In demand: why Garden of England is dream location for film-makers

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By Kent and Sussex Courier | Tuesday, September 11, 2012, 08:01

WHETHER as the backdrop for a major music video or the setting for an advert that will be seen all over the world, West Kent and East Sussex are becoming the location of choice for filmmakers.

With the iconic architecture of Tunbridge Wells and the wealth of landscape either side of the border, this area has always been popular with location managers but over the past few days cameras on our streets have become almost a daily sight.

With One Direction filming the video to their single Live While We're Young at Eridge Park, Land Rover taking over The Pantiles for its new advert and Edenbridge resident Ross Noble recording the opening to his new DVD in Tunbridge Wells, why has the popularity of the area suddenly taken off?

Gabrielle Lindemann works at the Kent Film Office – a body set up by Kent County Council to encourage film and broadcasting opportunities in the county.

She said: "A lot of companies come here for commercial reasons because Tunbridge Wells especially is a mini-cosmos of a modern English town.

"The industry is not as big as people think, so a lot of the time producers will go on to new projects and come back to Kent because they have filmed here before and have no reason to go anywhere else because they know they will get a good service."

Although the commotion of a film crew arriving on your doorstep could prove an unwanted distraction, Mrs Lindemann said most people do not mind.

"I do think people respond better if they know there will be famous people in the vicinity," she said. "I think it takes residents out of their normal routine and it is exciting to think some of the stars are walking just outside in their roads."

Julian Leefe-Griffiths, who spent 20 years in the industry as a location manager and director, said the area was "attractive" for filming.

He said: "For London film companies it is great because you want good travel links, close to the M25 and a good rail service, and the local area provides that.

"Normally you don't get much time to set things up and the director might say we need five locations in three days.

"What is good about Tunbridge Wells and nearby places is you get a great variety of locations. For example, you get the historic Pantiles but then you drive up the road and you can have a completely different type of location, like Ashdown Forest, which could easily double for the moors of Scotland."

Mr Leefe-Griffiths, who once directed an advert for shampoo brand Timotei at Groombridge Place, added it was in the local authority's interest to cater to the film crew's needs.

"A film crew coming in can be very good for the economy" he said. "Although normally you only see the end product, like the advert, the reality is the crew could spend £60,000 on a shoot and will contribute to the economy with things like spending money on taxi firms or food.

"The council should facilitate and make it as easy as possible, whether that means closing roads, laying on parking or liaising with local shops and residents."

Independent film director Simon Rumley, who grew up in Cobhams in Speldhurst, also praised the idyllic character of the area.

He said: "On a feature film you will have the director who has a vision for a location or an atmosphere and the location scout will go and try and find these places.

"Even though the director will have their vision the producer will be there to make sure it is in budget, so places like Kent or places close to London could provide a cheaper alternative to film.

"They might also take into consideration what hospitals or restaurants are nearby and that they might have ten weeks to shoot and the area is good to manage lots of varied locations."

Horror specialist Mr Rumley, who has directed independent films including The Living and The Dead, said: "There are so many little villages, which are quintessentially British, which would be great for all types of films."

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