Is the UK set to rival Hollywood?
When we think of blockbuster movies, the West Coast immediately springs to mind: Hollywood stars flocking to elaborate movie sets and mixing with talented, well-known movie directors to encompass the silver screen.
But what if we were to tell you there’s a “New Hollywood” on the rise? The United Kingdom has always been influential within the film industry and London has certainly seen its fair share of “lights, camera, action!”.
However, the capital may no longer be producers’ number-one location when seeking British charm. Nestled in the South East of England are two seemingly sleepy counties that are swiftly being taken over by the entertainment industry: Surrey and Hampshire.
Netflix has recently signed a deal with Shepperton Studios in Surrey. The studio boasts 14 stages, sound studios, and extensive workshop space all set within 10 acres of countryside.
Within days of this deal closing, residents have witnessed film sets springing up in numerous locations in the picturesque area. The new adaptation of Dame Daphne du Maurier’s novel Rebecca starring Lily James appears to be taking center stage.
Hampshire is home to Highclere Castle, although you may it as Downton Abbey. Residents and businesses have benefited hugely from the rise in tourism thanks to the show.
Although this success is rising at a rapid rate, From The Hip Video Production, who is based in the county, has created a map that shows the highest-grossing films that have made use of the local resources.
The highest-grossing film of all time, Avengers: Age of Ultron, made use of woodland within Hampshire to create the fictitious country “Sokovia”. The film grossed over $1,405,000,000 in total.
The Harry Potter franchise repeatedly featured Surrey’s landscapes. Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire chose Virginia Water Lake to portray the Great Lake at Hogwarts, an iconic part of the school’s landscape and a pinnacle element to the storyline of the fifth film. Location scouts certainly managed to find the ideal place to satisfy fans.
In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry, Hermione, and Ron are forced to camp in the woods while on the run from Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters. Bourne Woods, located in Surrey, becomes the characters’ home for numerous months.
Les Misérables was always going to be a challenging movie to shoot. Historical accuracy was an absolute must and any discrepancies would send fans and history geeks into a frenzy. Many scenes were shot in studio and CGI crane shots were used on numerous occasions. But what do you do when you need space large enough for a 19th-century ship, hundreds of extras and a considerable film crew?
Portsmouth, a seaside city in Hampshire, offered a solution for all of these. Portsmouth homes a historic dockyard, relatively unchanged since its construction. Many modern elements had to be edited out from the background, however – the set itself needed a little dressing to suit the need.
Kingsman: The Secret Service is mostly set within Britain, but we can all remember the famous fight scene with Colin Firth in a Southern-style church and naturally assume Firth was flown to the U.S. for shooting.
Bizarrely, this church is actually located in Surrey. The Garrison Church of St Barbara is a far cry from the traditional English churches we’re used to seeing, but the find by location scouts saved a lot of money and hassle for the cast and crew.
Perhaps the most surprising location deception is Brendan Fraser leaping from a burning boat in The Mummy and swimming to the safety of the banks of the River Nile. The scene looks positively Egyptian but – you guessed it – they are the banks of a body of water in Surrey called Frensham Ponds.
Surrey and Hampshire have some of the most diverse terrains in the UK and are only a short distance away from London. Outside the capital, they’re said to have the largest number of historical sights, something even the most skilled set designer will struggle to replicate to perfection.
The UK also offers very tempting tax relief to the entertainment business that is swiftly enticing the movie world. Are we about to see a change on the big screen? Watch this space.