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Behind the scenes filming at Harrow School

Date posted: 05.02.2018

Carly Gallagher is the Marketing and Business Development Manager at Harrow School, which has hosted film and TV productions including The Crown, Howard’s End, The Theory of Everything, and Doctor Foster. She tells us about the trials and tribulations of hosting film and TV productions in a historic building.

“My role at Harrow School Enterprises, which raises funds for the school through commercial activities, includes planning and delivering the marketing strategy. Part of this includes promoting and supporting filming at the school. I am mainly responsible for attracting new opportunities that fit our brand, as well as maintaining a great website and extensive image library, providing recces and contracts, and organising the perfect staff to work for each shoot. 

I have had so many great experiences in this role. Personally, I find the fantastic location teams we work with most rewarding. I love that we get so much repeat business from some of my favourite location managers and productions, including The Crown and the locations team from Downton Abbey.

The Australian rugby team’s press and training day hosted here was not my worst day at work either.  

The most recent feature that we shot was YouTube’s Rewind: The Shape of 2017 project. I will never forget the recce phone call: “I am looking for the definition of ‘English’ Carly. I’m sure you have it”. We certainly did!

YouTube, represented by Portal A and Leap Productions, shot on our Chapel Terrace, surrounded by architecturally stunning buildings. A huge slime paddling pool did make me extremely nervous, but their team was incredible and left the area spotless. The shots looked brilliant too.

It doesn’t always go so smoothly. We once hosted a music video which had very inexperienced camera operators who ignored my strict ‘no tape’ rule. The tape lifted the varnish off the centre of the floor in of one of our most prominent Grade II listed buildings. When they realised what had happened they tried to scrub it before I saw the damage, which took off all of the surrounding varnish too. It will take several years for the varnish layers to build back up, so in the meantime I have a constant reminder of what can go wrong, and why we have to be so careful when filming in a centuries-old building.

The part of the school I like best is a little bit of a cliché, as it is so well known; our original classroom, called the Fourth Form Room, is over 400 years old and is adorned with the graffiti of numerous alumni, including Winston Churchill, Lord Byron and Sir Robert Peel to name a few. It also happens to be the room where Harry Potter takes his first lesson with Professor Flitwick in the ‘Wingardium Leviosa’ scene in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

My favourite films of all time are Labyrinth and The NeverEnding Story. This probably explains why I work somewhere as magical and quirky as Harrow School!

Find out more about filming at Harrow School

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