(Written for the It’s Liverpool website)
With its historic buildings, stunning architecture and film friendly attitude, Liverpool is now one of the most filmed cities in the UK. So why is our city such as big attraction for film makers?
We spoke to Lynn Saunders at the Liverpool Film Office, which has now been up and running for 25 years, to find out:
“Liverpool is a key location for film makers because our job is to make theirs easier. We’re a film friendly city because our residents and businesses understand and appreciate the investment it brings to the city, and because we’re actually quite excited to see films being made here.
“Liverpool Film Office receives initial enquiries from film makers because we have a library of locations, can work on accommodation, transport, catering, road closures, permissions and contacts for a variety of local services. We can also put together a cultural offer because cast and crew members can be here for months at a time.”
Recently the Film Office have helped with productions from Florence Foster Jenkins with Hugh Grant and Meryl Streep, to Houdini and Doyle, Hollyoaks and Holiday Airport. The level of support provided varies greatly and even includes a welcome pack for all cast and crew members to help them settle into the city. Lynn showed us a pack they had created for Warner Brothers ‘Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them’ written by J K Rowling, which included restaurants, shopping offers, a seasonal guide and travel information etc – this also includes information about the It’s Liverpool app too.
For a small team, the Film Office are based at the heart of an open plan office within Liverpool City Council so we asked Lynn if this can be distracting:
“It’s actually the perfect place to be because all the right people are here. We can ask the schools team if they have an empty building available or speak to Highways about road closures or travel restrictions. Which can make the process much more efficient and therefore less costly than elsewhere else.”
170 productions have been shot on location in Liverpool since January to date so far, including Close to the Enemy, Fresh Meat, Come Dine with Me and Homes Under the Hammer, producing over 972 film days (an increase of 22% on 2014) with an inward investment value of £15+million.
The Film Office offers much more than a library of locations, they are the first point of contact for producers. Most productions will involve location managers, scouts or assistants working alongside the Film Office. Lynn loves working with local company Liverpool Locations and said: “Claire and Faye are a fantastic asset to Liverpool because they know the city well and look after the locations.”
Sisters Faye and Claire Newton set up Liverpool Locations one year ago, having both worked in the industry for several years. They are Location Managers, who work on feature films, TV dramas and commercials to find the right locations for filming as Faye explained:
“Sometimes we’re given a script and tasked with finding a couple of location options for each scene. If we feel that the story lends itself to a particular location that isn’t in the script, we can take the producer to those places too and discuss that option. Scripts may even get changed at this stage to allow for inclusion of the right location.”
Faye continued: “Most of our jobs have been in Liverpool and the North West. The reason for setting up our business in Liverpool is that we have a huge amount of experience filming in Liverpool and know the city inside out when it comes to finding the right location and knowing whether it can actually be put into practice. Plus the fact that the city is extremely busy with filming right now and on top of this, it’s our home and it’s fantastic to be working so close to home.”
The pair are also really excited about the new Film Studios being built in the former Littlewoods building on Edge Lane. Claire explained:
“Having the studios will mean more of the filming can be completed right here in Liverpool, cast and crew can then stay here longer – rather than having to head to studios in Manchester or London.”
Ironically Liverpool has such a unique array of buildings because of the lack of investment here during the 1960’s and 1970’s. While we value our historic buildings much more than developers back then, we still need to make way for change and investment into the city as Claire continued:
“The plans for Stanley Dock look great but as location scouts, we’ll be gutted to see the area developed. I think we’re about the only people who would want to keep it as it is though!”