Creative connections that transform




Image of A crew on location at UCL filming Inception

Flaxman Gallery, UCL in Inception

Date posted: 01.07.2010

Written, produced and directed by Christopher Nolan, and with a stellar cast led by Leonardo DiCaprio and including Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Cillian Murphy and Michael Caine, Inception is proving to be one of the most anticipated films of the summer.

Filming took place last year in major cities across the globe, from Tangier to Tokyo, Paris to Calgary, and Los Angeles to London. The UK shoot featured three fantastic central London locations, namely Victoria House, Farmiloes and University College London, as well as the Cardington Airship Hangars and the Electronic Arts building - both in the greater South East region.

"As an alumnus of the University of London (UCL), Christopher Nolan was keen to film there", says Nick Daubeny, location manager on the UK leg of the shoot. "Although we used various parts of UCL to double for the Architectural School in Paris, it was the Flaxman Gallery which was especially interesting because it had not been filmed in before."

UCL Art Collections, one of the university's three public museums, is responsible for the Flaxman Gallery which is situated in the library, underneath the dome of the impressive early 19th Century building that overlooks the Gower Street quadrangle. The Flaxman Collection at UCL contains the largest single group of works by leading sculptor John Flaxman (1755-1826), including plaster models, prints and drawings - a selection of which are currently being exhibited in the Strang Print Room.

Dr. Nina Pearlman, manager of the UCL Art Collections, describes her experience of the shoot: "When we began conversations about filming in the Flaxman Gallery it became clear almost immediately that for this to work, there was a learning curve required - both for the film crew and for the teams responsible for UCL's cultural and academic heritage."

"A range of proposals were discussed and debated, all aimed at dressing the space to contend with the problem posed by the colour pink on film. This was a major sticking point for us, not only because of the level of risk to the sculptures, but significantly because the pink paint was the outcome of a recent restoration project funded by a major research grant. Finally it was decided to film in the space as is and a method statement was agreed for reducing and managing risk."

"The day of the shoot went smoothly. The library remained open throughout and students were in and out of the space, surprised and delighted to have stumbled onto a film set with Leonardo DiCaprio and Michael Caine. It was a highly organised and efficient operation. For us it helped that there were clear lines of communication agreed in advance between our team and the crew. Crew numbers were reduced to minimum and were informed of the guidelines for working in the space. We also ensured that five UCL Art Collections representatives, including conservators, were on site at all times."

"UCL at large is experienced with film shoots on this scale, but it is a vast institution with many special pockets, including its Museums and Collections which are responsible for a range of unique spaces and objects spread across the university's Bloomsbury campus. I think it is helpful to know that, when working with UCL, there is a chain of people involved for many of the 'pocket spaces' that contain heritage objects."

"We were delighted to have the opportunity to work with director Christopher Nolan and producer Emma Thomas, who were both students themselves at UCL. Ultimately, the success of this experience depended on a willingness on both sides to learn, having a Film London consultant to offer guidance and impartial advice, and importantly, working with such an excellent location manager, Nick Daubney."

Nick adds: "I think some of Dr Pearlman's concerns were eased after I put her in touch with Film London consultant Harvey Edgington, who was able to advise her on contractual and practical matters and re-assure her of the sensitivity of the film crew. As a result, the shoot was a painless experience."

The Flaxman Gallery is open to the public on weekdays from 1 to 5pm. Access to the Flaxman Gallery is via the Strang Print Room. For more information about the public museums at UCL please visit

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