30/05

Shooting on Location

From shooting an interview in an office space for a corporate film about the financial results of a company to filming on the peak of Mount Owen, New Zealand over which Frodo and the rest of the hobbit gang ventured in The Lord Of The Rings, there is nothing like shooting on location to set the scene.

For as long as I can remember I have wanted to work in film and be on a real film set. Actually no, that’s a lie. I wanted to be a ballet dancer. Then an actress. Then a vet and then an actress again. However, what has always fascinated me most about films was watching the Making Of films at the end of the DVDs. I loved seeing the actors in interview, the crew, and the locations ‘in real’.
I was always extremely disappointed when I found that films had been filmed in a studio or in front of a green screen, because seeing how a real location was transformed into the backdrop of film and help tell the story in that way seemed so much more exciting than creating a fake set up in a large room. As I said, I used to relish the Behind the Scenes films of motion pictures such as Sleepy Hollow, Chocolat and Carry on Follow that Camel, and the thought of having to travel to far off places for filming seemed like the most exiting thing in the world.

This is why I have always loved visiting filming locations, such as going to Lyme Hall in the Peak District where the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice was filmed and seeing tourists re-enact the pond scene in which Colin Firth aka Mr Darcy bumps into Elizabeth Bennet at Pemberley. Although there is a possibility that was just my family.

Corporate Film

No, this isn’t Jennifer Ehle in the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, it’s me enjoying ‘the wild untamed beauty of the Peaks’.

 

The reality of it is of course not quite as glamorous as I found out when I actually started my career in film. Not as an actress but in film production. People who aren’t from the industry always ask what the most interesting place is I’ve ever filmed in. To tell the truth, the places really haven’t been that exciting. I haven’t been flown to New Zealand or Africa or even somewhere in Europe to film a World War 2 epic. Instead I have found myself on a train on my way to Cannock to film in a Whetherspoons. Walking into the pub at 12 o’clock at night after a 16 hour day, going up to the bar and asking to check in myself and the director only to be told that this isn’t a hotel and that it ‘never has and never will be’, was humiliating enough, even more so when I realised that I had mixed up the hotel we were staying in with the filming location. This of course meant I had to return to said Whetherspoons the next day for a day of shooting.

Anyway, I thought I would delve deeper into what it actually means to film on location – Early mornings, debates with the location contact and high costs are the reality of filming on the location, however, the authenticity created is priceless.

So I spoke to some of my colleagues who work in film and production and created a top 5 and flop 5 of filming locations.

I have had to disguise some of the location names for discretion purposes.

 

Pretzel’s Flop 5 shoot locations:

5. Working spaces, such as offices or gyms are hard to film in, as the crew have to work around working businesses. As accommodating as the clients usually are, the general public are rarely understanding when they are asked to make room for a film crew.

Production Company

No, I wasn’t working on the production of The Shining, it was the hotel I stayed in while shooting.

 

4. Goes to a certain bank in a certain place. Access for kit was nigh on impossible and trying to make the film ‘cinematic’ with the office’s fluorescent lighting and carpet floor was a challenge to say the least.

3. Swansea. Because it was Swansea.

2. Cannock. Not necessarily because of the place, but because of the location/accommodation mix up I mentioned earlier on. It turned out of course, that the accommodation really wasn’t great and it would have been better to stay at the pub even if it wasn’t a hotel. The place the PA had booked us into was like the setting to a horror film, and I and we had just checked into a haunted motel before we were to be stabbed to death and our body parts hidden in the freezer of the hotel kitchen. The were axe marks on the door and the chain which locked my room door had been smashed off.

1. The worst location will go to the Whetherspoons, for the simple reason that we had to interrupt takes because the guy working in the kitchen kept on walking through the shoot with a massive bin bag.

 

Pretzel’s Top 5 Shoot locations:

Video Production

Pretzel’s creative director enjoying a warm fire on a cold January morning in Robert Burns’ birth cottage.

 

5. Robert Burns cottage in Ayr, Scotland – we enjoyed shooting in a Scottish Heritage location to create a beautiful and authentic piece referencing Burn’s famous poem Auld Lang Syne.

4. A cruise ship in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. Blue Sky, warm weather and cocktails on tab – does it get any better.

3. The Mountains of Slovenia, for the beauty.

2. Outside the Houses of Parliament. For the simple reason that we were filming a chase scene with cars, so we had hundreds of policemen and security guards on our side, so whenever anyone complained about being held back because of filming, I had a big guy in a uniform to back me up.

1. The Niagara Falls. I think that speaks for itself.