Film news

Wonder Woman gives London a hand – while she’s saving the world

31st May 2017
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Wonder Woman not only sets out to save the world by bringing the First World War to an early end, she joins other Hollywood-style films in helping to protect London neighbourhoods.

Among the scenes filmed in London, Gal Gadot, as Wonder Woman, and the cast, shot in Bloomsbury, making donations to local residents by way of thanks. Some of this money will be put toward celebrating renowned scientist and anti-nuclear campaigner Joseph Rotblat, who, in real life was affected terribly by world war.

In the movie, opening tomorrow, Wonder Woman’s idyllic life with her sister Amazons is disturbed when an American pilot crashes on to the island and tells her about the carnage being wreaked. She heads to London, ready to use her warrior powers to stop the war. Take a look at the trailer here. Clearly, Wonder Woman gets past her first observation that London is horrible. The pilot she’s rescued, Steve Trevor, agrees, “Yeah, it’s not for everybody.”

In January 2016, Bloombsury Square and Sicilian Avenue were dressed as busy London streets during World War I, bustling with horses, carriages and vintage cars, along with the many cast in period costume.

Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor leave Victoria House on Bloomsbury Square and a chase sequence follows.

Bloomsbury resident Helen McMurray was one of many locals who welcomed the filming.

As secretary of the South Bloomsbury Tenants’ and Residents’ Association, Helen explains the pride locals have in retaining the character of their neighbourhood, and resisting the efforts of big business change it. When film productions choose the area as a location, it validates their work to protect it, she says.

Helen also explains the good work that donations from film productions can be put towards, including a plaque commemorating the Nobel Peace Prize winner and local who campaigned against nuclear war from his Bloomsbury office, Joseph Rotblat.

She says, “It’s great to know that this historic part of central London is frequently in demand for film shoots.

“The fact that the area has retained its character, making it an attractive location for period films, is entirely down to the efforts of local residents and the amenity society (Bloomsbury Conservation Advisory Committee) who have campaigned over the decades to keep it that way.

“We are most grateful for any donations from film shoots as it helps us to continue functioning and provide a voice for local people of mixed social, ethnic, business and interest groups who together give this area its sense of vibrancy.

“Nowadays especially, there is constant pressure from developers who want to make lots of money from the real estate and turn it into a soulless business extension of Oxford Street and the City, with little regard for the context of its Georgian architecture, the people who live here, small businesses, specialist shops, or its priceless artistic heritage.

“Our residents’ association is run by volunteers who give up their spare time in opposing unsuitable planning and licensing applications, often in the face of highly-paid lawyers and other professionals who big companies can afford to pay to promote their interests via the planning and the legal processes.

“We are also involved in finding ways to help protect famous Bloomsbury squares and in raising general concerns, including community safety, with the relevant bodies within Camden Council and elsewhere.

“One of our main objectives is to bring local people together and we do this by regularly holding social gatherings called Meet the Neighbours after our general meetings, in the Vestry of St. George’s Church.

“At our next meeting, with the funding we have received from film productions, we are looking into using some of it to pay for taxis for elderly residents, and to celebrate a new plaque to be unveiled, commemorating the scientist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Joseph Rotblat.

“He worked from an office in Museum Mansions, Great Russell Street to promote the Pugwash Conferences, a high-level campaign to prevent the possibility of nuclear war.”

The Bloomsbury Association is also involved with local filming to ensure productions work considerately alongside locals and respect the values of the community.

Stephen Heath, a spokesman for the group says, “It is difficult to imagine the amount of time, money, and energy that went into dressing all the extras for the time-period, keeping all modern vehicles and objects out of the streets, and making the buildings of Bloomsbury Square and Sicilian Avenue look like they did in the early 1900s – scruffy and dirty and amply paved with horse droppings – all for a few minutes of shooting.

“The challenge for film location units is integrating with the local community… Careful preparation, prior consultation and thorough consideration are essential to mitigate against that ‘community under stress’ effect.

“It is the worst possible thing to get off to a bad start by firing up a noisy, smelly generator under someone’s bedroom window at dawn and leaving all their mess behind at the end of the day.

“So a Considerate Constructors Scheme for location units is essential and this is where Camden Film Office steps in. What happens can’t be anticipated every time but they can have a good go at it – and they have to because it is something that happens in Bloomsbury regularly.

“We enjoy a good working relationship with Camden’s Film Office and are happy to share our knowledge of the area, its inhabitants and businesses with them, so that we can ensure this industry provides a real economic benefit to the local community and the borough and is managed in a way that is respectful to all the inhabitants.

“Recent examples of how film donations are put towards the community expenditure include appointing legal representation to contest a controversial licensing application for a well-known nightclub and seeking professional expertise to advise on the air quality, transportation and engineering aspects of a proposal to create the first entirely underground hotel.

“Bloomsbury Square conjures up images of peaceful, green, leafy squares untainted by the passage of time. Not so. It is the edge of Bloomsbury at a point where it collides abruptly and noisily with Holborn, the fringes of Covent Garden, the sharp end of mass tourism and the highest levels of air pollution in the country. But one of the objectives of the Bloomsbury Association is to safeguard that perception.”

To read more about The Bloomsbury Association and filming, take a look here.

In addition to the Bloomsbury filming, which included extensive scenes inside the British Museum, 450 cast and crew filmed at Kings Cross station in February 2016. In this huge scene, involving extras dressed in military costumes, a train is waved off, as it’s pulling out of the station.

Islington as well as Camden Film Office was involved in accommodating this shoot, and a donation was made to Friends of Argyle Square in Camden.

In March last year, the River Thames in Southwark was also filmed, from Shad Thames and Butlers Wharf.

FilmFixer manages filming in Bloomsbury on behalf of Camden Film Office, along with Islington and Southwark Film Offices. FilmFixer director Andrew Pavord says, “It’s important that productions work hand in glove with London residents to make location filming possible.

“Locals must feel engaged in the filming going on around them and should benefit from this directly. We are really pleased that filming is having a positive impact for Bloomsbury residents. Along with helping unite and care for the community, it’s nice to see historic locals being celebrated as well.

“Joseph Rotblat’s family lost everything in Warsaw in the First World War and his wife was killed in the Holocaust of the Second World War. A nuclear physicist, he campaigned tirelessly against nuclear proliferation.

“We’re extremely pleased that the film industry in London is able to support locals in all community endeavours, such as this.

“Many important locations are available to productions on this scale only thanks to the goodwill and co-operation of locals. Residents work passionately to help get the balance right between allowing Hollywood-style productions access to their neighbourhoods, and making sure that locals somehow benefit.”

Notes to editors
The Joseph Rotblat plaque is the result of the work by the Polish Heritage Society, who have consulted with the South Bloomsbury Tenants’ and Residents’ Association over the siting and wording of the plaque, following Camden Council’s decision to grant planning permission for it to be placed on Museum Mansions. South Bloomsbury Tenants’ and Residents’ Association will put film donations toward celebrating the plaque at a social event but have not been involved in financial support for this project.