London has been a creative hub for film makers since the advent of cinema and film production over 100 years ago. We have had a video production base in London for a number of years and always enjoy producing content in the big smoke. Here we’ll first give a couple of examples of when London has served us well as a production company, then we will go into more detail why London is the first stop for both creative and commercial filmmakers from around the globe.
This was the third year running working with SanDisk and their agency FK3 to produce promo videos for their technology products. These videos tied in with the benefits smartphone users have when they use SanDisk microSD cards in their phones.
We shot a series of six videos featuring a juggling chap from Brighton and a very nice Ukrainian model. We shot at Camberwell Studios in South London, this is a facility we enjoy making use of – the stages are excellent and it’s cost effective for tighter budgets if necessary. We will talk more about studios in London further into this article.
We filmed in Greater London for this series of TV adverts featuring everyone’s favorite builder, Tommy Walsh. The challenge with this series of adverts was moving around, we had to shoot two adverts in one day, stayed in a hotel then shot the third on the second day. Shooting two adverts in a day isn’t easy (if you’re doing it properly) – fortunately the London traffic behaved itself. We moved from Woking to the second location without too much hassle.
Film has been part of life in London since 1896, when the first ‘cinematograph’ shows in the country were shown to the public. Cinema quickly become a hot trend and industry exploded. From an initial stonking start, the number of cinema venues dropped to around 400 in the 1920s, but the average size of London’s cinemas increased, with some seating as many as 2,000 or 3,000 patrons.
Film production was taking a serious foothold during this period too, with studios popping up across the capital. During the silent era these studios had no need to be sound proofed, but this all changed with the advent of talkies, which required soundproofed studios.
The Talkie revolution occurred towards the end of the 20s – totally upending the industry. At this time cinemas had become a ubiquitous presence in London and its expanding suburbs, with some dedicated film fans in the city going to the cinema as many as three or four times a week. Cinemania continued till after the second world war, when the advent of television meaning the closure of many of the thousands of fleapit cinemas. Production in London continued a pace after the war though, with the TV advertising industry emerging from Soho as well as the rise of British film institutions like the Ealing Comedies, Carry On and James Bond.
London is world renowned for it’s studio facilities; behemoths like Pinewood, Leavesden and Shepperton provide studio facilities for the biggest productions in the world. But there are also a wealth of smaller studios dotted around London, which provide facilities for smaller scope features, TV adverts and online video. Camberwell Studios in South London is one facility that we have used frequently, also popular on the TV advert trail are 3Mills and Riverside Studios.
A more recent, notable addition to the studio landscape of London is Youtube studios (styled as Youtube Space) in King’s Cross. The studio has 10 sound stages of various sizes and all equipment (and there’s a ton) is free to use for any Youtuber with a subscription base of 10,000 or more. This really is a remarkable and innovative way of setting up a studio. We’ve been in the equipment room and were blown away by the amount of expensive kit Youtubers can get their mitts on. Incidentally, a good friend of Hightower is the producer Barshens – a very successful channel which combines the talents of Stuart Ashens and Barry the Virgin Chef.
For the aspiring film maker, there is a great range of internationally recognised film schools in London. Amongst the best is the Met film school, who advertise widely. Well-known former alumni include Mike Leigh, director of Mr. Turner, Vera Drake, and Secrets and Lies, (he’s also the school’s chairman), and four-time Oscar nominee Michael Mann.
Another popular school is London Goldsmiths, a public research university situated in arty New Cross, east London, which was originally founded in 1891 and is part of the University of London. They offer a free introductory session before committing.
Not to be confused with Robert Redford’s Sundance, Raindance was founded in 1992 as a film school, with its now-famous festival of independent films being launched the following year. Raindance’s most celebrated course is its Saturday Film School, a one-day affair held at King’s College London and designed to be an intensive but enjoyable introduction to directing, producing, writing, and film-making.
Central film school London is a small, new (founded 2009) school with a focus on the practicalities, exemplified by its tag-line: “Practical Training in Filmmaking”. It’s located in Whitechapel, east London, a trendy and arty multi-cultural district within reasonably easy reach of central London and theatreland.
London has for over 100 years been a highly revered location for shooting for film makers. One of the most popular location recently has been The Old Royal Naval College which has featured in blockbusters like Pirates of the Caribbean as well as Thor Dark World.
Notting Hill has featured a lot in cinema, particularly since the eponymous Hugh Grant film of 1999. Locations include the Coronet Cinema, Portobello Road and Westbourne Park Road all appearing on screen. You’ll also spot Kenwood House in Hampstead Heath and the Nobu restaurant at the Metropolitan Hotel. Kenwood House also features extensively in the James Bond film Goldeneye,
For the classic Brit gangster flick The Long Good Friday, numerous London landmarks appear, including St Katharine’s Docks, Paddington Station and The Savoy. The Salisbury pub in Harringay, St Patrick’s Church in Wapping, and St George in the East in Stepney also feature.
Another classic British crime film shot in London is A Clockwork Orange. The gang attack the tramp in the subway between Trinity Road and Swandon Way in Wandsworth. The scene was shot at the Les Ambassadeurs gaming club near the Hilton Hotel on Park Lane, which also appears in A Hard Day’s Night.
London attracts creative people from all over the globe. From filmmakers and artists, to musicians and writers. In 2015, the creative industries in London accounted for £42.0 billion, accounting for an estimated 11.1% of London’s total GVA (Gross Value Added) and for just under half (47.4%) of the UK creative industries total. The wider creative economy is a growing sector for employment. The creative economy now makes up around 16.9 % of all jobs in the capital, compared to 7.9% of jobs in the rest of the UK.
Hightower VIdeo operate from our HQ in central London, near the heart of UK film, video and creative production Soho. We are proud to count London our home and we work with numerous London based organisations large and small. From international brands like Santander and Aecom, through creative agencies and SMEs, we’re proud to do our bit to make London the centre of the creative industries.
From local authorities to private companies, transport facilities to Royal Parks, the London Filming Partnership (LFP) brings together diverse players in the city to collaborate on making London as film-friendly as possible. Membership is free and comes with many benefits. Over 1000 media projects take place in London each year.