Former RAF base brings a bit of Hollywood to Norfolk as the setting of a new feature film
- Credit: Ian Burt
What comes to mind when you think of a film set? Big studios and state of the art technology against the backdrop of a big city.
Whilst it may be true that London is the centrepiece of film in the UK, a taste of Hollywood has found its way in our neck of the woods.
The former RAF base in West Raynham played the perfect setting for a major feature film, The Souvenir, which is backed by the BFI and BBC. With an impressive team behind the two-part movie, not least Martin Scorsese as executive producer and British filmmaker Joanna Hogg in the director's chair, it is set to place Norfolk as the go-to destination for filmmaking.
Spanning the 1980s, The Souvenir follows a young film student who embarks on her first serious love affair with a complicated and untrustworthy man played by The Musketeers actor Tom Burke.
The vast space in and around the former air hangers at West Raynham had been taken over by the film crew since July this year.
It took eight weeks to construct a film school and numerous interior sets within the hangar, filled with type-writers, film reels and boxy briefcases to complete the look.
It is the first time producer Luke Schiller has ever worked on a movie in Norfolk.
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Mr Schiller has previously worked with Joanna Hogg in her London Film Festival drama Archipelago and new she wanted to create a bubble away from the capital.
'We hired someone to find somewhere to film and we wanted an abandoned army airfield,' he said. 'We wanted to be away from London.
'It had the space and the buildings along the side to build the film set, and with everything altogether it helps give more focus and camaraderie.
'It is very peaceful with great open skies and we brought life back into this building.'
More than 100 people worked behind the scenes over the course of the production including film enthusiasts from across the region.
Mr Schiller added: 'We used as many local crew as possible, to create local employment and co finance trainees who want to get into film.'
It is not the first time West Raynham has played a pivotal role in film.
It provided the setting for short film No Pain Whatsoever which released earlier this year.
Ian Fox, co-director of FW Properties which manage the former RAF base, said there have been serious enquiries made for further film productions on the site.
He was contacted by location manager Crispin Buxton who had commissioned the officers' mess rooms for No Pain Whatsoever.
Mr Fox added: 'We have a business park here with availability for all types of uses and this opportunity came to us out of the blue.
'We got a call from the location agent to have a look at The Souvenir so our attention turned to filmmaking.
'We are going to attempt to promote this as a serious film production site.
'We love the vibrancy and the residents here have been embracing it.'
The Souvenir will be showcasing the best talents in filmmaking found right here in our county.
Costume designer Grace Snell, 27, is from Sheringham and has been working in the film industry since 2008.
She said: 'I have loved being able to work here, I have such a good knowledge of local charity shops and vintage shops where 85pc of the clothes are from.'
Prop master Lee Martin, from East Rudham, has previously worked in West Raynham for the production of short film No Pain Whatsoever.
He is in charge of giving the movie an 80s vibe, from choosing the right cigarettes to getting the right car.
He said: 'I have working in this business for five years. I was introduced to director Joanna Hogg and they liked me and my CV.'
Assistant location manager Andrew Hamilton, 24, from Pentney, said: 'I love working here, this is where I grew up and it's nice to share that with the crew from London.'
The Souvenir is expected to release late next year with the second feature due to shoot in summer 2018.