How Liverpool became the hotspot for huge TV and film productions

If you’re watching a TV drama or going to the cinema, chances are you’re watching Liverpool.

The city has become an increasingly popular destination for television and film productions and is now the second most filmed city in the UK after London.

Around 250 TV shows and films were made in the city in 2021 despite the effects of the pandemic.

CONTINUE READING:Filming locations from ITV’s The Ipcress File can be visited across Merseyside

This means £18.7m flowed into the city in 2021 – an 87% increase on the £10m generated in 2020.

It also means that iconic Liverpool landmarks have appeared more frequently on the big and small screens, while the city’s historic and varied architecture has become the backdrop for many historical plays.

With that in mind, we take a look at how three recent productions have leveraged Liverpool and why they chose to film in the city.

The Batman

Robert Pattinson films ‘The Batman’ at St George’s Hall in Liverpool city centre

The latest reboot for DC’s caped crusaders hit UK cinemas on March 4th and topped the box office in its opening weekend.

Starring Robert Pattinson in the title role, the film took place in many locations across Liverpool to set the stage for a fictional Gotham City.

Filming took place in 2020 at St George’s Hall, Anfield Cemetery and the Liver Building.

St. George’s Hall is featured as Gotham City Hall in a scene starring Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne and Colin Farrell as Penguin while the stunt doubles of Batman and Catwoman rode motorcycles through Anfield Cemetery.

The most striking part of filming, however, was when Batman stood atop the Liver Building, which doubled as Gotham Police Headquarters.

A stuntman in full Batman costume was strapped to the building and filmed from a helicopter, while the platform above the clock was lit up in a deep red that has become synonymous with and runs through the film as a motif.

Batman atop the Liver Building being filmed from a helicopter
Batman atop the Liver Building being filmed from a helicopter

Liverpool’s combination of historic Gothic architecture, its character as a city – which has seen the magic of boom and bust – and the neoclassical splendor of St George’s Hall led to it being used for filming alongside Glasgow and London.

Production designer James Chinlund told the BBC: “The idea [was] that there was this incredible boom in the 1920s and 30s. So we wanted that base layer of crumbling, decaying ornament.”

“And at various points in Gotham’s history, the idea was that there were these attempts at revival and renewal.”

“I started looking around this area and it was starting to show just how rich this world is and what an amazing city Liverpool is [how] it follows the story. It had this incredible boom period and then hard times would come over the years and the patina that was present in the buildings and of course the heavy weather… it all fitted like a glove.

Prior to the film’s release, director Matt Reeves said in an interview, “It’s (Gotham) as important as any of the Rogues Gallery, it’s kind of like the nature of that place and its history is vital to our story.”

The director added, “One of the things I really wanted to do, because it’s at the center of this story, especially the story of corruption in the city, was I wanted to present it in a really fleshed out way.

“I wanted it to feel like an American city that you’ve never been to.

“Let’s say there’s such a thing as Gotham Square, so it’s like Times Square, right, if we shoot it in Times Square now, you’d think Gotham is New York.

“But in our case it’s actually going to be Liverpool and the idea is to go to Liverpool where there’s all the basics of Gothic architecture and then add all the more modern structures through CG.”

Munich: On the verge of war

The Netflix film Munich: The Edge of War used filming locations in Liverpool
The Netflix film Munich: The Edge of War used filming locations in Liverpool

Liverpool are said to have “done a very convincing Whitehall” in this Netflix adaptation of the Robert Harris novel.

The film is set in September 1938, when Britain, France, Italy and Germany come together to sign the Munich Agreement, which allowed Adolf Hitler to claim the border regions of Czechoslovakia to curb future territorial ambitions.

The pact was seen as an act of appeasement by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain.

Munich: The Edge of War was released earlier this year and made use of Exchange Flags and Martin’s Bank while filming office scenes around the Liver Building and the Cunard Building.

Guardian photographer Sarah Lee, who worked on the film, said: “We started in Liverpool, which doubled for London in the 1930s. The historic Liver Building that stood in the city of Gotham in the upcoming Batman movie made Whitehall very compelling.”

The IpPress file

Filming around Rodney Street for TV drama IpPress File.  Photo by Colin Lane
Filming around Rodney Street for TV drama IpPress File. Photo by Colin Lane

Based on the novel by Len Deighton and originally adapted as a 1965 film starring Michael Caine, all six episodes of The Ipcress File were released this month on the ITV Hub.

The series is a Cold War spy thriller filmed in part in Liverpool, which has been transformed into 1960s London.

Bluecoat Chambers, Hope Street, Falkner Street, Exchange Street, Lime Street, Rodney Street and Brunswick Street were all doubled for the capital, while the Wirral village of Burton was also used.

Executive Producer Will Clarke said: “We had the full support of the people of Liverpool and the city’s Film Office.

“It was amazing looking at the locations, the buildings that double London and the interiors too.

“They capture something that is almost frozen in time with the architecture of the 1950s and 1960s. We wanted to embrace the iconography of London without being subsumed by it.”

The Ipcress file is filmed on Falkner Street (pictured by Andrew Teebay).
The Ipcress file is filmed on Falkner Street (pictured by Andrew Teebay).

One of the show’s stars – The Thick of It actor Tom Hollander – also cited Liverpool’s historic vibe as a reason it worked as a historic site.

He said: “There’s a hint of what parts of Britain were like in the ’60s. It’s a city with layers and layers of history – and we used a band from that.”

Filming took place throughout the coronavirus pandemic, meaning Tom is hoping to return to Liverpool when they can experience the city at its best.

He added: “I didn’t know Liverpool but I wish we hadn’t met in lockdown because it’s full of amazing buildings and history.

“Modern Liverpool is also exciting but it’s been sleepy and there’s a break while we were there.”

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