Locations and logistics of Lost in London
Woody Harrelson’s ambitious film project, Lost in London, began filming at 2am on 20 January, and was shot in real time for live broadcast over a continuous, one-camera, 100-minute take.
The film revisits a night of mishaps that Harrelson himself experienced when performing on stage in the capital in 2002. Lost in London also stars Owen Wilson, who was involved in the real events at the time, Eleanor Matsuura and Willie Nelson. Harrelson directs from his own screenplay.
Lost in London was streamed live to 500 venues on the east and west coast of the US and the Picturehouse Central in London.
The logistics of the shoot were understandably complex, with the exact location kept under wraps in advance of filming to deter fans. To shoot 100 minutes unbroken also had implications for the cast, who had to be ready to improvise for several minutes at a time if there were a sudden noise, such as a siren, or a delay caused by busy traffic in the street.
Some interiors of the film were shot in the former Central St Martin’s building which provides central London production office space for many big projects.
David Broder (pictured) was the location manager on the film, and described how he got involved: “I got a call from the US in early September asking if they could send me a script.” After they outlined the story to him, the seasoned locations expert thought the idea was “interesting but crazy”.
At that stage, the project was being developed as a one-camera, one-take feature, with no mention of the live broadcast aspect. Broder and Harrelson set about finding locations. It was around this point that they realised they needed to settle on one building, Central St Martin’s, as their production base and the location for two crucial settings, the nightclub and the police station.
The rest of the scenes were all recreated on Grape Street, a road that runs off Shaftesbury Avenue. This part of central London falls under the Borough of Camden, whose film office is managed by FilmFixer. The road ‘plays’ Soho, where it would have been logistically impossible to shoot the film.
Local businesses got on board with the whole project. Venue and event hire company Icetank on Grape Street was dressed as the restaurant where Harrelson is due to meet his wife while creative agency Toaster organised more designs in their window to emphasise a busy, buzzing West End street. Other windows were changed, dressed and lit from the inside for similar reasons.
The whole shoot was made possible by consultation with and permissions from various agencies, including the police, council authorities and Transport For London. Broder stressed that, while live broadcasts are tried and tested in big, open spaces, such as the coverage of Formula One or big golf tournaments, to attempt such a project in central London with all the restrictions it throws up is a huge and probably unprecedented challenge, not least technically.
To enable the live broadcast, at least 47 RF (radio frequency) aerials were mounted on rooftops and a huge amount of cable was used as it needed to run from the theatre scene to the nightclub and then on to Waterloo Bridge.
The experience was enhanced for Broder by the fact that “Woody is a great character, people react to that. Just being with him, scouting and planning… it’s been a pleasure working with him.”
With thanks to FilmFixer on behalf of Camden Film Office for their help in compiling this article and for all set/crew photos.
Woody Harrelson picture via Getty Images Sport/Clive Brunskill.
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