Why east London is ideal for filming
A Filmmakers Paradise
Birthplace of the world famous Cockney English and the Pearly Kings and Queens, East London has always been bursting with unique sights and sounds begging to be captured on film. To this day, the vivid East London streets are just as cinematic and offer a versatility beyond compare. Where else can you find yourself in a graffiti adorned row of start-ups and pop-ups down one street and be transported to post-war Britain down the next.
It’s for this versatility coupled with it’s unique character and proximity to the city that has made East London a prime location for many film productions, but it was almost never to be. Extensive bombing during the Two World Wars, as well as a history of mass poverty, created a sleeping giant for many years. But thanks to new wave migration and a resurgence in its image as a hub of the arts, the East End has risen to become one of the most desired destinations for storytellers from all over the world. Moreover, you could argue that it’s own rich history contains many movie worthy stories.
East London played a large part in the Suffragette movement with branches of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in Canning Town, Poplar and Bow. Sylvia Pankhurst regularly lead campaigns throughout her years spent in the area, even persuading the Prime Minister to have food parcels sent to impoverished East Enders as well as opening clinics for new and expecting mothers.
The area was home to many factories and warehouses that East Londoners worked in, often in very poor and dangerous conditions. This was so much so, that, in 1888, 1,500 match girls went out on strike at Bryant & May’s factory on Fairfield Road, due to poor working conditions and unfair pay. The strike resulted in improvements in working conditions and pay for the mostly female workforce who were working with the dangerous white phosphorus used to make the matches.
The East End of London is also notorious for its dark history, in particular the infamous and unsolved Whitechapel Murders by Jack the Ripper in the 19th Century. This case has been a source of intrigue and fascination ever since, and the various murder sights have become staple points on any walking tour of the city. Despite this sordid past, the East has risen to become one of the most desired locations to live and work in London.
East London has long been a place where the arts have prospered. Even as far back as the 1800s, Shoreditch’s location right by the city of London made it a popular place venue for entertainment, in particular the music and variety halls that were popular with working-class Londoners. These kind of venues were not desired in the centre of London, as they tended to attract a rather rowdy crowd. This gave Shoreditch a reputation as being a bit on the boisterous side. Shoreditch remained an arts and entertainment hub into the early 20th century and even saw performances by Charlie Chaplin before his ascension to Hollywood.
After the decline in industry towards the beginning of the 20th century, the East End saw many factories and businesses close. The area did however see a revival in the ’80s after a new financial district was constructed nearby in Canary Wharf. This boom in business, thanks to the low cost rent has also given the arts a new home in London. With copious amounts of creative agencies, art studios and production houses, East London is a real hub of creativity. The community and buzz that surrounds it means there’s an endless supply of ideas, projects and potential collaborators just waiting to be unleashed.
A great example of creative collaborations comes from our lovely Perseverance Works neighbours, Splice, whose building on the corner of Great Eastern and Singer Street, was in 2015 given a colourful makeover by artist Camille Walala. The collaboration came about after Splice’s curator Jenny Lewis met Walala via Instagram after realising they both shared similar interests in art and colour. When the idea to paint the building came up, Lewis knew Walala was the ideal artist for the job. This is just another example of the abundance of creativity East London has to offer.
There’s no denying the character and charm of the historical East End of London, which is why it’s been the backdrop of dozens of films and television shows over the years. From the BBC’s flagship soap opera East Enders, to films like The Krays that highlight the city’s darker past, East London is a prominent character in anything it features in.
This part of the city has been home to all kinds of events over the years, and continues to benefit from financial investment all the while retaining its distinct charm. This was most recently seen in 2012 where Stratford played home to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and Village, giving the area a new lease of life and cementing the East End as one of the most sought after areas.
Catering for your shoot
One of the cardinal rules when working on a shoot is to keep your cast and crew happy, and what better way to do that than providing them with some of the best catering that East London has to offer. With an eclectic selection of diverse food choice to choose from, you’ll be sure to have the happiest workforce in London.
Some of London’s best food markets are located in the area, with places like Brick Lane Market, Whitecross Street Market, and Old Spitalfield providing a range of both fresh groceries and choices of Asian, Middle Eastern and South American street food. If you’re looking for something more hassle free on the day of your shoot, there’s also a number of great catering services in the area, including our very own catering options available right here.
Location Location Location
With endless transport links and it being in such close proximity to the city, East London is one of the most accessible areas around, making filming here a walk in the park. With places like Shoreditch, Hackney and Brick Lane at your disposal, you’d struggle to find anywhere else that could compete. Due to the diversity of locations, including the area’s array of industrial sites that can be easily dressed for production, East London is becoming an ever more popular location to film in. The recent boom in period dramas such as Call the Midwife, Made in Dagenham and The Danish Girl can be added to the East End’s ever growing list of productions shot in the area.
Another reason why East is best is the willingness of local councils to give permits for filming. Among the most popular are Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Barking & Dagenham, which have been keen to encourage film & television production due to the economic benefits that the industry brings. We’ve put together a really handy guide to shooting on the streets of East London that you can find here. It’s fair to say the East has become a fantastic alternative to the busier and often more costly avenues of filming in the city, and is the perfect place for any production based or set in London.
First Option is based in the heart of Shoreditch and available for all your production needs. If you’re planning a shoot soon and looking for a great location studio, get in touch with us now!