Salmon Fishing in the Yemen – on set at the Blue Fin Building on London’s South Bank

We Movie Talkers are used to having film crews taking over our headquarters from time to time – almost exactly a year ago, Woody Allen came to the Blue Fin Building to film some of You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, and crews pop up now and then to shoot TV adverts and programmes. More recently though, it was Lasse Hallström’s crew that turned our building’s 10th and 11th floors upside down – in a rather organised fashion – to film Salmon Fishing In The Yemen. The BFB’s Facilities manager, Julie Rawling, gives Movie Talk the inside scoop…

Julie Rawling, facilities manager at BFB, on the movie set of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

This isn’t the first production that’s taken place in the Blue Fin, but it’s taken the most planning since it’s the first time we’ve allowed filming on a working week day. Normally we’d only allow filming at weekends, but BBC Films were desperate to use the 10th floor for a day, so we did lots of juggling to make it work for them. Since then, it’s just grown and grown.

The team did six recces in total, starting in June. The location manager came to see if it was feasible for the film to work here, then we had a visit from the director.

A week or so before filming, they then did a technical recce, where 20-30 people came round to measure up for their equipment. There’s so much to be considered – IPC staff, the tenants, Southwark Council, our local neighbours and parking.

Movie equipment in the corridors of Blue Fin Building

We agreed on how many days they’d need the area to film, then how many crew members would be on site, where, and at what times. It involves so much planning on our part. We have a location agent who deals with a lot of the organising, but for this production, we’ve been very hands on. And this one has really pushed the boundaries for us in terms of what we can offer film companies.

There haven’t been too many requests, though I did have to hunt down a hat stand – thanks very much to our tenants on the 2nd floor! They’ve also asked us to turn the air con off at times, presumably for better sound.

They’ve been using a giant helium balloon for their lighting, which is really impressive.

Helium balloon for lighting set of Salmon Fishin in the Yemen

Twelve helium canisters were delivered on Friday night to get it up to the 11th floor. It’s been so exciting watching all their mechanics – and they’ve loved being here too – the crew members say they’ve fallen in love with the BFB and its versatility.

They’ve been using two meeting rooms as a boardroom and two other rooms have acted as a posh office. They’ve brought in their own security guards and extras and we’ve had up to 80 crew members here at times, not to mention the lovely Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt!

Extras waiting around on the set of Salmon Fishin in the Yemen

Here are some facts about Salmon Fishing in the Yemen:

  • The film is shooting on location for nine weeks in London, Scotland and Morocco.
  • It’s financed by BBC Films, the UK Film Council and Lionsgate UK.
  • Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt and Kristin Scott Thomas are the main stars and it is directed by Lasse Hallström (Chocolat) and produced by Paul Webster (Atonement).
  • It has been adapted by Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) from Paul Torday’s critcally-acclaimed best-selling novel.

What’s the movie about then?

Romantic fable Salmon Fishing in the Yemen follows government scientist Dr Alfred Jones (McGregor), as a fly fishing-obsessed Sheikh (Amr Waked) tasks him with a seemingly impossible task – introducing salmon to the wadis of the Yemen. With the British government desperate for a good news story in the area, the Prime Minister’s fearsome spokesperson, Patricia Maxwell (Kristin Scott Thomas), seizes on the idea and makes Fred responsible for the success of the project.

Finally won over by the charismatic Sheikh, Fred also begins to fall for his representative Harriet (Emily Blunt). Casting off his deep-set cynicism, Fred rises to the Sheikh’s eccentric challenge, to go on a journey of self discovery and late-blooming love.

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