Themed Venues: Lights, camera, action

If a venue wants added glamour, international exposure and an extra source of income, then providing a location for films and TV shows can be a worthwhile strategy. Lorraine Francisco finds out what's involved.

TATE MODERN, SOUTH BANK

Film: Children of Men (2006) starring Clive Owen, directed by Alfonso Cuaron.

The west ramp of the museum's Turbine Hall was the main Tate Modern location used in the film and stood in for the entrance to Battersea power station. The crew built a vast set including fake girders and a metal-detecting area with a scanning machine.

Tate Modern filming manager Christopher Webster says: "We had to arrange for a Bentley to be at the top of a ramp and Clive Owen, who was driving the car, drove through the scanning machine. Then the film cut to the power station."

The museum was closed for two hours from 9am as the scene needed light, giving the crew a one-hour window in which to complete their filming. The set was created in 12 hours the night before.

Webster adds: "There were a lot of people on set. Characters included armed guards and we had to get permission to use guns. There was also a scene where a character was taken out of the building in an ambulance."

Other productions filmed at Tate Modern include Woody Allen's Match Point (2005) starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Scarlett Johansson. The crew used the escalators and Turbine Hall stairs. Filming was completed in one morning before the museum opened for the day.

The Constant Gardener (2005) also filmed scenes in one of the conference rooms and used part of the building for a scene at the beginning of the film in which Ralph Fiennes's character gives a lecture. There was minimal dressing and the crew added only chairs and a lectern.

Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London (2004) used the museum's East Room, which has a capacity for 150, as an office for one of the characters playing an evil henchman. Webster says: "They brought in this huge sphere with spikes sticking out. It wouldn't fit in the lift so five of us had to wrap it in dust sheets and lift and drag it up the stairs."

THE SCIENCE MUSEUM

Film: Stormbreaker (2006) starring Alex Pettyfer as child spy Alex Rider, also featuring Mickey Rourke, Robbie Coltrane and Bill Nighy.

Stormbreaker was filmed over four days in the museum's Making the Modern World area, more commonly used for receptions of up to 700. The entire space had to be closed for a week for the crew to set up. Many of the exhibits had to be kept in situ and the events team ensured throughout filming that none of the exhibits were damaged.

Science Museum head of events Victoria Grossmith says: "We had to make sure that visitors were still catered for during filming. Making the Modern World is in the middle of the museum and staff re-directed visitors downstairs. We also had to make sure visitors could get to the IMAX and there was a lot of signage to let staff and visitors know that filming was taking place."

There were about 50 people in the crew and 150 actors, including extras. The finale was filmed at the museum. The background to the scene involved the prime minister, played by Robbie Coltrane, being conned by a character played by Mickey Rourke into pressing a button that would blow up all the schools' computer systems in the country. Alex Rider discovers the plot and crashes through the roof of Making the Modern World to save the day.

The back of house car park area was used for the crew's catering trucks and Grossmith says accommodating filming was a logistical challenge. Gunshots had to be used outside public hours as it could panic visitors, and filming had to be halted when gun cartridges started flying off exhibits so that the crew could work out a way to ensure no damage was done.

ABSOLUT ICE BAR LONDON AND BELOW ZERO

TV programme: Totally Jodie Marsh (2007) on MTV.

The Absolut Ice Bar is a perfect location for filming as it doesn't need to be dressed and, according to its marketing and PR manager Puja Khanna, production teams tend just to bring in extra lighting.

Jodie Marsh's reality show, which aimed to find a groom to walk her up the aisle, filmed a dinner scene in the venue's Moose dining room and then filmed the couple enjoying the Ice Bar experience.

Other programmes that have used the Ice Bar include Channel 4's Big Brother's Big Mouth, BBC1's wedding programme The Big Day, which filmed a hen night at the Ice Bar, and Living TV's reality show Living With Kimberly Stewart.

CASTLE FRASER, NEAR ABERDEEN

Film: The Queen (2006), starring Helen Mirren, directed by Stephen Frears.

With its beautiful scenery and historical castles, it's no wonder Hollywood uses Scotland as a backdrop for movies such as Braveheart and the Harry Potter saga.

Castle Fraser is one of many castles and venues owned by the National Trust and was chosen as a location for The Queen. National Trust for Scotland for the North East marketing development manager Charles Currie says: "There were no internal shots taken. The courtyard was used as well as the approach to the courtyard. The scene in the film shows the Queen visiting an estate where she meets a lord in the courtyard of the castle."

Very little was changed for the filming, which took place over three days. Currie says only the signposts and boards for the shop were removed.

The 30-strong cast and crew also had trailers outside in the car park, which was used to accommodate catering facilities and changing rooms.

Currie adds: "We had Billy Connolly on site doing a promotion for the cartoon Open Season (2006), which he lent his voice to. That was filmed in the woods in a few hours."

CASTLE HOWARD, YORK

Film/TV programmes: TV series Brideshead Revisited (1981), starring Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews, and feature film Brideshead Revisited (2008) with Emma Thompson and Michael Gambon.

The TV drama series of Brideshead Revisited - adapted from Evelyn Waugh's novel about a Second World War army officer, Charles Ryder, who recalls his friendship with a family of aristocrats 20 years earlier - was broadcast on ITV in 1981. During filming, the venue's owner, George Howard, lent the crew props such as silverware, glassware, china and furniture. One was an old piece of luggage called a portmanteau, or 'granny's case' as Howard described it. It had belonged to the Duchess of Grafton and was covered in labels from European cities.

