The time has come to focus on film in Suffolk, says Andrew Clarke
- Credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros Pictures
As Suffolk looks set to get its first film office, Arts Editor Andrew Clarke believes that the county has the talent, natural backdrops, the historic houses and the resources to make filming an important part of our cultural economy.
It’s great news that Suffolk is at long last going to get a proper film office helping attract film companies to Suffolk. Cultural tourism all ready makes up an expanding part of our economy and properly organised film office can only make things better.
Suffolk is awash with great locations as film-makers through the years have discovered. We have a great natural landscape, including the heritage coast which from Bawdsey to Southwold, as well as historic towns like Bury St Edmunds, Lavenham, Ipswich, Woodbridge and a wealth of historic houses.
Thanks to film professionals we also have a working set of trenches and a World War I film set on farmland just outside Ipswich utilised in the filming of Private Peaceful and Downton Abbey.
Because we are so close to London we have a wealth of professional film talent also based in the county. In the British film industry, money is always tight and film companies can shoot in the county and not have to bring with them – and house – vast numbers of crew, extras and camera teams as professional film-makers live locally and can work from home.
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It would be great to think that the new Suffolk Film Office could facilitate both British and Hollywood movies shooting in Suffolk, bringing much needed revenue to the county, but also directly giving work to local talent and encouraging local suppliers and tradesmen to provide support services.
We have industry professionals, like stunt and car team Bickers Action based near Stowmarket, as well as first-rate cinematographers and second unit directors like Steven Hall and Vernon Layton living here.
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Hopefully, the Suffolk Film Office will also be able to forge links between the film industry and our existing arts communities. Snape Maltings, home to Aldeburgh Music, and the surrounding landscape would make an ideal film location and production base, as would RAF Bentwaters which has all ready been used for filming on Fast and Furious 6.
There is huge potential for Suffolk to become a thriving, and versatile film hub. We need to really embrace the challenge and make Suffolk a location extension of studios such as Pinewood, Leavesden and Shepperton.
And it need not just be film. TV series such as Dad’s Army, Lovejoy and more recently The Detectorists have shown just how good Suffolk looks on screen. Suffolk really is a photogenic county and it has the talent and the resources to help provide a boost to homegrown film-making.
Do you recognise the county when you see it on screen? Here are ten movies shot at locations across Suffolk.
1. Yangtse Incident (1957)
Richard Todd and William Hartnell afloat on the River Orwell, mainly between Felixstowe and Levington, fighting barrage of fire from the Chinese forces on the river banks.
2. The Angry Silence (1960)
Richard Attenborough on location at Ransomes and Rapier in Ipswich for a movie about a man who finds himself at odds with his mates who are going out on strike
3. The Witchfinder General (1966)
Vincent Price is the eponymous witch-hunter Matthew Hopkins. The real Witchfinder came from Manningtree but the film moved to historic Lavenham for that authentic medieval feel.
4. Barry Lyndon (1975)
Stanley Kubrick’s 18th century drama untilised Lavenham’s Guildhall to patch up Ryan O’Neal’s daring adventurer after a duel.
5. The Fourth Protocol (1987)
Michael Caine and Pierce Brosnan play a game of espionage chess in this cold-war thriller which features a squadron of SAS helicopters flying between the legs of the Orwell Bridge and landing a team of crack troops on the Ipswich Wet Dock, outside what is now DanceEast.
6. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
Pierce Brosnan is James Bond battling media mogul Jonathan Pryce. Bond finds himself at RAF Mildenhall doubling for a US airbase in Japan - complete with fake palm trees
7. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Stanley Kubrick is back in Suffolk, this time using the Indian Gothic architecture of Elveden Hall, near Bury St Edmunds, to stage a large-scale masked orgy scene with Tom Cruise
8. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)
Hollywood returns to Elveden Hall which stands in for Croft Towers. The interior is shown off to marvellous effect during the spectacular aerial ballet shoot-out sequence
9. Iris (2001)
Kate Winslet, Dame Judi Dench, Jim Broadbent and Hugh Bonneville set up camp in Southwold for the summer with director Richard Eyre to tell the story of literary giant Iris Murdoch and her battle with Alzheimer’s
10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2010)
Picturesque Lavenham is back on screen as Godric’s Hollow the place where Voldemort first tried to murder the infant Harry Potter, where his mother Lily sacrificed herself for him and the whole Potter saga began.