Written by Shona Smith on Sep 17, 2019. Posted in On Location

Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir based at Raynham Hangars and shot exclusively in Norfolk

Set in the early 1980’s, Joanna Hoggs semi-autobiographical film The Souvenir tells the story of Julie,  young film student played by Honour Swinton-Byrne, who becomes romantically involved with a deceptive older man, portrayed by Tom Burke. The film filmed exclusively in Norfolk, where a former RAF base was adapted into a soundstage.

Hogg’s singular production model, where everything is shot in chronological order and entirely improvised relies on creating a filming bubble that blurs the lines between reality and fiction. Hogg’s 2013 feature Exhibition, for example, saw the two central actors living in same house which played a pivotal role in the film itself.

Crispin Buxton, Associate Producer and Location Manager of The Souvenir explains that this production model adds to the authenticity of Hogg’s work, but also necessitates that locations must be found close to the production base. The film shot almost exclusively in Norfolk, finding everything from an elegant double for the Ritz to a Venetian Hotel within half an hour of its base at Raynham Hangars, Norfolk.

The Souvenir was the first feature film to have used Raynham Hangars, a former RAF base with a 45,000 sq ft Hangar close to Kings Lynn as a production base. The site was adapted into a soundstage and additional production space on the lot was utilised too. The soundstage itself was used as a set for the film school, and the Hangar's exterior was transformed into the entrance of the film school.

In summer 2019, the production returned to Raynham to film The Souvenir II. Buxton explains that “in part two, the world opens up slightly”, and used more of Norfolk’s versatile locations initially scouted in 2017.

Producer Luke Schiller notes “working in Raynham Studios was a great experience all round.  Filming in a quiet studio surrounded by beautiful countryside was amazing.  With great  location possibilities - and an ever growing pool of local crew talent - we were able to shoot two films that were set in London yet barely spent a day shooting in the capital. All of the above convinced us to shoot both parts of The Souvenir away from the hustle and bustle and expense of working in London.”

Hogg’s own 35mm photographs shot from the flat’s windows in the 1980s were digitally stitched and back projected onto a screen surrounding the set.

Julie’s Kensington apartment was also constructed at the studio, as securing a real flat in for sporadic, chronological filming over a two-month shoot would be both expensive and logistically difficult. Largely set in London, Julie lives in a Knightsbridge apartment modelled on one that Hogg lived in during the early eighties and is based on the real flat which Hogg lived in as a film student. Although unable to revisit the actual residence, “floor plans were used to create a dimensionally correct set” explains Buxton. Hogg’s own 35mm photographs shot from the flat’s windows in the 1980s were digitally stitched and back projected onto a screen surrounding the set. Hogg’s own furniture, and personal possessions were used to re-create authentic interiors .

Tilda Swinton plays the role of Julie’s mother who resides in Norfolk. First noticed by Hogg during an early recce, a large house in the village of Great Massingham was used where much of the interiors were barely altered.

The former airmen's estate next to the airfield doubled for North Kensington and nearby, the impressive Holkham Hall & Estate which shot to fame with Shakespeare in Love, provided multiple distinctive sets during the shoot. Only half an hour from the Raynham Hangars, makeup and costume for the central characters was able to be completed back at the studio.

Holkham’s Statue Gallery, whose walls are lined with Roman antiques doubled for an upscale Ritz style location and Buxton notes that the estate is particularly cooperative when it comes to filming requests.

Burke’s character, for example, chain smokes throughout the film and with added safeguards he was able to do so during the shoot in the valuable room. The estate also allowed for the production to hang a large chandelier from an original four-hundred-year-old ceiling in a tapestry lined bedroom which played a high-end Venetian hotel suite (pictured).

Holkham’s Saloon and Landscape rooms crimson wall hangings were also able to double for London’s Wallace Collection. The couple visit the London museum to see The Souvenir, a painting which becomes a central motif of the film. Holkham’s Landscape Room contains twenty-two paintings by revered masters including Claude Lorrain and Claude-Joseph Vernet. One of these priceless paintings was removed from the wall, where a replica of The Souvenir, was placed. Buxton stresses that “it wouldn’t, and couldn’t have worked without Holkham Hall, and Lord and Lady Leicester's extremely supportive attitude to the filming”.

Associate Producer and Location Manager Crispin Buxton runs The Norfolk Film Company which provides production services in Norfolk that encompasses the work done on The Souvenir.

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