Film crews using Greater Anglia trains and stations as locations for movies and TV productions
- Credit: Sid Gentle Films
The train arriving on platform 3 is for Hollywood…
What do BBC's Killing Eve, Sky series Breeders and I Hate Suzi, and the hit Beatles-inspired film Yesterday all have in common?
The answer is they were all filmed on location on Greater Anglia trains or stations.
They are among an increasing number of films, high-end dramas and TV documentaries, adverts and even fashion shoots which use the railway in East Anglia as a backdrop.
Since 2018, Greater Anglia has employed Adrian Booth to act as a commercial film liaison manager.
The company was getting regular requests from filmmakers to use Greater Anglia locations, but was turning them down as there was no one who could make all the arrangements on top of their existing jobs.
“We really wanted to support the British film industry and also our local communities and businesses by facilitating filming requests, so we decided to hire someone whose sole job is to make all the necessary arrangements so filming could happen,” said Martin Moran, Greater Anglia commercial director.
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“Not only does hosting the film crews boost the local economy around the station where filming is taking place, but it puts another string in our region’s bow as an ideal place for filming to take place – if production companies know that filming on trains and stations is an option in this area.
“It’s also good to be supporting the British film industry, although it’s not restricted to this nation’s film industry – we’ve also had major Bollywood shoots on our trains and stations.”
Adrian has worked on six films, 20 TV dramas, 12 adverts, numerous corporate videos, entertainment and documentary TV shows, short self-funding films and one fashion shoot at Greater Anglia locations.
He takes initial calls, explores how requests can be facilitated and liaises with different departments across Greater Anglia – finally accompanying all filming.
Images of railway carriage interiors, stations and passing trains are often used by filmmakers as backdrops to convey a sense of movement and to provide a perfect segue to move characters from one location to the next.
Stations are places of arrival and departure and are handy locations for dramatic moments to unfold, while seated passengers often exchange key dialogue.
In Killing Eve, a dramatic chase involving Eve and Russian baddie Konstantin took place on a Greater Anglia platform at Liverpool Street station, with Villanelle escaping on board one of the train company’s Stansted Express trains.
In the drama, Liverpool Street was actually an unnamed station in Scotland. Greater Anglia’s train planning team made some platform space available at Liverpool Street and supplied a train overnight one Sunday for the filming.
Greater Anglia lead train planner Michael Lewis said: “Generally when we supply a train and crew they are able to shunt up and down in a platform at the request of the film director."
Michael added: “It normally works by Adrian either contacting me with a rough proposal and then after a fair bit of toing and froing we get a clearer idea of what’s required by the film company and what’s actually possible.
"Then we go away draw up plans, send these back to Adrian who will then get confirmation for us to go ahead.
“There have been a few that we haven’t been able to accommodate due to timescales or other impracticalities, but generally we are normally able to help.”
Some of Greater Anglia’s stations close to London have proved popular filming locations due to their proximity to the capital and the M25 – such as Hertford East, Cambridge, Stansted Airport, and Southend Victoria lines.
Adrian said: “A lot of time is spent looking at production teams’ requests and suggesting ways in which they might be facilitated. Access requires careful planning and needs to be carefully managed.
"We cannot allow customer access to be limited or for passengers to be inconvenienced – and we definitely can’t delay services. We select quieter times when customer numbers are lower, which limits the impact on customers.
“We have to make sure that all health and safety requirements are met – as the railway has many potential hazards."
One of the first films with a Greater Anglia backdrop was Yesterday, the Danny Boyle and Richard Curtis movie starring Himesh Patel, who wakes up after a knock to the head in a world where the Beatles don’t exist and he passes off the Fab Four's songs as his own.
The film was made on location in East Anglia and features a cameo appearance by Ed Sheeran. Eagle-eyed rail enthusiasts may have spotted rural station Buckenham in the movie. It was the location of a recording studio where Himesh Patel’s character recorded an album.
Buckenham station was chosen because the former station building is a recording studio in real life, called Sonic Fruit.
The studio in the film was named 'Tracks on the Tracks' and recording of the album was paused while a train went past. The train was originally a Greater Anglia one, but it was adapted in production to be faster and longer.
Bennet Maples, Sonic Fruit’s head engineer and studio owner, said: “It was a huge thrill to meet Danny Boyle, and so exciting to see a film of this size utilise locations in this area.
"There is a thriving film industry in East Anglia which we are extremely proud to be a part of, and it was great to see Danny Boyle and (screenwriter) Richard Curtis embrace that.”
So next time you are on a Greater Anglia train or station, look a little closer – you may just recognise it from the TV or big screen!