Tag Archives: Curfew

Start your engines

Director Colm McCarthy breaks down one of the most challenging scenes he had to film for madcap street-race drama Curfew. The series is produced by Tiger Aspect Productions in association with Moonage Pictures for Sky1, and distributed by Sky Vision.

In the near future, there’s been an outbreak of a virus, resulting in creatures that roam the night. They’re incredibly dangerous, so from dusk until dawn there’s a curfew across the world. But once a year, the curfew is defied and a mad road race takes place. And this year, it’s happening in the UK.

Curfew tells the story of the different racers, how they ended up in the race and what they’re racing for. It’s told in the style of a madcap genre mashup with much love given to the likes of John Carpenter, harking back to those amazing action movies of the 70s and 80s. It’s a lot of fun, but the special thing it does is take people you might know in everyday contemporary life and drop them into that sort of world.

Colm McCarthy on the Curfew set

Curfew came to me because Matthew Read, the writer, and Will Gould, one of the exec producers, had both discussed the project at various stages over the years. It’s been a very long development process. Curfew had a number of iterations before Matthew came on board, and he invested all the energy, tone and specificity it has now. I’d worked with those guys on, among other things, Peaky Blinders, and we knew each other. They were flatteringly very keen for me to get involved and talked to me a lot about it, even before they had a script.

I like to think I don’t have a distinctive personal style of directing. One of the things that’s exciting about directing is creating a unique world for the story you’re telling. Everything should serve the story. Matthew and Will had lots of ideas but mostly what they had was the tone, and the job of a good director is to come in and understand that and interpret it into visuals. I got what they wanted and they trusted me to deliver it. The idea is the audience is dropped into the race with the characters, rather than standing back and watching things.

Probably the most complicated thing we had to deal with is a section of story that straddles episodes one and two and then gets flashed back to in episodes nearer the end. This is when all the cars and drivers gather in a bullring at the very start of the race. We had all the cast there at the same time, shooting dusk until dawn. We had 30-odd stunt performers, 31 vehicles – with action drivers for all of those – and 150 extras, and we had that for a week in Manchester in one location.

Curfew debuted on Sky1 in February

Originally in the script, the cars all started in a warehouse. But then we found this huge circular meatpacking plant, like a coliseum, with one exit out that was a concrete tunnel. Myself and Tom Sayer, the production designer, thought that while it was totally different to the script, it would do the job of that opening better because you could have the cars fighting to get out of the hole and smashing into each other. We made our bed and lay in it. It was very difficult and made things extremely complicated because I wanted to shoot using the steadicam for a lot of scenes in that sequence and to move the cameras around a lot in the run-up to the race, which meant we had to have everything there all the time. It’s a lot of moving parts to manage on a set – way bigger than television shows in the UK ever are.

We had the added factor of the ‘Beast from the East’ storm arriving the week before filming. It could have been the most expensive film set in the country at the time and we couldn’t shoot for seven hours because there were blizzards and we had extras helping sweep away the snow. Then we were rushing Sean Bean, Billy Zane and the rest of the cast into the arena to snatch takes when we could.

Then there’s all the health and safety that’s involved in doing these insane stunts in an environment where you’re not going to hurt anyone. We were all very conscious there had recently been tragic circumstances due to stunts on British film sets, and getting it right was really important. There were never more potential failing points than during that week – it had everything going on. It was an intense and quite mad period.

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Start your engines

Billy Zane and Sean Bean lead an ensemble cast in Curfew, which follows the story of ordinary people and extraordinary characters competing in the world’s fastest, most furious illegal nighttime street race.

In this DQTV interview, the stars introduce the series, which is described as a mix of Death Race, 28 Days Later and Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, with some added Wacky Races and a hint of The Fast & The Furious.

Bean talks about how Curfew combines the danger and excitement of the race with the stories of the very ordinary people taking part, and introduces his “charming, dangerous” character.

Zane describes how his character provides some comic relief to proceedings, with stunts and antics designed to build his social media following.

Executive producers Will Gould and Frith Tiplady also discuss how action feature films from the 1980s inspired the series, which Tiplady says is “unashamedly fun.” In addition, they detail the challenges of producing Curfew, including near-constant night shoots, maintaining dozens of vehicles, and numerous stunts.

The eight-part show is produced by Tiger Aspect Productions in association with Moonage Pictures for Sky1 in the UK. Sky Vision is handling international distribution.

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Watch this Space

As London faces increasing demand for studio space, DQ visits Manchester to find out how the UK city and Space Studios are proving to be an attractive filming proposition for high-end television drama productions.

For many television makers and watchers, Manchester will always be known as the home of ITV’s iconic soap Coronation Street. The long-running series, its former home at Granada Studios and its move to MediaCityUK, where the BBC can also now be found, have certainly helped to put the north-west English city on the map when it comes to TV production.

