Quick Guide to Filming in the UK

The Fast & The Furious 6, Anna Karenina, Snow White & The Huntsman, Prometheus, Maleficent, Guardians of the Galaxy, and several of the Star Wars movies all have one thing in common.

The majority of the footage in these films was shot in the United Kingdom. It’s not only the rolling hills or stunning scenery drawing major motion pictures to the UK these days.

A lot of large budget productions flock to the UK to reap the rewards of lucrative tax benefits as well as the ability to use cutting edge equipment and several big name studios.

Guide to filming in the UK - Shootfactory

The United Kingdom is home to several of the biggest studios in the film making industry.

Movies such as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Superman have graced the lot of Elstree Studios, one of the most well known studios in the country. The UK has several studio complexes located in and around the major cities and are able to cater to a large number of films at any given time. The studios are able to service television programmes, but the larger studios tend to receive a larger portion of their business from high-end film.

The UK’s main filming locations are able to contend with international film companies quite easily. They are fully equipped with the latest, state-of-the-art equipment and are able to offer a large variety of stage sizes, support services, and staff to any production.

Some of the main filming studios in the country are:

Pinewood Studios: The most famous studio in England, and the largest in Europe, Pinewood Studios is located close to London. Pinewood studio is comprised of a 100 acre lot which includes a lake, formal gardens, fields, woods, and 18 stages. It is home to Europe’s number one underwater filming stage and the largest exterior tank.

Elstree Film Studios: Nestled only a short drive from Central London, Elstree Film Studios is home to six sound stages, one silent stage, and boasts over 60,000 sq ft of recording stage space. With more than 30 supportive companies on-site, Elstree Film Studios is a comprehensive facility.

Ealing Studios: Another very famous studio close to the heart of London, Ealing Studios has been in the film making industry for over 100 years. Ealing Studios is equipped with four stages and contains workshops, offices, prop stores, and large meeting rooms.

The UK also plays host to some of the most prominent television programmes in Europe. Doctor Who, Little Britain, and Absolutely Fabulous have all made their home in a UK studio. Aside from the BBC studios – which are currently closed, but scheduled to reopen with three studios in 2015 – there are several other fully equipped studios to choose from. Most of the television production studios in the UK are located in or around London.

The London Studio: On the Southbank of London, The London Studio plays home to shows such as The Graham Norton Show, Good Morning Britain, and The Jonathon Ross Show. It contains eight studios and harbours post-production facilities. The building, located on the River Thames, also plays host to the oldest commercial television network in the United Kingdom – the ITV.

Fountain Studios: The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent call Fountain Studios their home. This studio can accommodate television programmes demanding anywhere from 3,000 sq ft all the way up to 13,000 sq ft of space. It is located close to Wembley Stadium in London, and comes equipped with VIP hospitality and separated star dressing rooms.

Elstree Studios: Equipped to handle both film and television programmes, Dancing On Ice, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, and Big Brother can all be found in Elstree Studios.



One of the biggest perks to filming in the UK is the country’s network of extensive travelling methods.

You can navigate the country easily, getting you and your crew to and from on-location shoots quickly. The country is ripe with historic locations, natural beauty, and iconic landmarks. If you are planning to shoot in the UK, Shootfactory is familiar with the procedures and can liaise with local authorities and ensure that your filming is completed without a hitch.

For the London area, Film London should be your most important contact. Northern Film and Media should be your go-to for the north east of the UK. For the rest of the country, Creative England will be your best resource.

If your script includes shooting in an open space, you’ll need to receive permission from the local council. If filming on roads or public highways, you’ll need to be granted permission from the local Highways Agency and the use of fire arms, explosives, or mock-police cars will require a police contact.

With the demand to film on-location in the UK so high, the nation’s police have a direct-contact via email for those who are wishing to request permission at filmunit@met.police.co.uk.

Filming Equipment

Several of the largest film production equipment suppliers are represented in the UK. This includes companies such as Arri to Kodak. If you are in the market to simply rent the equipment, you have the ability to choose from several hundred film equipment rental companies.

