Reputed British film location experts including the location manager for the famous television series Game of Thrones were in Sri Lanka scouring for the most scenic places for their next ventures.
The eight-member British team was part of a lucrative location familiarization tour of Sri Lanka organized and hosted by the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB). The tour comes on the heels of a successful networking event the Bureau took part in during the FOCUS 2017 in UK.
The location managers included, David Pinnington who was the supervising and location manager for Spiderman (Far from home), Game of Thrones, Guardians of the Galaxy and X-men First Class to name a few and Camilia Stephens, who was the supervising and location manager for Hollywood blockbusters like Les Miserables, the King’s speech and Snowman.
Pinnington also took part in a B2B session where he and other location managers met with members of the local film fraternity to discuss ways in which Sri Lanka can be promoted as a prime film destination.
“As a film destination, Sri Lanka is very impressive and its locations are easily accessible. I thought that the locations were great. I was impressed with the ‘’Lion Rock’’. (Sigiriya) and the aerial view which was stunning,” said Pinnington.
Another member of the delegation was Mick Ratman who is a member of BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) and the past chair of the Guild of Location managers which he served for nearly 10 years. He lent his expertise to find the perfect set for movies such as The Flag, Welcome to Sarajevo and Shivaree: john 2/14.
“It was important to meet the local production companies. They seem very capable and experienced, which is good. As a film destination, Sri Lanka is an excellent choice. But to see the development of film tourism, we need to make a change with the help of the government. During the tour I saw interesting locations. I loved the east coast because the beach was better. Colombo is an amazing city though the traffic is terrible,” he said.
Among the group is also Martin Walker, whose notable works include X-Men: First Class, The Mummy Returns, Kingsman: The Secret Service and Paddington 2. Benjamin Ian Macgregor was the location manager for the movie like Blitz- star by Jason Statham, RocknRolla, Driving Lessons and Tom & Issy.
Eduardo Rodrigalvarez is a location manager who is also part of the Location Managers Guild International, production Guild of Great Britain and Film London. He was part of Breaking the Bank and Housefull 3. Shona Smith on the other hand is the UK Online Magazine dedicated to the British Film industry.
Veteran film maker Chandran Rutnam who was also present at this B2B meeting held at the Hilton felt that meeting these location managers and having them in Sri Lanka was massive boost to tourism locally.
“I think this was very well organized and was a timely event, after the end of war, we have not pushed our country as a film location. Some of the biggest movies in the world have been shot here. I think having the location managers from the UK is a successful endeavor done well. It will provide us much more business because films will be shot here once they get back home. This will entice other producers will come down and consider creating films in Sri Lanka in future. I want to congratulate the SLTPB and the organizers for doing this. I think we should do this annually.”
The film location managers arrived in the country on 14th November and departed on the 21st. They were taken on a tour of Colombo with glimpse into the urban life, lesser known attractions and mountainous ranges such as Knuckles range. They also toured Minneriya National Park, Sigiriya, Dutch Fort and will tour the southern coastal belt.
Location managers often scout for not just the most scenic spots but also to familiarize themselves with the host country so that they maybe able to make the best use of the vista and its people in their ventures.
Most location managers were very much impressed upon their first visit to the country. It is plain to see why both David Lean and Steven Spielberg chose Sri Lanka for their respective award winning films. Lean’s 1957 film The Bridge on the River Kwai and Spielberg’s 1984 classic Indiana Jones made full use of this exotic island.
The second film in the swashbuckling adventure series, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was directed by Steven Spielberg and starred Harrison Ford as “Indy”, an archaeologist/explorer/savior of the world.
Released in 1984, Temple of Doom was supposed to be filmed in Rajasthan, but permission was eventually denied. So Spielberg relocated the set to Kandy. Today, the city is the gateway to the glorious Hill Country and continues to attract tourists daily.
Perhaps the finest home-grown Sri Lankan film of recent years, The Road from Elephant Pass recounts the civil war years and the battle for the Elephant Pass, a narrow strip of land that links the Jaffna Peninsula to the rest of Sri Lanka. The 2008 film, which was Sri Lanka’s Academy Award entry under foreign films, was based on the novel by Nihal de Silva.
Most grown-ups now would have fond memories of watching Jungle Book. The Second Jungle Book is a 1997 film adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s literary masterpiece, The Jungle Book.
Much of the filming took place in Kandy’s Udawattakele Sanctuary, a forest park just beyond the city center that has lots of monkeys but not so many (in fact, zero) tigers.
Elizabeth Taylor takes on the role of a Memsahib at a tea plantation terrorized by elephants in a classic example of the kind of human-wildlife conflict that is still common in Sri Lanka today.
Vivien Leigh who replaced Elizabeth Taylor in Elephant Walk, spent a good deal of her time in Sri Lanka, staying at the home of Bevis Bower (brother of famous architect Geoffrey). Today the house and the surrounding, stunningly landscaped Brief Gardens are open to the public.
By arranging such events, SLTPB will continue to boost and enhance film tourism as a niche segment of the Tourism sector, through encouraging more foreign film makers to visit Sri Lanka and promote breath taking attractions and depicting its true potential as an ideal destination for film locations.
The B2B session was a great opportunity for local tourism industry stakeholders to connect with the British location managers / producers, in order to take film tourism segment in Sri Lanka to greater heights.