Lancashire and Lakeland are set to star on the big screen again
PUBLISHED: 15:54 17 November 2020
The show must go on, with a number of filmes in production in and around Lancashire and the Lakes
Filming a road movie will always have its challenges. There are the confines of the vehicle to work around, the vast open roads to capture and oblivious members of public to manage, but for Harry Macqueen, the writer and director of Supernova, which was shot in the Lake District last year, the biggest test was the Great British weather.
‘It was pretty awful throughout the filming process, but then if you’re going to make a British road movie in the autumn, you get what you’re given,’ says Harry, an actor-turned-director who previously helmed 2015’s Hinterland.
The struggle was worth it though. Not only do the Lakes look spectacular on screen, but the impressive landscape provides a fitting backdrop for an intimate love story that explores life’s big questions.
In Supernova, Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci play Sam and Tusker, a couple who’ve been together for 20 years. They decide to drive their motorhome through the Lakes, to visit family, friends and old memories, and to make the most of the time they have left together following Tusker’s young-onset dementia diagnosis two years previously.
‘What I was interested in was the micro and macro, this ‘little story’ in a little van, just two people going on a trip in the vast expanse of the Lake District,’ says Harry. ‘The film talks about the cosmos and about why we’re here, and when you’ve got a dying man, as Stanley’s character is, that increases the magnitude of the drama. You’ve got a guy who’s looking at the beauty and brutality of the world around him.’
Ahead of filming, Harry embarked on a road trip of his own in the Lake District alongside the acclaimed cinematographer Dick Pope.
‘I’ve got family up in the Lakes, so I know it a little bit anyway and I’d written some of it while up there visiting them. My uncle lives just outside Keswick, so the north Lakes is the part I know well, and that landscape informed the story from early on. It’s just an infinitely beautiful and awe-inspiring place, so it wasn’t difficult to find brilliant locations.’
Ultimately, production was based just north of Bassenthwaite Lake ‘and with only a couple of exceptions, we pretty much filmed everything within about 15-mile radius of Keswick. It really was a genuinely lovely experience because we all lived together in the same place’.
American actor Stanley Tucci hadn’t visited the area before filming Supernova and was ‘in awe’ of his surroundings, while Colin Firth observed ‘a particular vibe to the Lake District’ and appreciated the fact ‘we saw nobody but each other for six weeks’.
‘Working in some of the more remote parts of the Lakes was very difficult, but everyone was so incredibly supportive. We felt welcomed wherever we went, and people were excited about the project. That does really help, and you don’t get that everywhere,’ notes Harry who was assisted by Creative England, an organisation that helps productions looking to film outside London.
‘Creative England’s Production Services team works closely in partnership with local authorities, highways teams, police, and location owners,’ explains Jonny Shelton, Production Liaison Manager for the North West and Midlands.
‘It facilitates high-end TV drama and feature film productions that regularly take advantage of both the diverse and stunning locations, and the flexible and supportive nature of the people who help make things happen in the county.
‘From Supernova and Dolittle to The A Word, Peter Rabbit and Paddington 2, this part of the county gets a lot of repeat business because location managers know they can achieve their vision, whether that’s shooting scenes on the highway, or filming on lakes, or taking units up peaks.’
Just recently Superman’s Henry Cavill, who’s been filming the second series of fantasy drama The Witcher in the Lakes, informed his 14million Instagram followers that the area is now in his top three places in the world. And in Liverpool, Robert Pattinson has been spotted shooting the new Batman movie, while filming for the ITV drama Viewpoint is underway in Manchester. They’re all positive signs for the North West’s film and TV industry after the obvious difficulties caused by social distancing and other Covid restrictions.
‘Undoubtedly, we’re in a tricky moment for cinema, and all the arts, and I think everyone’s just trying to work out how we can navigate it and continue to work,’ said Harry.
‘It’s a really profound time for a film like this to come out because it’s about compassion and empathy and caring for people we love when times get hard, and I think to some extent we’re all going through at the moment. I feel very proud of the film and hope it touches people in the way I always hoped it would.’
Supernova is released on November 20th.