From studio backlots to Croydon’s streets: how one London borough had a Hollywood makeover

Hollywood seems like a distant place but it's closer than you think. From All of Us Strangers to The Dark Knight Rises, Croydon is a haven for filmmakers

All of Us Strangers. Pic: Jobba

While Croydon’s brutalist looks and reputation deter most Londoners from visiting, it seems to have had the opposite effect on Hollywood – who have moved production crews from the sunny streets of LA to one of the most depressing boroughs in London

This might be partly because Croydon can provide both suburban and inner-city locations, making it a versatile destination for filming. It has been transformed into Eastern Europe (Heads of State, 2024), Istanbul (American Assassin, 2017), and even Gotham City (The Dark Knight Rises, 2012).

In 1967, the thriller Our Mothers House was shot entirely in Croydon, telling the story of seven children who cover up their mother’s death. Since then, the borough’s reputation as a film production destination has grown, and for the past 10 years, Croydon Film Office has been managed by Film Fixer, who convene with large production houses to organise filming in the borough.

Film London estimates that for every £1 spent by the film industry locally, £1.79 is contributed to the economy. “Production companies often make direct payments to resident associations or local charities to say thank you to residents for using the area,” says Andrew Povard, chairman and founder of Film Fixer. “They also buy props locally; for example, charity shops are a great source. Production employees spend their money in the borough when they work here.” By coordinating production companies’ access in Croydon, Film Fixer say they have maximised income for the local economy. 

When, in March 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic shut down all film and television production in Croydon, the local economy suffered massive losses. For three months, the film industry was unsure of its future, “But remarkably,” says Povard, “the film industry in the UK was the first to come up with protocols and measures to come up with guidelines to film. The Government even did an insurance guarantee for if a production stopped because of Covid.” 

These quick measures meant that the UK was the only place where filming could take place, and Povard explains that international streaming networks caught onto this. As a result, a lot of production moved from the US to the UK.  

Croydon as Istanbul for the film American Assassin. Pic: FilmFixer

Povard said: “In June 2020, we had our first post-Covid commercial, and then we went into TV. I mean, it was all very strict, it was a big deal and expensive and hard to do, but because there was so much demand for television, by 2021, we were run off our feet and found it difficult to keep up.”

Despite a dip in production in 2023 as a result of the Writers’ and Actors’ strikes, Croydon has remained a destination for US and UK film productions since the pandemic. 

In 2023, Croydon was even given a stage of its own, featuring as itself for the first time, in the academy-award-winning film All of Us Strangers. The film was shot and set in the borough, drawing national attention to all Croydon has to offer. Povard fondly referred to the film as “a love letter to Croydon”. 

The success of All of Us Strangers marked the borough as a haven for independent filmmakers, who have struggled nationally since the pandemic. Specifically, in the UK where the total spend on independent film production has stagnated and independent films’ share of box office revenue has dropped by over 40 percent.

The Durrells being shot in Croydon. Pic: FilmFixer

The rise in production in Croydon has also provided an opportunity for young residents to gain insight into the film industry. Film Fixer works with the initiative Set Ready, who run training courses and ensure production companies hire young residents to work on film sets in Croydon, another boost to the local economy.

Set Ready run a series of different length courses, which anyone over the age of 18 can apply for. Louise Read, a Set Ready Trainer said: “Film and Television is a well-established and growing industry, but it can be a difficult workplace to enter into. Set Ready reaches out and provides opportunities equally to anyone who is keen to learn more about working in film and TV.

“During the two years that I have been a Set Ready Trainer, several trainees have gone on to be placed in roles such as Location Marshals and Production Runners on TV Commercials and TV Dramas and started their journey to their own career.”

The initiative has been wonderful for Croydon. Povard said: “We’ve had lots of success through our programme that have ended up working in the film industry.” The latest intake of young applicants started the training process in February 2024. 

This shows that despite the borough’s bad reputation, from a creative perspective it is brimming with opportunity. So next time you try and knock it, why not watch a movie filmed in Croydon instead?

Read the rest of our series, Lights, Camera, Action! here

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