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Lights, camera, action in Shropshire as county's first ever film agency is launched

The spotlight is fixed firmly on Shropshire as a film agency launches to promote the county as a filming destination to production companies and movie-makers worldwide.

Hollywood movie based on the Battle of the Somme was filmed in Upton Cressett, near Bridgnorth. Pictured: Director Simon Hunter
Hollywood movie based on the Battle of the Somme was filmed in Upton Cressett, near Bridgnorth. Pictured: Director Simon Hunter

Film Shropshire has been launched by Mark Hooper, head of Visit Shropshire – the official tourism website for the county, who works to promote and encourage visitors to stay.

Hot on the heels of the latest Dickens adaptation of Great Expectations, filmed in Shrewsbury, Mark is determined to place Shropshire at the heart of the film and TV industry.

Director Simon Hunter examines a scene during filming at Upton Cressett

The new website is set to be launched at the beginning of next month, where residents can offer their homes, businesses can offer catering or accommodation and crew can register their interest.

Mark said: "The main aim of that side of the business is to make sure that everything is done through local suppliers, so that we are supporting the Shropshire economy at the same time – all the way down to if the production's got any runners.

"We would work with the college's groups to make sure that students can gain experience first hand in the industry. Everything is about supporting the local economy but in a fun way of doing it.

"We want to make sure that you don't have to think that if you want to work in film and TV that you have to move to London, you can experience huge productions on your doorstep.

"It's about time that we got some more modern name productions here.

"We've had Atonement that was filmed in South Shropshire a few years ago and we've just had Catherine Called Birdy, which was filmed two years ago in Stokesay Castle.

Wuthering Heights starring Richard Dee Roberts, Sha'ori Morris and Paul Eryk Atlas which was filmed at Aston Scott Historic Working Farm

"The film office is there to provide opportunity as well, to make sure that people can be involved as possible. I think that's what would go a long way to keeping support for the film office.

"People will know what's going on and can get involved if they want to."

A total of 155 hotel rooms were booked for the two nights of filming of Great Expectations, Mark said, and it is predicted that a production of that size would spend an average of £18,000 per day on set.

The filming was well supported by the community, who take pride in having their town made part of a film or TV series, with one resident even asking 'how could anyone object to this, it's absolutely brilliant'.

On set for filming of Great Expectations in Shrewsbury

Commenting on the production team, Mark said: "Great Expectations were absolutely brilliant. They worked with us and Shropshire Council's highways department to ensure that everything was catered for and it worked perfectly."

Shropshire has already seen interest from a number of different production companies, from short films to large-scale period dramas, BBC programmes and prime-time TV.

Mark said there has been a change in the industry, as producers are making a move up north for filming.

Shropshire complements itself here because of its proximity to large cities including Birmingham, Liverpool or Manchester, as well as its period drama-feel.

One of the most desirable locations in the county is Shirehall, Mark revealed, which featured in the BBC Small Axe series starring John Boyega.

A screenshot still from 'Red, White, and Blue' in the BBC 'Small Axe' series which starred John Boyega as a black man who joins the police force. Broadcast late in 2020, it featured scenes shot at the Shirehall, Shrewsbury, home for Shropshire Council. The Shirehall played the 'part' of a police training college. This picture shows him walking down a corridor of the Shirehall with paintings on the walls - they are actually paintings of former Shropshire council chairmen.

Film Shropshire has recently signed up to the Filming In England Partnership with Creative UK and have been in talks with Blists Hill Victorian Town about potential opportunities there.

The agency is also about to form partnerships with the film office in Birmingham and Create Central, the West Midlands Hub for attracting film and tv opportunities in this area.

Shropshire Council have also offered the support of their highways department who help to orchestrate road closures and road management when filming takes place.

Drapers Hall, Shrewsbury

Draper's Hall, located in St Mary's Place, Shrewsbury, is just one of the businesses that has benefitted from the agency – hosting the producers of Great Expectations at the end of May.

With the hotel just taking off, Miriam Lawley, who runs the five-star hotel with her partner Adrian, said: "We've just got the rooms open, so it launched us with the hotel side and gave us a kick to get organised.

"We had just gone online with the rooms and they were our first guests, which I told them – and they liked that that they were the first ones in. We had six rooms so they booked out what they wanted.

"If they wanted to actually film here (at Draper's Hall) that would be great, it's just exciting. You wouldn't turn down an opportunity like that.

"They were all polite and respect that you've got your business to run, so it's a win-win situation."

Martin Wood, the Shrewsbury Town Crier, who was a stand-in double for Edward Woodward and Michael Carter in the 1984 adaptation of Christmas Carol filmed in Shrewsbury, also shared his thoughts on the film agency.

He said: "I think it's absolutely superb. We have some fantastic locations all around the county, not just in Shrewsbury. We've got all sorts of sets that are already here, the Shropshire Hills, the canals, the River Severn, River Teme and Ludlow which could all be used.

"It'd be a perfect spot to bring Hollywood here."

Martin undertakes guided tours around Shrewsbury and is still asked about the 1984 Dickens film some 38 years on. Tourists often visit St Chad's Church, where Scrooge's grave can be found lying in the churchyard to this day.

"Shrewsbury was chosen for the Carol because one of the production guys got lost. It was going to be either Chester or York," Martin added.

"When the producers turned up at the Prince Rupert Hotel in Shrewsbury, they said 'I have seen seven places where we don't have to do a single thing to the set'."

Martin noted how there was always a buzz when walking around Shrewsbury during the filming of the Dickens classic. Residents thought how lovely it was and how it brought life to the place.

He said: "I hope to see more cameras and film crews out in the future."

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