Tax Benefits

One of the biggest draws to the country for the film making industry is the value of the Film Tax Relief programme.

Companies producing films that have an expenditure of £20 million or less can claim tax relief up to 25%. For companies producing films with an expenditure of greater than £20 million can claim tax relief of 25% on the first £20 million with 20% on the remaining amount thereafter. There is no cap on the amount which can be claimed.

To qualify for this film tax relief programme, you must meet the following requirements- which can be found on the BFI website:

  • Films must pass the Cultural Test or qualify as an official co-production.
  • Films must be intended for a legitimate theatrical release.
  • Films must have a minimum UK core spend requirement of 10%.
  • Tax relief is available on qualifying UK production expenditure on the lower of either: 80% of total core expenditure or the actual UK core expenditure incurred.
  • The film production company responsible for the film needs to be within the UK corporation tax net.

A similar programme is available for high-end television and animation productions. In order to qualify for the HETV Tax Relief programme, you must meet all of the following stipulations:

It must qualify as British by either passing the High-end Television Cultural Test or as an official co-production.

  • The programme must be intended for broadcast.
  • The programme must be a drama, comedy, or documentary.
  • 25% of the core expenditure must take place in the UK.
  • The average qualifying production costs per hour of production length is not less than £1million per hour.
  • Slot length in relation to the programme must be greater than 30 minutes.
  • The television production company responsible for the programme must be within the UK corporation tax net.

Further, more detailed information on these Tax Relief programmes can be located on HRMC’s website.

All productions in the United Kingdom must be fully insured.

If you are operating under a policy from your home country, you must ensure it covers filming taking place in the United Kingdom. Film insurance is specialised and policies and premiums vary from film to film, depending on the different risks associated with the filming.

Types of Insurance

Employer’s liability insurance: Employer’s liability insures all employees in the event of disease, bodily injury, or death occurring from their work. This must be alluded to in their contract and is a legal requirement.

Public liability insurance: Covers your production in case of injury or property damage.

Negative insurance: Insurance that helps cover costs incurred through damage or loss of stock.

Errors and omissions insurance: Covers a production in law suits brought against the producer for libel, slander, breach of copyright, invasion of privacy, and a multitude of other issues.

Props and set insurance: If you are filming in a historic building or will be hiring props and vehicles, this is especially important.

Hired equipment insurance: Without your own policy, you will be expected to purchase one through the leasing company, which can be extremely expensive.

You will most likely be required to provide proof of insurance to location owners, equipment companies, and studios.

Hiring UK Film Crew

Production crew available in the UK are among the top rated in the business.

Most crews are award winning and have been recognised internationally for their flexibility and professionalism. If you are interested in hiring crew already located in the UK, these agencies can be of great service in providing tailored lists of the best in the business:

British Film Commission: Able to provide lists of crew members who have worked on recent inward investment films. Contact email: enquiries@britishfilmcommission.org.uk.

Made In The UK: A network of UK agencies that can provide contacts and availability information.

The Movie Crew Website: A one-stop portal that accesses directories of high quality UK crew.

The Production Guild Of Great Britain: Able to provide information including contacts and availability of its members.

The Association Of Motion Picture Sound: Provides an online directory of members.

The British Film Designers Guild: Publishes a list of members and biographies on their website.

UK Screen Association: The UK Screen Association is considered to be the trade body for all companies in the UK providing services to the industry. They keep an updated database of all working members.

UK crew rates are not set or controlled by unions. Instead, pay rates for crew members are generally negotiated by the individual crew member with the aid of the producer. For information regarding pay rates, it is generally best to speak to an experienced line producer. You can find information to contact one through The Production Guild Of Great Britain. Current pricing does tend to lean towards the competitive side.

The UK has an extensive amount of benefits to offer to film and television producers. Between sweeping landscapes, ancient castles, and gorgeous seascapes, it has an expansive array of locations to fit any film production. When you add in enticing tax benefits, state-of-the-art facilities, and some of the top rated crew in Europe- it is no surprise that the UK has become the backbone of filming activity.


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