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Behind the scenes filming at the Natural History Museum

Date posted: 31.10.2017

What goes on behind the scenes at a location shoot? Alice Beer is the Filming and Events Manager at the Natural History Museum, which has hosted film and TV productions including Paddington, Spooks and Poirot. She tells us about filming at the Museum, and how they managed the shoot for Tom Cruise’s monster movie The Mummy.

"As the Filming and Events Manager at the Museum, a big part of my role is facilitating filming at the location. Another part of it is organising the high-profile Museum-hosted launches that take place over the year. As Filming Manager I meet film crews and act as the liaison point between the production and the various departments and scientists in the Museum.

We always try to accommodate as many production requests as we can, whilst also ensuring that the day-to-day running of the Museum isn’t affected. It can be a bit of a juggling act.  

We do a lot of natural history documentary shoots with David Attenborough. These are one of my favourite projects to work on. Like most people he is a hero of mine, so to be able to watch him work is pretty special.

My favourite area of the Museum is the Old General Herbarium. It’s on the second floor and is one of the original galleries. It’s a long room that seems to go on forever and its walls are lined from floor to ceiling with mahogany cabinets that used to house the mounted botany specimens.  I love this space because it looks like it’s frozen in time and its actually pretty versatile and has been recced for lots of different projects. Warner Bros’ Jupiter Ascending shot there, as did David Attenborough’s Natural History Museum Alive.

Last year we were a location for some key scenes of the recent Universal film The Mummy. It was a pretty challenging job for us, as they approached us about five weeks prior to starting; considering the scale of the shoot and that they were looking to work in the daytime across multiple locations in the Museum, this was a really short lead time.

Usually we only allow crews to film overnight as we are open to the public during the daytime, but luckily the shoot coincided with the closure of our Minerals Gallery, which meant filming could take place during opening hours. They also used other spaces such as the Tank Room and various corridors, which are all back-of-house areas not open to the public.

The shoot was a bit of a whirlwind, with lots of last minute requests. My favourite was “could we drive a motorbike down the middle of the Minerals Gallery?” to which we said ‘yes’ and I’m so glad we did it, as the scene in the film looked great. The location team were amazing; they streamlined the whole process and made it a lot of fun.

Filming The Mummy has definitely been one of my most rewarding film experiences at the museum. Despite the challenges it all worked out and, most importantly, nothing was damaged!" 

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