Our Friend in the East: Claire Chapman

Our Friend in the East: Claire Chapman

Claire Chapman (Credit: Norfolk Screen)
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A-listers are heading to Norfolk for both films and TV series. Claire Chapman explains the appeal of Nelson’s county to producers.

It’s no secret that Norfolk has hosted many well-known TV and film titles over the years. Think of classic British shows such as Dad’s Army, blockbusters Shakespeare in Love, Jack the Giant Slayer, Stardust and Avengers: Age of Ultron, and British features 45 Years, Yesterday, The Souvenir (1 and 2) and Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa

The region boasts the most wonderful, diverse landscapes – from breathtaking beaches, beautiful big skies and gorgeous stately homes to a medieval city, outstanding market towns, world-class architecture and miles of waterways. 

While you may not see Iron Man or Thor wandering around Norfolk, what you will find is a stunning variety of some of the best backdrops for filming in the UK. Increasingly, this unspoilt county gem is recognised not only for its incredible locations but as a growing creative powerhouse of talent, services and facilities. These include several built spaces and studios, such as the recently expanded Raynham Hangar Studios (4,600m2) and Epic Studios (930m2). 

To help spotlight the region’s production infrastructure, Norfolk Screen was established by development director Craig Higgins and myself last November. Our aim is to provide a one-stop, screen-friendly service showcasing Norfolk’s locations, talent, services and facilities, and to supply an information and advisory service to those considering or intending to shoot here. This includes helping link productions with local authorities to make it easier to organise film permits. 

This year we have already welcomed an array of A-listers working on high-­profile productions such as: Spencer, starring Kristen Stewart as Diana, Princess of Wales; the comedy drama Good Luck to You Leo Grande, starring Emma Thompson as a widow seeking sex; and Sky’s This Sceptred Isle, starring Kenneth Branagh as Boris Johnson. 

Spencer’s UK producer, Paul Webster, says: “Filming in Norfolk was such a wonderful experience. Norfolk Screen was instrumental in helping us source our local crew who worked tirelessly and with unending enthusiasm.

“Everywhere we went, we were supported and made to feel so welcome. We also had excellent access to world-class, unspoilt locations – from winding country roads to the stunning North Norfolk coast. 

“Watching the sun rise on the sands of Hunstanton beach made the early starts that much easier. I am already looking out for an excuse to return.” 

Our Norfolk Screen service also hosts an online directory, where locally based creatives and companies involved in film and TV production can register their services for free. 

In our first year we are thrilled that the not-for-profit Norfolk Screen has received endorsements from such industry bodies as the British Film Commission, ScreenSkills and the BFI. We are also a Creative England: Filming in England partner. 

Our advisory board includes such luminaries as Golden Globe-winning producer Debra Hayward, RTS award-winning director Julian Jarrold  and producer Hilary Bevan Jones, the recipient of Emmy, RTS and Bafta awards. 

Norfolk is a unique county that has much to offer any production. Who could sum it up better than Norfolk legend Stephen Fry, who says: “It’s not just the glorious vistas, the famous skies, the coastline, the market towns, and the sheer variety of landscape and location that the county of Norfolk offers – it’s something else, something to do with the authentic continuity of character and difference that has run through the people and the place that lends Norfolk its uniqueness, charm, quirkiness, beauty and grandeur. 

“I’m prejudiced because I grew up here and live here still, but I’m more prejudiced because I’ve filmed here and I know that there’s no experience like it.” 

Claire Chapman is Managing Director of Norfolk Screen (www.norfolkscreen.co.uk).