Norfolk is a place of wonders that breathes nature, history and variety. Most recently notable for welcoming the Avengers to film at the UEA, Norfolk has always been a popular hot spot for well known filmmakers to use, from the historic Walpole used in Atonement to the great scenery of Thetford for many shots of Dad’s Army. Much of the charm in filming around this region comes from the consistency of the climate, as well as the county’s simplicity that allows several different locations to be available without intrusions or complications. Beyond this, more populated areas offer a great mixture of urbanity and tradition, Norwich alone contains 800-year-old castles and cathedrals to stupefy the mind, making for excellent locations for various genres of film.
I’m sure no one in Norfolk is unaware at this point of the Avengers’ use of UEA for their mighty return to the big screen. It was that visual potential the university held that turned one of its finest art buildings into a headquarters for the heroes of the film. The university itself, however, is no stranger to being utilised for filming, considering the release of Cuckoo back in 2009. But the point of mentioning the Avengers and their transformation of the arts centre is that potential they saw. The aforementioned simplicity Norfolk brings, be it in its buildings or its landscapes, grants filmmakers the ability to use their imagination, to try and go beyond what they are given upfront for their setting.
On the other hand, the authenticity brought by Norfolk also allows for filmmakers to explore well-known styles and genres. Holkham and Heydon Hall both offer a period drama feel that can be played with in either direction of tragedy and comedy. Holkham in particular seems to evoke much inspiration for pre-Victorian and Victorian projects, as we’ve seen before in The Duchess, Dean Spanley and The Barbarian Princess.
Norfolk may be seen as “flatland” but it offers wide opened sky’s allowing filmmaker’s to achieve some of the most beautiful landscaped shots known to man kind. For instance, The Goob is a prime example of film which exploits the Norfolk backdrop and fenlands, allowing the characters to feel free. It’s also criminal not to mention the Norfolk Broads, this charming waterway offers miles of unspoilt land which is perfect for filming. Take 45 Year’s, Charlotte Rampling’s character is seen using this space as an opportunity to reflect on her difficult marriage. The opportunities are endless for not just the actor’s to use this landscape to their advantage but it provides a cinematography and director with the best material they could ever want for their film.
Taking Norwich as the biggest city in Norfolk, the buildings aren’t as high as one would wish, and its most urban accessory is St Stephens Street, containing a CeX, a Starbucks and the entrance to Chapelfield mall. And, of course, how could we not mention the Alan Partridge film Alpha Papa which was filmed centrally within Norwich (City Hall)/Norfolk (Cromer Pier). But, Norwich is a beautiful city that offer filmmaker’s plenty of options from medieval streets (Stardust was filmed on Elm Hill, Norwich) to a the most inspiring Cathedral in the UK (Jack the Giant Slayer & Tulip Fever have recently been filmed here).
But the revisiting of great locations isn’t the sole solution for the filmmaker who wishes to use Norfolk. There are sophisticated bars in Norwich with artful themes and designs, suspenseful cliffs in Hunstanton, tides that calmly implicate a melancholy atmosphere in Cromer Pier and majestic 11th century ruins situated in King’s Lynn. The possibilities are endless so long as filmmakers explore and research not only points of interest but areas that might exhibit the atmosphere required.
A few places to start, if filming in Norfolk is something you intend to do, would be Norfolk Locations and Literary Norfolk to get a good idea of places and their uses. The key is careful planning and weather expectations, keeping in mind what kind of image you have for your film and knowing what you’ll get from travelling down a certain area. Norfolk is an oyster of vast resources and although this is already well known in cinema, there is still much to be filmed.
Finally if there is one key message we want to leave filmmaker’s, whether you have a big budget to those who have a tiny budget consider this amazing County and City – it really will offer you everything you need and more, and will leave you feeling proud of what Norfolk can do for your film.
By Thomas Rososchansky & Craig Higgins