From Peaky Blinders to Hollywood blockbusters - movie-making in the West Midlands

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Lights, camera, action! From Hollywood blockbusters to gritty dramas and reality shows – film and television makers just can't seem to get enough of the West Midlands.

Its landmarks and attractions are providing a diverse range of backdrops for many different movies and programmes.

And now the region is even on the radar of legendary Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg whose latest venture Ready Player One is currently being shot in Birmingham.

The arrival of Spielberg and his camera crews have caused great excitement but the movie, which is partly being filmed in Digbeth, is just one of the many projects given the green light to shoot in Birmingham.

Steven Spielberg, centre, captured filming scene for his next big screen epic. Picture: Steven Dworak

Film Birmingham, which is the city council's 'one-stop shop' for production companies interested in coming to the city, deals with between 5,000 and 6,000 requests a year. They contact the film office with a brief detailing the types of locations they are looking for and then staff put together a brochure showcasing what they can offer.

Film Birmingham promotes the city has offering sites that range from the 'iconic to the anonymous' whether its stylish city offices and apartments or derelict warehouses, tree-lined suburban streets or rural parkland.

Sindy Campbell, manager at Film Birmingham, said the film office was 'mega busy' and demand in recent years had grown rapidly with projects ranging from big-budget to movies to student films.

She said the city offers many advantages for producers, adding: "It's cheaper and it's not too far from London. They can use several locations within the city and get around easily and have got a diverse range of locations. It's great for Birmingham."


As well as the second city, the Black Country and Staffordshire have also been chosen as prime locations for everything from a spy parody and a zombie thriller to a war-time drama.

The Black Country Living Museum, in particular, has been a popular choice with some directors describing it as a 'perfect location'. Laura Wakelin, the museum's deputy chief executive (communications and marketing), said she believed the area had a lot to offer film-makers.

"Recent years have seen us benefit greatly from this increased popularity, especially since we have such a unique offer here at the Black Country Living Museum, which is often described as a 'ready-made set'," she said.

Black Country Living Museum


The Black Country Living Museum's cobbled streets and quaint pub have featured in many television dramas in recent years – the most famous being Peaky Blinders.

Fans of the gangster epic are now well used to seeing the familiar canal basin transformed into Charlie Strong's scrapyard.

The show set in post-war Birmingham has been a smash hit across the globe, particularly since it was released on the online streaming service Netflix, helping to put the Black Country firmly on the map around the world.

Martin Clunes arrived at the attraction in November 2014 to film scenes for Arthur & George – which told the incredible tale of Staffordshire vicar George Edalji, who was wrongly jailed for an horrific attack on a pit pony.

Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle rushed to Great Wyrley to offer his assistance in clearing George's name. Some of the filming for the three-part ITV series, which aired last year, took placed at the museum where the authentic streets proved the perfect location.

The museum's canalside, gas-lit village also starred in parts of the BBC six-episode family drama Our Zoo, which told the true story of Matt Charman, the man who created Chester Zoo in the 1930s.

To make the show, the ironmonger's shop had to be completely revamped to make way for a general store, but the 1930s street at the museum was easily recognisable to anyone who had visited.

Visitors' favourite the Bottle and Glass Inn could often be seen in BBC war drama Land Girls which followed the lives and loves of four girls away from home doing their bit for Britain in the Women's Land Army.

While Stephen Poliakoff's first major TV series, Dancing on the Edge brought Hollywood stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Matthew Goode and John Goodman to the Black Country. Location manager Harriet Lawrence described the 1930s village as the 'perfect' set for the programmes.

Set in the early 1930s it follows black jazz musicians, the Louis Lester Band, as they find fame among the parties and performances of London's upper-class society.

It also played host to three series of BBC drama WPC 56 which not only gained viewers around the UK but also right the way across the globe.

Charles De'Ath and Jennie Jacques in WPC 56

It follows WPC Gina Dawson, the first woman police constable to serve in her West Midlands hometown in 1956.

