used to in other parts of the country.”
One of the secrets to this successful partnership is the adoption of ‘film champions’ at each council, who will be a first port of call for any request to do with filming. Screen Suffolk then liaises between the councils and the productions to make sure changes and requests are dealt with smoothly, usually within a day or two to facilitate the quick turnaround times productions work on.
Indeed, famed director Danny Boyle – the mastermind behind Trainspotting, 28 Days Later and Slumdog Millionaire, could not have been more complimentary during the spring when he was tasked with filming in Halesworth for the Richard Curtis-penned movie about a world in which The Beatles’ music did not exist.
“People are really enthusiastic about us being here, genuinely,” he said in a video interview with Screen Suffolk.
“A film production company like we are, coming with a story, you realise that you have a responsibility both to respect a place and employ it, not just use it as a backdrop. And you get extra flavour by doing that.”
Jim and Rachel believe it is that unique Suffolk character that shines through on the Danny Boyle shoot, David Copperfield, and the semi-final of the Landscape Artist of the Year which filmed on Felixstowe beach over the summer.
“Suffolk is just going to look stunning,” Jim says. ”I was stunned by how beautiful it looked, and I think that is going to come across – especially when it is shot really well.”
Figures for less than a week of shooting for David Copperfield revealed a £90,000 economic benefit to the area, while industry figures suggest the daily boost locally is anywhere between £17,000 and £32,000, including money spent on local caterers, crew spend in pubs, restaurants and hotels, as well as fuel, loo hire and the pay of local extras, cast and crew.
But a boom in film set tourism will also give the likes of Bury and Halesworth a second bite of the cherry when the films come out, as diehard fans flock to the sets which feature in the flicks. It has already happened with Detectorists, which has filmed in Framlingham over several years.
On the Danny Boyle filming, Jim said: “It was filmed all the way through the really hot period in the summer, so it’s going to look absolutely stunning.
“It’s going to bring tourism to the county when people see it.
“There was a shot at Latitude, so that’s a good boost for the festival, and they did a lot of drone shots as they are going to the festival, so again that’s going to be big sweeping landscapes in glorious weather. It’s really going to push Suffolk the year after next because the film is going to come out Autumn next year.”
TV and fashion shoots
While the blockbusters are the headline productions which make the trip to Suffolk, smaller scale productions including TV, adverts, fashion shoots and internet shots are also a key part of the boost to Suffolk.
Really Wild Clothing spent two days shooting on Walberswick beach, while Dorothy Perkins also visited the popular east Suffolk spot.
Meanwhile, a promo video and stills for Hoax and associated world tour merchandise for Ed Sheeran was shot at Ipswich’s skate park.
For daytime TV productions, Escape to the Country and Grand Designs have been filming, while new Channel 4 primetime show The Drag Lab was spotted filming around Ipswich – including on the new look Cornhill – this winter,
Another key project was The Crown filming at Newmarket races, while the National Lottery has filmed several case studies in Suffolk, including at Snape Maltings.
Case study: Danny Boyle
Perhaps the highest profile filming to take place in Suffolk in 2018 was Danny Boyle and Richard Curtis bringing their Beatles-inspired film to Suffolk.
Taking advantage of the picturesque settings in Suffolk and Norfolk, the film reportedly stars Suffolk singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran and is set in a world where the Beatles’ music never existed.
Danny Boyle, Suffolk-based Richard Curtis and star Lily James were seen filming in Halesworth Thoroughfare in May, before further filming at a cottage in Dunwich and Shingle Street.
It moved on to Gorleston in the summer where an online plea for extras resulted in nearly 7,500 responses within just 24 hours.
But for the first time in Screen Suffolk’s existence, the production represents the county as it is on screen.
Rachel Aldridge says: “Even though some of it was filmed in Norfolk it is a Suffolk film, a Suffolk story, the guy’s from Suffolk.
“There was very little in the way of set-dressing, it’s present day.
“There were loads of local people, the extras were local people – that’s going to be really lovely for them to see.”
The Halesworth portion alone featured 12 local people being employed as marshals, who then went on to get additional work – both locally and further afield.
Jim Horsfield adds: “There is one [marshal] we know who has been working on the new Jack Ryan series, Spiderman, via all the contacts he has made from working in Suffolk.
“It’s really a spur for local jobs and local people to go out and get experience, and actually make a career out of being in TV and film.”
Collectively, the productions are providing some healthy headline figures for Screen Suffolk.
In 2018 there were around 220 days of paid work for local cast and crew, more than 365 locations signed up to its database, more than 110 facility firms (eg toilet hire, catering, drone hire etc) it has forged relationships with and more than 330 filming days since its inception – well up on the 20-or-so days it managed before Screen Suffolk was born.
But if 2017 was the highly rated indie film, and 2018 the sequel building the story arc, characters and plotlines, 2019 looks set to be the all-action blockbuster that firmly establishes Suffolk as a dependable filming spot.
Rachel says: “We can’t say too much but there are at least two big blockbusters that are in the pipeline, and then two or three high end dramas.”
Jim adds: “There are a couple of other primetime TV series we have been negotiating with recently, and we have had some location managers in recently for some massive films.”
In its first year it surpassed its 100 filming day target within just seven months, and financial figures for the end of the 2017/18 year revealed that filming had generated £2.3million of local spend.
Creative England estimated that could have been as much as £7.3m.
It would be easy for such productions to have a negative impact on communities, but the experience of locals largely seems to have been welcoming, while productions have worked to be as respectful as possible to the communities they film in.
Screen Suffolk has been forging relationships with town and parish councils to make sure residents are clued up on shoots coming in, and even encourage productions to make a donation to the local church or parish as a goodwill gesture for allowing use of their community space.
Jim says: “Some locations in London had to be rested because the residents are so jaded from having so much filming.
“It is an inconvenience when a film crew comes in – they will demand that a car is removed because you cannot have a 1980s car in a 1920s scene, so it is working with the councils and the film production company to make that happen.”
Jim says productions being respectful of space meant “people want to have filming in because they see it is professional people working, and the benefit of that is you get tourism come in.”
He adds: “Crews like coming here – they are used to working in the centre of London and Suffolk is kind of undiscovered. But that’s changing.”
To find out more about Screen Suffolk and how to register your talents, visit www.screensuffolk.com