Hollywood falls in love with streets of London

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The Independent Culture

Whether it is steam from the pavement vents or the Empire State Building, the streets of New York have been familiar to generations of film-goers because city officials make great efforts to aid filming.

Whether it is steam from the pavement vents or the Empire State Building, the streets of New York have been familiar to generations of film-goers because city officials make great efforts to aid filming.

But in London, the story was different. Red tape and ineptitude deterred as many producers and directors as the historic backdrop lured. Until now.

Less than a year after Film London was set up to smooth the way for directors in the capital, there has been a 9 per cent increase in location shoots.

The total number of "shooting days" in London in 2004 was 10,683, some 954 higher than in 2003. There were almost 30 crews shooting in the city on any day of the year, making movies, television or advertising.

The increase is being attributed to Lord Puttnam, Labour peer and the man behind films that included Chariots of Fire, who was appointed by Film London to cut the bureaucracy.

The rise was all the more impressive because overall film production in the UK fell by 30 per cent last year from the record £1.15bn in 2003. Although at £800m, spending was still the second-highest in British film history, the fall reflected the sudden closure of a tax loophole that torpedoed several films, notably Tulip Fever, starring Jude Law.

Last year, films from the second Bridget Jones movie, the new Harry Potter and the Batman prequel, Batman Begins, the gangster caper Layer Cake, Enduring Love and Vera Drake were made in London.

Woody Allen worked in Britain for the first time and Jennifer Aniston made the yet-to-be-released Derailed with Clive Owen, who also starred in another "London movie", Closer. And Ralph Fiennes was in London for the psychological drama, Chromophobia, with Penelope Cruz and Kristin Scott Thomas.

Joan Soans, a location manager on Closer, said 15 years ago, Westminster council would refuse all filming involving the parking of caravans or caterers except on Sundays. Today, she said that although tighter health and safety regulations made life more complicated, all the authorities, but notably Westminster and the City of London, had become more film-friendly.

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