The Garden Hall was used during filming and, as the space had lain derelict since a fire in 1940, Granada Television constructed a set with a painted floor, plywood doors and scenic panels depicting Charles Ryder's murals. With money provided by Granada in return for filming, the Garden Hall was renovated with features such as Castle Howard oak doors and a Portland stone floor.

The castle's fountain played an important role in the series, with memorable scenes such as the summer of 1923 when Charles sits with his feet in the water while sketching and talking to Sebastian Flyte (Anthony Andrews).

The Archbishop's Room, containing an eleaborate canopied bed, was used for the death scene of Lord Marchmain, played by Laurence Olivier. It also played a part as the Ryder family's drawing room.

For the big-screen remake, Ecosse Films built sets in rooms in the south-east wing of the venue which were damaged in the 1940 fire. The crew filmed for five-and-a-half-weeks in June and July and created an elaborate dining room and bedroom.

Castle Howard spokesperson Eleanor Course says: "They constructed a bedroom which featured a huge four-poster bed, and both sets had dramatic decor on the walls and paintings. There were some elaborate scenes filmed on site. A hunt scene involved hiring one of the town's local hunting groups. It was an amazing sight to see horses and riders coming over the hill. The gardens were also dressed as an army camp."

Other movies filmed at Castle Howard include Garfield 2: A Tale of Two Kitties (2006) which used the venue's external grounds for a week's filming.

ALTON TOWERS

Film: Boy A (2007) starring Andrew Garfield.

Cuba Pictures filmed characters in Boy A enjoying the rides at Alton Towers.

Venue spokesperson Rachael Lockitt says: "We had a late opening of Oblivion, the teacup ride and the air ride. The 40-plus crew only set up catering units within the service area around the park and didn't have to bring many props in."

The crew had to install specific rigs on the rides, which had to go through rigorous health-and-safety checks.

MADAME TUSSAUDS

TV programme: Channel 4's 10 Years Younger.

The venue's World Stage Ballroom was used for the unveiling of a participant's makeover. Her friends and family were treated to a drinks reception before and after the official 'reveal' of her new look.

Madame Tussauds marketing coordinator Kieran Lancini says: "It was a huge logistical operation as the crew had large lighting rigs and filming took place during February's school half-term. We had to rope off one room in our Premiere Nights area to ensure a steady flow of visitors."

In its Blush event space, visitors were asked how old they thought the participant was, and the back-of-house rooms were used as production, make-up and changing room areas.

The events team and crew had to make sure the participant didn't see any of her friends and family during filming. This entailed extensive co-operation between the operations team and crew.

Madame Tussauds ensured all visitors knew filming was taking place to make sure there was no confusion on the day.

Nicky Hambleton-Jones, who presents 10 Years Younger, also filmed links showing her interacting with the wax figures.

All filming was done in one day from 8am to 5.30pm. The production team had two recces before filming took place to make sure issues such as health and safety were covered.

ITV2's WAGs Boutique was also filmed at the venue. The crew used Blush, which has a capacity for 250, and the World Stage Ballroom, which can host 600 people.

WARWICK CASTLE

TV programme: BBC drama series Mayo (2006), starring Alistair McGowan.

The detective series used Warwick Castle's Great Hall, which has a capacity for 175, to stage a gay wedding. The space was dressed for a lavish ceremony and featured an aisle, flower arrangements and lots of chairs. The State Dining Room, which is connected to the Great Hall, was also used.

The storyline for the episode involved one of the grooms failing to turn up for the ceremony - because someone had murdered him.

The crew filmed for a few days at Warwick Castle and also took shots outside. For night shots, the production team brought in specialist lighting rigs. They also set up catering, changing rooms and make-up trucks in the venue's car park.

Warwick Castle PR manager Jo Biggs says: "We had to manage the filming carefully to ensure minimal disruption to guests.

"We made sure that people knew some areas were closed off but we ensured filming took place during a quiet period."

She adds: "We also had the Antiques Roadshow here in 2002, which was a large production and involved a lot of logistics, as we suffered variable weather and filming took place outside."

Channel 4's youth brand T4 filmed a few links at Warwick Castle in the summer to be used between its various TV shows.

THE LONDON EYE

Film: Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) starring Jessica Alba and Ioan Gruffudd.

The London Eye was the setting for scenes that involved characters jumping into helicopters from the Eye's viewing capsules. The scenes were created using CGI as the actors filmed using a green screen in Vancouver.

The venue's PR manager, Liz Edwards, says: "The crew were here for 10 days and filmed helicopter shots and landscape images of the view from the capsule of the pier.

"It was filmed in October 2006 and the crew set up at 6am, shot from 7am and were finished by 9am every morning to ensure that there was no disruption to visitors."

The London Eye also hosted the worldwide press junket for the film and attracted 80 journalists from all over the world over the course of three days.

The event took place in four capsules, with one main character in each. Four journalists would go into a capsule and have six minutes to conduct an interview that was filmed by a TV crew. After the interviews had been done, they would jump into the next capsule and interview the next actor.

20th Century Fox also erected a 30-metre PVC version of the Silver Surfer himself, as if he was flying from the middle of the Eye.

Edwards adds: "Filming took place at the same time The Bourne Ultimatum was being shot in Waterloo Station along York Road. It was great to have two major films working in one area at the same time."


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