Academy Films shoots London's first commercial production since lockdown
Location manager Eugene Strange of Salt Films talks to TLG about location scouting and managing the first London shoot since the city locked down.
The two day shoot filmed in public and private locations in the capital for a spot for a well-known UK brand and celebrates the UK as it eases lockdown. The production company, Academy Films, needed three locations for the shoot: a bike shop and the street outside, a park and a house and scaled down the crew to around fifteen members. The spot cast a couple who already live together as the heroes in order to avoid social distancing guidelines and part of the spot filmed in their own home. “Part of the casting brief was to take photos of their residence where the shoot would film so to make sure it was in keeping with the couple’s backstory” says Strange.
In terms of permits from London councils “It was a really fast turnaround” says Eugene whose company, Salt Films received the job on Friday 15th May. “Our first day of scouting on Saturday 16th looking for a bike shop and the street outside the shop. The fact that bike shops have had a renaissance recently because everyone is wanting to buy a bike, so they are doing a lot of trade which made it slightly harder because at least half a day was needed for filming at the location”. Six or seven shops in Southwark, Lewisham and Islington were found.
Councils were contacted on Monday, followed by the street permit and a risk assessment filed on Tuesday for the bike location. “We had to show how we would manage the shoot in accordance with government guidelines. Making sure we weren’t in any way endangering or putting at risk members of the public and keeping 2m distancing at all times”.
“I was very surprised and delighted that Islington council had approved our application to film the following day on Thursday which was tight turnaround and both Islington council and Filmfixer were key to pushing that through to allow to enable the shoot to take place. Even in normal times that is a ridiculously short turnaround time, but in these times when people aren’t sure about what the best way of working is, it was hugely commendable” says Strange.
Andrew Pavor of FilmFixer says that “We got the application through on filmapp for two locations, one in Islington, one in Southwark as a back up. Both Islington and Southwark were willing to grant permission to film on the street, after having set some new terms and conditions based on the APA and PACT guidelines that were published this week. The production company chose the Islington bike shop once it became clear that Islington were prepared to agree to the shoot. 10 London boroughs are accepting applications. Brent is taking applications, as well as 9 run by FilmFixer - Camden, Islington, Lambeth, Southwark, Lewisham, Bexley, Bromley, Hounslow, Haringey”.
On location, it was a matter of managing the number of people inside the shop” We would stagger who was in the building to keep the distance adhered to. The location was cleaned the day before, the art department came in first thing to create a sign, followed by the electrical department for some lights followed lastly by the crew”.
On the street, “the crew and equipment were penned on the street near the location. The street is semi-pedestrianised street with no cars and most of the surrounding shops were closed so there were less people to potentially upset and I think it helped the council make a positive decision. Visually it was interesting, it felt like a natural place for the bike shop”.
For park location Strange says that “some councils were being very helpful and willing for that to take place”. However, the shot required a drone and because London’s parks are particularly busy at the moment the safety perspective for drone shoots were not achievable. Instead, Harrow school in North West London allowed for its forest and sports pitched to be used. “They also turned around the permit in two days with the drone” says Strange.
Throughout the two day shoot the advertising agency were approving all the rushes via a remote filming system. “It can take its time but it is definitely workable” concludes Strange.
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