Sky1’s Curfew, starring Sean Bean, involved racing scenes shot on the streets of Manchester

But with the demand for studio space in London at an increasing premium, coupled with the requirement of UK broadcasters to see dramas created and set outside the capital, Manchester is now becoming an attractive destination for high-end drama producers through Space Studios and its partnership with Screen Manchester.

Located on the outskirts of the city centre, Space Studios still looks box fresh, with an array of towering sound stages, workshops, business units and car park space that doubles as room for unit bases. Equipment companies including Panavision and Provision are among those on site.

It was here that upcoming Sky1 street-racing drama Curfew took over three stages for six months of filming, while walking down the numerous corridors reveals that offices have been allocated to ITV crime drama The Bay’s costume department, BBC period series World on Fire’s art department and Amazon and Liberty Global’s psychological drama The Feed’s art department and production office.

Other recent dramas to have been filmed there include Cold Feet and The A Word.

Space Studios offers six sound stages after a £14m expansion

Built on the site of the former West Gorton housing estate, which became synonymous with Channel 4 drama Shameless, Space Studios opened in May 2014 as a purpose-built facility for high-end TV, film and commercial production. Six sound stages offer more than 85,000 sq ft, with the imposing stage six, which opened in February this year as part of a £14m (US$17.9m) expansion, offering 30,000 sq ft alone, with adjacent room for props, set builds and dressing rooms.

The Space project was originally devised by Sue Woodward, a former MD of ITV Granada, founding director of social enterprise Sharp Futures and founder of The Sharp Project, a hub that is home to more than 60 entrepreneurs in the city specialising in digital content production, digital media and film and TV production. Both Space Studios and The Sharp Project are managed by Manchester Creative Digital Assets (MCDA), which was set up by Manchester City Council to oversee the city’s digital, production and creative sectors.

Colin Johnson

The Sharp Project was opened on the site of a former Sharp electronics distribution warehouse, which was bought by the city after the company vacated the premises. Series such as comedies Fresh Meat and Mount Pleasant have been filmed there and the success of the venture led to the decision to create a dedicated production facility on the site of a former Fujitsu electronics factory.

Colin Johnson, director of screens and facilities at Space Studios, recalls: “We knew that we could make television in the city because we’d done it at The Sharp Project, and we could tell there was going to be a big uplift in demand [for production space] because of OTT and SVoD platforms commissioning drama, tax breaks and people being displaced from London.”

Phase one was completed in 2014 and since then, “we’ve been pretty full ever since,” Johnson adds.

The land where stage six was built was a former Victorian pump factory, which was adopted by Space Studios once it became clear there was sufficient demand for a larger sound stage. Further space on an adjacent site has recently been cleared, with the potential to expand further.

Throughout its development, and beyond, it has also sought to be an anchor in the local community, working with Sharp Futures to offer apprenticeship schemes and keen to plug into the surrounding talent pool through job opportunities and skills days.

Rob Page

“London’s full and we’re here. It’s as simple as that,” Johnson says of Space Studios’ success. “We’ll show producers the space before they get the job and then they pick up the phone to us and say, ‘Have you got availability?’ We’re getting those calls because of the ground work we’ve put in early on. Some of the people bringing jobs in we showed round when stage six wasn’t there or showed round when we were a building site. We’re here – and London seems to be full.”

Rob Page, commercial director of MCDA, continues: “The ecology’s here as well, most importantly, in Manchester, whether it be crews or Screen Manchester assisting you while you’re on location. We’re not just another warehouse in the middle of nowhere without an ecosystem surrounding you.”

Much has been made of new studios planned for London, in particular a £100m proposal to build 12 sound stages as part of a complex in Dagenham, east London. Approval for the plans was received in February this year. But Johnson and Page stress that, in contrast, Space Studios is ready now. “We’re really well placed in that we have the skills, we’re in the centre of the country, we have the stages and these facilities,” Johnson adds.

Beyond Space Studios, Manchester has been home to location shoots for series including Age Before Beauty, No Offence, Our Girl, Snatch and Scott & Bailey. Castles and coastlines are also within reach of the city centre.

Manchester-shot Age Before Beauty

But until Screen Manchester launched in July 2017, the city didn’t have a formal film office. Since then, development manager Bobby Cochrane says Sky1’s Curfew has become the biggest drama Manchester has done to date. The office facilitated racing scenes by closing Mancunian Way, an elevated highway linking the east and west of the city.

Streets around Manchester’s viaducts, Northern Quarter and Spring Gardens areas can also double for London and New York, while Hugh Grant’s BBC1 drama A Very English Scandal also spent several days filming inside Manchester Town Hall, which shares similar interior architecture to the Houses of Parliament.

Working in partnership with Space Studios, the aim is to become a one-stop shop where producers can find studio space, locations and seek permissions such as road closures under one roof.

Cochrane adds: “Manchester has got a central hub where everything you can do in the city is under one umbrella. We want it to be a global film-friendly city.”

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