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Kerry Ixer

(NB Since the demise of Screen East - Kerry now works for Film Link.)

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Your role at Screeneast is Head of Locations and Inward Investment. What does that involve exactly?

I am responsible for attracting film and television production to film in the East of England and to spend as much of their location budget as possible in the local economy. I am also responsible for cultivating a film-friendly approach to filmmakers to encourage them to base future projects in the region. To that end we work closely with local authorities, county councils, location owners/managers and the filming industry to develop a sustainable film-friendly approach to location filming. An additional activity in recent times has been to support the development of film/tv tourism in those locations that have been used within popular production which are accessible to the public. When locations and communities appreciate the additional benefits filming can bring both during filming and post release, they are more inclined to be film-friendly. This in turn encourages more productions to film on location in areas that proactively support filmmakers.

What do you think Norfolk specifically has to offer as a film location?

A wide range of diverse locations appropriate for a complete cross section of film genres and budgets. The County's unique natural and built landscape is not only attractive to filmmakers to depict Norfolk locations but can also double for other destinations around the world. Finally, there are experienced local crew and facilities companies in Norfolk to provide the necessary infrastructure productions need to film successfully on location.

It seems that the county is frequently used as a location for period/costume dramas. Do you think there's a danger of it becoming type-cast?

No, I don't think so although with the wealth of built heritage properties available, it is likely to remain popular for this type of genre but there are modern urban areas and water based as well as industrial landscapes. As an area becomes more film-friendly its diversity in locations becomes better known which subsequently appeals to a wider cross section of filming genres.

What economic benefits do film makers bring to Norfolk?

During 2007/08 there was an estimated £3.8 million spent in the local economy through location filming.

Are there any aspects of Norfolk which hold it back as a film location? If so, what are Screeneast doing to overcome these?

The perception amongst some filmmakers is that Norfolk is a long way away and therefore expensive to film; this is something we are working on to overcome. Another aspect we need to work on is increasing awareness of the benefits location filming can bring amongst hoteliers so the filming industry are automatically offered competitive rates for cast and crew.

One constant complaint about portrayals of the county in film is that the Norfolk accent is never rendered correctly. Even in Kingdom - which features Stephen Fry who grew up in Norfolk -  the accents are way off.  Or is it simply that casting directors can never find actors who can do an authentic accent?

This is a difficult question to ask of someone who comes from Essex but does not have an Essex accent, has lived in a lot of contrasting places and picked up a little bit from each. As such, my brother and I who were raised in exactly the same area and went to the same schools, have distinctly different accents. In the case of Kingdom, the producer mentioned to me that he had been keen to ensure the accents were reflective of the characters each actor was playing, but despite best endeavours he was aware the programme had received criticism. All I can say is that by and large film-makers endeavour to ensure authenticity and the cast do their best to do an accent justice. What is important from a Norfolk tourism perspective is that a viewing audience will ultimately visit an area due to the beauty of the landscape portrayed and most will not notice a difference in the accents they hear during their stay vs. those of the characters they heard on screen several months ago. Having said that I completely understand that to local people this type of detail is extremely important, and that all efforts should therefore be made to get it right.  

I know that Kingdom is due to start filming a 3rd  series this summer and The Barbarian Princess is currently being shot at Holkham.  Are there any other projects in the pipe-line you can tell us about?

Screen East do not discuss future projects. For example, if 'A' listers are present filming can become compromised by crowds so part of a film commission or screen agency's role is to be respectful to the film crew and the location being used by not disclosing filming schedules in advance of a shoot. Also this approach has a minimum impact on the location used as well as the surrounding area and ensures that locations remain film-friendly from an industry perspective.  

In relation to Norfolk, Stephen Fry has said:  'Part of its beauty is the openness of the skies and the relative emptiness of the roads and the beaches. Obviously there's a trade off point between making it popular and keeping its quality.'  Do you think there's any danger of it losing 'its quality' due to too much exposure?

I don't think so at this stage. A problem may come about if an accessible location was ultimately used for a cult film or television programme such as a Harry Potter production which has a significant following, or perhaps a programme that develops cult status. Whilst Kingdom is popular we would do best with a lot of different types of popular production that reflect Norfolk positively through a range of genres. This approach spreads visitors across the county rather than concentrating them into one area. Also, an area's appeal in terms of 'open skies and relative emptiness of roads and beaches' can naturally deter the masses because of a perception of limited things to do. Nevertheless it is something we must remain mindful of so Norfolk continues to retain its charm and key characteristics that are important to local people, visitors and filmmakers alike.

Have you experienced any conflicts/difficulties with local bodies or organisations when setting up film locations in the county?

No, not personally.

Film location tourism seems to be on the increase. Do you think people actually make holiday destination decisions based on where such-and-such a film was shot?

Research suggests they do. If you are interested you might want to glance through the Film Council report - the case studies make an interesting read.

Do you get to meet many 'film star's in the course of your work?

No. As an introductory agency we work with the location managers and producers behind the scenes to source locations, crew and facilities companies to support a shoot. We will help facilitate by arranging recces in the early stages particularly when there are special affects, but once the shoot begins we are invariably attached to another production and don't get involved until the production has wrapped. We then link back with the location manager or producer to confirm the shoot days, compile a report and ensure that the value of film production to the region is reported to the UK Film Council. This information is then reported to the DCMS to inform the government as to the value of filming in the UK. As a consequence it encourages The Treasury to offer tax incentives to overseas production companies to film in the UK.

Where do you see Norfolk's future as a film location?

There are still large areas of Norfolk that are not well known to film-makers so there is a lot of potential. Productions are however unlikely to flock to the county in unsustainable droves due to budget constraints. The greater London area gets around 80% of filming in the UK a lot of which only wants to film within the M25 or immediately outside. Nevertheless Norfolk is becoming more popular and will continue to attract filming as long as it remains film-friendly. However I feel it is remain at a manageable level of production rather than become inflated and therefore unsustainable.

Finally, it's now 38 years since Joseph Losey's The Go-Between appeared. As you know, the novel was inspired by Norfolk and the film was shot at Melton Constable Hall. Do you think that the time is right for a remake - thereby highlighting all that the county has to offer?

I'm not a film-maker but popular novels often appear on screen in their original version followed at a later date by a remake. I therefore hope that the opportunity is recognised and that other popular productions will appear on both the big and small screen illustrating the unique qualities Norfolk has to offer to visitors and other filmmakers.





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