English towns tempt film-makers via Internet

Click to follow
THE QUAINT charms of bucolic Britannia, which have provided green and pleasant locations for film favourites such as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Railway Children, are to feature in an Internet advertising campaign to bring Hollywood to the Home Counties.

Tinseltown location scouts searching for a quintessentially English setting for their next blockbuster will be able to choose from a database of villages and valleys, castles and cottages.

The Southern Film Commission is confident that even architectural eyesores such as Slough will be used as locations, once their merits have been detailed and displayed on the Internet.

"There are 75 councils in our region and we feel they all have something to offer. The more information there is on the database, the more chance we have of success," said Gerard Rosenberg, the organisation's commissioner.

"The hope is that Steven Spielberg will turn up, but we also want to encourage television companies and makers of commercials to film in the region.

"We have lost out in the past - like the time Spielberg went to Ireland to get 2,000 extras for Saving Private Ryan because he couldn't find them in England. With the database, we will be more organised and that shouldn't happen."

One local council which has been eager to join the scheme is High Wycombe, in Buckinghamshire. Eddie Russell, a council spokesman, can reel off a list of local sites which have already featured in The Avengers, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Vicar of Dibley.

"We have a lot to offer, with an infinite variety of outdoor locations for them to chose from, as well as family homes. Last year an average- looking property in Marlow Bottom was used for the making of the BBC film Bright Hair. Regular filming can mean tens of thousands of pounds coming into the area," he said.

The locals are also bubbling with enthusiasm about the prospect of a visit from Tom Cruise or Harrison Ford.

Petra Davies, who manages the Crown Hotel in Amersham, Buckinghamshire, knows how good film-making can be for business. Trade has been brisk since the hotel's bridal suite was used by Andie MacDowell and Hugh Grant for their night of passion in Four Weddings and a Funeral.

"We get people from all over the world coming to see the room. The film crew was scouting around and asked to see a bedroom so it was pure chance that we were chosen.

"I think the Internet is a good idea because directors know exactly what they are getting and what they are allowed to do."