Filming on the Isle of Man with Location Manager Sian Sutherland
Sian has been based on the Isle of Man since the age of eight and entered the production industry first as a featured extra and then as a runner and a Unit Manager. Her initiative and fast learning soon progressed her to Location Manager and she’s worked on some 40 projects over 13 years.
What can you tell me about the Isle of Man as a filming location?
I cover the entire island, which is only 221 square miles, so I know pretty much everything that is available and where to find it.
Production on the island has picked up since we made a management deal with Pinewood Studios, so experienced local crew and I are keeping pretty busy and taking on local trainees. We have three 'build spaces' on the island that are properties that have been adapted. We can get a good deal of equipment and supplies on the island, but camera gear and lighting equipment is transported from the UK
What types of locations do you have to offer?
The island has doubled for Ireland, Devon, Yorkshire, Washington, France, Eastern Europe and more. It also lends itself to period dramas, as well as contemporary London.
What locations are most commonly used by film and TV crews when they come and film in the area?
It depends on the project really. If the project is London contemporary there are limits to the number of locations we can cheat as London, so we tend to focus in and around the capital town Douglas. Several Manx National Heritage are popular with projects set in Ireland, but probably the most used locations from my point of view are the many plantations that we use regularly for horror flicks.
The island's versatility is its overriding asset and surprise. The mountains and high roads work for the Appalachian Mountains as well as the Scottish Highlands. We have many historical locations of interest, including a thatched village and a variety of beaches, coves and seaside towns that double for Bournemouth, Cornwall, Devon, the South of France and so on. We have also cheated a motorway on a rarely-used airfield north of the island.
What has been your most difficult location assignment to date?
Each script brings its own challenges. Sometimes the script includes a location that cannot be found on the island, so I have to think outside the box and offer the director an equally-appealing alternative. We shoot both entire projects on the Isle of Man, as well as splitting projects between the Isle of Man and places like London.
The island's versatility is its overriding asset and surprise. The mountains and high roads work for the Appalachian Mountains as well as the Scottish Highlands.
We are a bit short on the Georgian style buildings as I found last year when scouting for the feature film Belle based on the true story of [mixed-race 18th Century aristocrat] Dido Elizabeth Belle. However, I did find some great locations in the end.
What types of production do you work on most?
Mostly feature film nowadays. I used to work on a lot of ITV dramas for Company Pictures, but they have not filmed so much on the island in recent years. I have also worked on a couple of commercials including the BSkyB commercial for the Haye v Ruiz fight, but advertisements are rarely shot on the Isle of Man.
Are there any tips that you would like to share with our audience about filming on the Isle of Man?
For an area so small the island has a high number of films repeatedly taking over villages and towns. Extra tender loving care is needed when disrupting a residential or business area which has probably patiently witnessed a number of film crews come and go. Filming during the TT motorcycle racing fortnight must always be avoided and booking travel, crew accommodation and hire should be done as early as possible, especially in the summer months.
Which is the best airport to use on the Isle of Man?
There is only one commercial airport on the Isle of Man and you have to fly there from a UK city. You can also charter a flight, which is actually more economical than you might think. There are also ferries from Heysham and Liverpool, which is the route technical and facilities vehicles must take. Travel is quite expensive and booking as early as possible is advised especially during winter months, when cancellations are not unusual.
The Mount Murray halfway between the airport and Douglas is popular. All other crew-friendly hotels are situated in Douglas including The Sefton Group, who are very accommodating.
There are usually set costs for Public Liability cover for film units and costs for insuring locations. Can you tell us about location insurance and possibly examples of costs in your region?
Ten million is the amount on my current film's public liability insurance. This is dealt with by the Production Department and as far as I know the Isle of Man Film Office. I just nag for a copy from production as I like to issue all my location owners with a copy along with their location agreement. I also recommend that you buy or hire local mobile phones as you will be charged international rates to make or receive a call on your UK mobile phone whilst on the Isle of Man.
What do you do with your time off and what would you recommend crew and cast do to have fun and relax locally?
During my time off I like to get off the rock! I like summer holidays and most recently visited Seville. I planned to spend a Christmas with my cousin in LA, but even taking the precaution of booking two flights off the island, I still ended up snow bound and spending Christmas at home.
For an area so small the island has a high number of films repeatedly taking over villages and towns.
I visit my sister Kerry and nephew Oscar George who has just turned one in Hampshire quite regularly and have also been on one of the Guild of Location Manager Trips to Santiago de Compostela. Hiring a car is the best way to get around and see the island. We also have a steam train that will take you from Douglas to the south and an electric tram that will take you from Douglas to the north. Both are a great way to see the countryside.
To contact Sian click here.
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