Location, location

Posted on November 10, 2012


The last 18 months or so has seen a bunch of film crews dotting around Glasgow making a movies. A combination of our grid-patterned Victorian-era city centre and tax and other financial incentives apparently makes it viable to shoot here. Add a bit of USian signage and other set dressing at the shoot and a smidge of low-key CGI at the other end and hey presto you have Philadelphia or San Francisco or New York City.

All this is has been a matter of idle curiosity for the average Glaswegian, but they seem to have been getting used to it quickly. There was a lot of fuss the week Brad Pitt came to film World War Z around George Square. Notably less when Halle Berry arrived to film bits of Cloud Atlas round the corner from my work. No-one seems to have known where Scarlett Johannson filmed Under The Skin (the odd one out here, because it’s set in Scotland (or at least the book was)). And the closing of city centre streets for the shooting of The Fast And The Furious 6 (yes…6) came up in conversation mostly as an inconvenience.

Deep down though, do we really believe that Glasgow can be dressed up to look like an American city? The answer is: I don’t know. It’s too obvious to me. I knew to look out for the Station Wagon crash scene in Cloud Atlas (seen very briefly at 4.51 in this trailer) because it was filmed on the street I walk down to get to work. And in the film it looks almost exactly like it looks. It’s only when they turn the camera uphill and you see that they’ve inserted a San Franciso skyline that it really looks any different. In in my case, as a local who knows what that hill really looks like, different means fake.

Same with the World War Z trailer. The first minute or so (the traffic jam and the hordes of zombies overrunning the square) are pretty much all Glasgow. Mostly it’s done with USian road signs and traffic lights, but they’ve CGI’d some of the shots to make the street look longer and the buildings taller, and that just makes it look just so weird to me.

It’s a percentage game of course – wherever you film on location you’re going to have some cinema goer yanked out of the story by recognition, and in the end it doesn’t really matter, but I’d be really interested to hear from folks who go to see these movies. Did you believe these were SF or Philly? Did it even cross your mind to question it?

More to the point – will I be able to force myself to go and see The Fast And The Furious 6 to see if that weirds me out too?

Posted in: Movies