Speaking about the show, BBC spokeswoman Becky Jones-Owen has said:"The Americans also love those nostalgic shots of what they think of as typically British scenery. The Black Country Museum really sets the scene for the series. It's fantastic that it's doing so well outside the UK as well as at home."

The museum has also featured more recently in history-based reality shows Victorian Bakers – which saw modern bakers head into the midst of the Industrial Revolution and the 1870s -– and 24 hours in the Past, which saw celebrities experience the harsh realities for workers in the 19th century. Warwick Davis and his family visited for ITV's second series of Weekend Escapes with Warwick Davis. They stepped out of their trusty camper van and back in time in full Victorian garb.

They discovered what it was like to live and work in the Victorian period, encountering some of the period's rather 'strict' characters, and ended up enlisting to fight in the First World War.

Yvette Fielding and her Most Haunted team have also visited the museum's streets as they explored psychic spaces, spiritual hotspots and Black Country bumps in the night.

Guest Hospital

The stars holding the Black County Flag on location

A decaying hospital was the perfect location for the apocalyptic drama The Girl With All The Gifts. For the thriller, set in a bleak future where most people have been turned into zombies by fungal infection, producers chose Dudley's former Guest Hospital.

It sits near a retail park in the shadow of Dudley Castle and had closed eight years ago as services moved to a modern outpatients unit next door and to Russells Halls Hospital.

But the site, off Tipton Road, became a hive of activity once again in June last year as crew members were seen using machines to plunge the set into a smoke-filled backdrop for the actors.

The film's stars Glenn Close, Gemma Arterto Staffordshire-born Paddy Considine and Fisayo Akinade even took time out to pose with the Black Country flag after it was taken on set by Steve Edwards, founder of the Facebook page The Only Way is Dudley.

Director Colm McCarthy is the man behind Peaky Blinders, and it is believed her spotted the ailing, boarded up hospital buildings while filming and decided it was ideal to use for scenes in his new movie.

Manor House

Movie was shot in numerous Black Country and Staffordshire venues

Hailed as the biggest independent film to come out of the Black Country in years, The House of the Screaming Death, has been shot in Sandwell, Walsall and Staffordshire.

The horror movie's prominent setting is the Manor House Museum in West Bromwich but cameras have also been rolling at sites including Walsall's Aston Manor Road Transport.

Top actor Ian McNeice, who is known for appearances in blockbuster horror films From Hell and White Noise as well as the likes of Doctor Who, Doc Martin and Game of Thrones, will star as a mysterious architect. Shot on a budget of just £4,000, it involved around 100 people, including cast and crew, all of whom provided their services free of charge, and is due to be released next year. The project is the joint brainchild of Walsall-based Lightbeam Productions and Pat the Bull Films.

Rachel Kinsella, visitor services officer at the Manor House Museum, said: "I have seen a sneek peek of clips from the film and it looks brilliant. "The Manor House looks so eerie – I cannot wait to see the finished production."

Severn Valley Railway

Familiar faces have visited the heritage lines over the years to film movies including Goodnight Mister Tom

From Goodnight Mister Tom to Sherlock Holmes - the snap of a clapperboard is a common occurrence along the 16-mile stretch of the Severn Valley Railway.

Through the years familiar faces to visit the heritage lines have included David Niven, Robert Duvall, John Thaw, Joan Hickson, Mel Smith, Su Pollard, Jodie Foster, Ian Hislop and Michael Portillo.

ITV family drama Goodnight Mister Tom, which starred veteran actor Thaw had its station sequences filmed in 1998 at Arley, for which trains ran through without stopping for two weeks.

A shot of a steam train travelling through the Shropshire countryside featured in the opening three minute sequence of 2005 film The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

Highley Station is the first stop on the journey before the train travels on to Bridgnorth, crossing the Oldbury Viaduct en route.

