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Making a scene in London

American film director Catherine Hardwicke provided a vibrant ending to the first day of BVE 2015, enthusing about the challenges and rewards of filming her latest project, Miss You Already, in London and the UK.

American film director Catherine Hardwicke provided a vibrant ending to the first day of BVE 2015, enthusing about the challenges and rewards of filming her latest project, Miss You Already, in London and the UK. Screenwriter, production designer and director Hardwicke is perhaps best known for indie film Thirteen and the hugely successful teen vampire hit Twilight, and was an advisor at last year’s Sundance Film Festival.

It was while at the festival that the film’s star, Drew Barrymore, gave the green lights and just nine weeks later work began. Barrymore was between projects, explained Hardwicke, so the short filming time provided the perfect “window of opportunity.” Production would also take place during autumn in the UK and, as the film covers a large timeframe, meant Hardwicke and her team could “make it look like every season”.

Miss You Already also stars Toni Collette, Paddy Considine and Dominic Cooper and despite falling under the genre of romantic comedy, sees one character fall ill and undergo chemotherapy. During her BVE presentation Hardwicke also mentioned filming a funeral so – possible spoiler alert – the film also involves a death.

Hardwicke’s presentation at BVE was far from morbid though, as she shared an extensive library of pre-shoot and on-set photos with the audience, along with “lookbooks” and diagrams which helped inspire and consolidate her vision for the film. These “lookbooks” also proved an inspiration to Barrymore, as Hardwicke commented: “I made lookboooks of what the movie will look like, and emailed them to Drew, hoping she’d say yes. Suddenly she seems to be interested in the movie, so I get on the plane, and head to London!” The first thing after stepping off the plane was “massive research”. The film required numerous different locations, so at first Hardwicke considered a studio facility like Pinewood, before deciding it wasn’t quite right for her project. The drawback of filming in a lot of different locations in London though, said Hardwicke was “a ton of traffic” meaning “every scene would take time”. She was then directed to the perfect location, Bricket Wood, she told the audience at BVE, before asking “anyone know where that is…because I don’t!” Bricket Wood lies south of St Albans, in Hertfordshire, and in the area Hardwicke found a number of spaces all ideal for the film, which allowed for “economic and efficient” filming.

The photos of a manor house and landscaped gardens did look like an ideal filming location, though the other images shown to the BVE audience were only given life through Hardwicke’s vision for the film: “We found an old bank training centre and made it into a chemo ward”; an area in the bowels of the building was utilised as an “oil rig” office passageways became hospital corridors and a soulless disused space on the ground floor was transformed into a traditional Yorkshire b and b, complete with roaring fire.

Despite its traffic, London was still embraced as a filming location, and Hardwicke looked at lots of houses in which to film before deciding to “do something different”: “lets have one of our characters live in a houseboat!” Hardwicke’s slideshow of images seeing depict her exploration of the capital, and she didn’t hide her enthusiasm at her discoveries – Little Venice was revealed to her when looking at houseboats, and then conveniently “right next to the boat there was an old church….we had a wedding and a funeral there. And right next door a really modern building.”

Hardwicke trained as an architect before becoming a production designer: “the architecture in London was super inspiring to me” she said, “it gave me a lot of energy.” So inspired by her time in the city was she, that “we wrote a show about architecture and sold it! So I’ll be coming back here!” When scouting locations for Miss You Already, Hardwicke didn’t only look at the spaces, but got involved with them too. “One thing I always do when I go location scouting as a director – I make everyone in my crew stand in and act out the scenes.” This was evident from the photos she shared in a birthing unit at a hospital: “When I went to a hospital, to find out about NHS hospitals” she explained, “I tried to get everybody to show me how you give birth. We did a whole hands-on birthing idea, with an expert there with us.” Her UK filming experience also took her north of London to Suffolk, and even further north to Ilkley moors, in West Yorkshire.

“This movie is very intimate” she said of her upcoming project, and the energy invested in experiencing the film locations no doubt helped in the creation of this intimacy, along with handheld camera work, allowing the audience “to breath with the actors…to be in the moment with actors.”

It is evident from Hardwicke’s delivery and photographic evidence that London and the UK provided a bounty of filming locations, but how was her experience working with UK talent? She praises Barrymore’s co-stars, Brits Considine and Cooper, though said of English work ethic: “We work 12 hour days in America and go into overtime. That does not happen here. You guys like your time off!” Even without first-class facilities like Pinewood, the value of the UK as a production hub is huge and its talent “super creative”. From a London college allowing her free reign to film, to a community gardening project granting her complete access, Hardwicke seemed enamoured by her visit, and summed up: “Everyone kicked ass here…for the ten working hours!”