London On Screen and Filming 2020 round-up

Latest 3 Dec 2020

News Story

1917, courtesy of Entertainment One

For production, 2020 has been an extremely challenging year, but also one of innovation, creativity and perseverance. Here we take a look back everything that has been on the silver and smaller screens, as well as what was filming on our streets and in our studios, highlighting the capital's world-class facilities and locations, truly celebrating the city on screen.

A new decade kicked off with two highly anticipated blockbusters in cinemas; the award-winning World War One epic 1917, and Armando Iannucci's adaptation of Charles Dickens' The Personal History of David Copperfield. Whilst 1917 filmed at the stages and back-lot facilities at Shepperton Studios, The Personal History of David Copperfield shot on location at the likes of Temple, Clapham and Wapping.

Locations from all corners of the capital were seen on screen, from the Royal Albert Hall, Kensington and Hemel Hempstead in feel-good film Military Wives, to Brent, Wandsworth and Hounslow in ITV’s detective drama Endeavour and premiere location Ministry of Sound in satire film of the super rich, Greed.

Studio doors were open for business and cameras were rolling on various productions including Matt Reeves' highly anticipated The Batman, series two of Pennyworth - the origin story of the caped crusader's trusty butler, Alfred Pennyworth - the musical comedy reimagining of Cinderella and dinosaur action-adventure Jurassic World: Dominion.

Killing Eve, courtesy of Sid Gentle Films

Come springtime, the industry ground to a halt in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, posing daunting questions and unknown answers for the screen industries operating in unprecedented times. During this period Film London remained fully operational, delivering for the industry and sharing official advice and support.

With more of us indoors, an influx of content was available for our viewing habits, and we adapted our On Screen and Filming feature to highlight the variety of titles filmed in and around the capital - facilitated by Film London - on TV and online each month. This ranged from new releases to catch-up content and old classics on a variety of channels and on-demand services.

The streets of London were bought indoors with the third series of assassin drama Killing Eve, filmed at Tower Bridge and Bank Station, and the hugely impactful and London set series I May Destroy You, filmed in Hackney, Shoreditch and Square Mile and Steve McQueen’s BBC One Small Axe film collection, telling stories of the West Indian experience in London, with filming having taken place in areas where the narratives are set.

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, dir. David Dobkin

London catered to all genres, satisfying every taste during lockdown, from Sky One's dystopian Brave New World filmed at The Sky Garden, Wembley Stadium, and Canary Wharf Estate, to the fourth series of period drama The Crown, which over the four series has filmed at numerous stately locations including the Royal Naval College, Lancaster House and Blythe House as well as Elstree Film Studios.

We also showcased London's potential as a doubling location, with ITV's gameshow scandal Quiz using Wimbledon Studios as a substitute for the original Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? studio in Manchester, and Netflix's Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga shooting on location at Haringey Civic Centre, Conway Hall and the former Battersea Sorting Office doubling for places including Iceland. On the newly launched Disney+ Film London advised on the 2015 Avengers instalment, Avengers: Age of Ultron for locations that could double for international settings, and the mind-bending 2016 feature Doctor Strange with stand-in locations for Hong Kong.

Still from Mission:Impossible - Fallout. Tom Cruise running across a London rooftop with St Paul's Cathedral in the background

Mission: Impossible - Fallout, dir. Christopher McQuarrie

By June, production guidance for Film and High-End TV Drama was made available with the publication of ‘Working Safely During COVID-19 in Film and High-end TV Drama Production’ by the British Film Commission, produced as part of wider BFI Screen Sector COVID-19 Task Forces recovery initiatives.

In collaboration with the London Filming Partnership, Film London also created guidance for crews filming in public spaces in London. The COVID-19 Guidanceprovides a checklist of actions for crews to ensure that they operate within government guidelines and mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19 when on location.

In line with government guidance, Mission: Impossible 7 and 8 were able to re-start at Warner Bros. Studios, Leavesden, kick-starting the production of international blockbusters due to essential international cast and crew being allowed to travel to the UK without having to quarantine for 14 days.

With the guidance available, more and more productions began to safely pick up the camera again, such as the previously halted Jurassic World: Dominion restarting at Pinewood Studios. Reggie Yates’ directorial debut Pirates also restarted filming in the capital having postponed production back in March, and has since wrapped all whilst filming under the new guidelines.

Still from Rocks featuring six young women looking over a railing.

Rocks, dir. Sarah Gavron

From July, cinemas could safely re-open their doors and welcome back audiences, and Christopher Nolan’s highly anticipated, high concept blockbuster Tenet was the tent-pole film in doing so. An intricate plot of espionage and time warping, filming took place all over the world, including the National Liberal Club in Westminster.

Independents also hit the big screens, with psychological horror Saint Maud, filming for five weeks in North London, and Rocks, which was screened in cinemas as well as available on demand. Set in East London, the production filmed extensively in the area, with the majority of actors street cast and working with an all female team to develop authentic, genuine characters and storylines.

We end the year with an exciting slate of content available to watch on-demand, from truthful drama County Lines, shot in Kentish Town, to the long awaited superhero epic Wonder Woman 1984, which filmed at Warner Bros. Studios and on location at Torrington Square, Bloomsbury. Various film and high-end TV projects are also currently in production in the capital, including series follow ups for Top Boy,Temple, The Great and Avenue 5 so keep your eyes peeled.

Despite the challenging circumstances we find ourselves in, studio developments have continue throughout the UK, most recently in East London where Barking and Dagenham Council signed an agreement with global media real estate leader Hackman Capital Partners to build London’s largest film and TV production centre in Dagenham. This investment is a real vote of confidence in our industry’s ability to return to the growth we saw prior to the pandemic and exceed it in coming years. The future for the industry is a bright one!