The Severn Valley sequence was the only part of the movie actually shot in England.

The countryside seen flashing past the carriage windows is actually New Zealand, where the rest of the movie was filmed.

SVR provided paint and upholstery matches so an authentic replica coach could be constructed for scenes filmed there.

More recently, an usual scene was shot in 2010 for Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.

In the movie, Robert Downey Jr, as Holmes, is seen pushing the wife of Jude Law's Dr Watson from a steam train as it crossed the Severn Valley Railway's Victoria Bridge.

But when the footage was shot in October 2010 no steam train or actors were at the location, nor was a dummy thrown into the River Severn.

It was all done using a camera on a crane jib mounted on a flat wagon pushed across the bridge by a diesel to obtain mid-air views of the bridge. Everything else including the train was added in later digitally.

Cannock Chase

Released trailers gave a clue about filming on the Chase

Glenn Close was snapped trudging through woodland, wearing a blood-splattered military jacket and a bandage around her hand as she filmed at Cannock Chase. She was in costume for She Who Brings Gifts as camera crews were camped out at the popular beauty spot capturing survival scenes for big budget disaster movie.

The Fatal Attraction star, aged 69, was joined by 30-year-old Quantam of Solace actress Gemma Arterton, who was also pictured on set with her hair scrapped back and wearing baggy army trousers, jumper and boots.

In the run up to filming, the makers had remained tight-lipped about exact set locations fearing that fans would flock to the site to catch a glimpse of the action.

But trailers were soon spotted giving a clue to what was going on on the Chase.

Security guards were drafted in to keep the public some distance away from the filming so that scenes could be shot in secret.

The movie received financial backing from Creative England's West Midlands Production Fund and was hailed as its biggest investment the organisation has ever made.


Actor Ian McShane filming for the day on the set of new boxing film Jawbone

Birmingham is definitely no stranger to Hollywood blockbusters with the world's most famous director Steven Spielberg currently in the second city.

He is filming in Digbeth for the science fiction thriller Ready Player One, based in the year 2044. Earlier this week a camera crew were outside the Ashton Engineering company, based on Floodgate Street.

The second city has become a popular destination for movie makers. Just a few months its streets saw gunfire, dramatic car chases and vehicles riddled with bullets as filming took place for Kingsman: The Golden Circle.

A crew of 300 people were based in and around Colmore Row in May to shoot stunt scenes for the movie, which stars the likes of Oscar-winning actresses Halle Berry and Julianne Moore as well as Channing Tatum and Colin Firth and will be released next year. While none of the A-listers took part in the scenes being captured in Birmingham, the city proved the perfect backdrop for capturing the dramatic action with locations in London also used.

In March, movie actor Ian McShane, well known for playing loveable rogue Lovejoy, had cameras rolling as scenes for BBC-backed boxing drama Jawbone were shot in the Jewellery Quarter. McShane is part of the cast alongside screen hardman and Hollywood actor Ray Winstone for the film telling the story of a former youth boxing champion.

People even had the chance to become extras in a 100-strong crowd watching an unlicensed boxing match being recorded.

While in June last year, the city's Colmore Row also played host to A-listers Glenn Close and Gemma Arterton for some scenes for zombie thriller The Girl With All The Gifts.

In 2014 psychological thriller Monochrome the headquarters of the British Crime Agency (BCA) was created inside the former Birmingham Municipal Bank – opposite the Library of Birmingham in Broad Street

Television crews were based in Birmingham for the last three series of crime drama Hustle. While some episodes were openly set in the city, in others landmarks such as Victoria Square, Brindleyplace and Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery doubled up for the capital.

In 2013, shooting took place for By Any Means starring Warren Brown and viewers with an eagle eye were later able to spot locations such as Birmingham Magistrates' Court, Hotel La Tour, Colmore Row, the Mailbox and New Street. The first series of Line of Duty, another popular crime drama, was also shot in Birmingham.


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