Herts, camera, action! Turning film fantasy into reality with new screen tourism development programme

The Batman, starring Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Zoë Kravitz as Selina Kyle/aka Catwoman.

From Warner Bros. Pictures comes Matt Reeves’ The Batman, starring Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Zoë Kravitz as Selina Kyle/aka Catwoman. - Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Did you know Harry Potter, James Bond, Batman, Indiana Jones and Star Wars all have their screen roots in Hertfordshire?

To capitalise on the county's impressive film heritage, Visit Herts is keen to promote Hertfordshire as a top screen tourism destination, with 10 businesses set to benefit from a new programme to turn film fantasy into reality.

Visit Herts is the destination management organisation for the county. Chief executive Deirdre Wells OBE said: “With one in five tourists influenced by what they see on screen when making their destination choice, there is huge potential for Hertfordshire as a screen tourism destination, drawing on a strong backlist of internationally recognised films and TV.

"Developing more screen tourism experiences offers our county a fantastic opportunity to reach more elusive consumer segments, while encouraging a younger audience to seek out landscape and heritage locations."


Hertfordshire's film and TV heritage

A heritage board dedicated to Harrison Ford in Borehamwood

A heritage board dedicated to Harrison Ford in Borehamwood near Elstree Studios - Credit: Alan Davies

George Lucas filmed the original Star Wars trilogy at Elstree Studios in the borough of Hertsmere.

Steven Spielberg also shot the first three Indiana Jones blockbusters there, with Harrison Ford playing the whip-cracking Raiders of the Lost Ark hero, having also played Han Solo in the Star Wars movies.

Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts reunites Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint

Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts reunited Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint with fellow cast members. - Credit: 2021 Warner Media, LLC

Harry Potter came to life on screen after being filmed at Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden, where there was recently a 20-year Hogwarts reunion of the main cast members.

Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. - Credit: Warner Bros

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All eight Harry Potter movies were made at Leavesden, where you can now also discover the filmmaking magic at top tourist attraction Warner Bros. Studio Tour London - The Making of Harry Potter.

Warner Bros. Pictures' fantasy adventure Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore.

Jessica Williams as Eulalie 'Lally' Hicks, Callum Turner as Theseus Scamander, Jude Law as Albus Dumbledore, Fionna Glascott as Minerva McGonagall, Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski and Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander in Warner Bros. Pictures' fantasy adventure Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore. - Credit: Jaap Buitendijk. © 2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

The Wizarding World's spin-off Fantastic Beasts films were also made at Leavesden, including April's forthcoming third instalment, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore.

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is released in April.

Warner Bros. Pictures’ Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is released in April. - Credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

The hotly anticipated Games of Thrones prequel, House of the Dragon, has also been filmed at Leavesden.

Emma D’Arcy as Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen and Matt Smith as Prince Daemon Targaryen in season one of House of the Dragon.

Emma D’Arcy as Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen and Matt Smith as Prince Daemon Targaryen in season one of House of the Dragon. - Credit: Ollie Upton/HBO

While Pinewood Studios is better known for being the home of 007, three James Bond movies – two official entries into the EON franchise and Sean Connery's 1983 comeback outing Never Say Never Again – were made in Hertfordshire.

What is today's huge state-of-the-art Warner Bros complex was previously Leavesden Aerodrome. 

The site was converted into a film studios for the making of GoldenEye, Pierce Brosnan's first James Bond outing.

Brosnan's second Bond movie, Tomorrow Never Dies, was also made in Herts, this time in another converted industrial site in Park Street, near St Albans.

As well as the major movies and series already mentioned, Hertfordshire is often seen on screen thanks to the county's magnificent country houses and stately homes.

Knebworth House, Hatfield House, Wrotham Park, Brocket Hall, North Mymms Park, and the Ashridge Estate are frequently used by production crews for filming. 

Wayne Manor in Tim Burton's 1989 Batman movie starring Michael Keaton was an amalgamation of Knebworth House and Hatfield House.

Batman was filmed at Knebworth House with the Hertfordshire stately home doubling for Wayne Manor in Tim Burton's 1989 movie.

A Batman at Knebworth. Blockbuster movie Batman was filmed at Knebworth House with the Hertfordshire stately home doubling for Wayne Manor in Tim Burton's 1989 movie. - Credit: Knebworth House

Knebworth House is also set to feature in this year's upcoming The Flash movie, which sees Keaton return as the Caped Crusader.

Released in March, the eagerly awaited The Batman movie with Robert Pattinson in the dual role of Gotham City’s vigilante detective and his alter ego, reclusive billionaire Bruce Wayne, was also filmed at Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden.

The first series of Regency-era Netflix hit Bridgerton was partly shot on location at both Hatfield House and North Mymms Park near Welham Green.

Season 2 of Bridgerton arrives on streaming site Netflix on March 25 with the series centred on the romance between Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey) and Kate Sharma (Simone Ashley).

Jonathan Bailey as Anthony Bridgerton and Simone Ashley as Kate Sharma in season two of Bridgerton.

Jonathan Bailey as Anthony Bridgerton and Simone Ashley as Kate Sharma in season two of Bridgerton. - Credit: Liam Daniel/Netflix

Netflix's royal drama The Crown is based at Elstree Studios and has regularly filmed on location in Herts. 

With Hitchin's historic streets, St Albans Cathedral and Herts' beautiful countryside also used as filming locations, and the 13 sound stage Sky Studios Elstree set to open this year, the county has much to offer filmmakers.


Screen tourism plans

Ten businesses from across Hertfordshire are being given the opportunity to develop a range of new experiential screen tourism products as part of the Visit Herts Screen Tourism Development Programme.

Launched for applications this week, the development programme is part of Visit Herts’ destination recovery strategy for the county post-pandemic.

It is delivered through the successful UK Community Renewal Fund Project, ‘Driving creative innovation and culture-led regeneration through the film industry’, which is funded by the UK government through the UK Community Renewal Fund.

This exciting new project aims to support 10 businesses in Herts to develop and launch new experiential screen tourism products to attract visitors, extend the tourism season and drive overnight stays.

"We’re hugely excited about the launch of our brand-new Screen Tourism Development Programme," said Visit Herts chief executive Deirdre Wells.

"If you’re a venue with location filming looking to create an experience from your backlog, a tourism business that would like to attract new audiences through immersive experiences telling the story of filming in Hertfordshire, or perhaps a creative business specialising in film production who can offer visitors a glimpse of exclusive behind the scenes of how productions are made, we want to hear from you as soon as possible.”


How to apply

Organisations picked to take part will be supported to create new revenue streams to underpin business resilience, to attract new markets while increasing the length of stay and spend, and to encourage visitors throughout the year, promoting dispersal to less visited areas across the county.

The Screen Tourism Product Development programme will provide the expert advice and support needed to turn ideas into a new visitor product, ready to be taken to market.

Those businesses taking part will benefit from an intensive package of support worth up to £25,000.

This will include specialist one-to-one support from screen tourism consultants, and assistance from academic and industry experts at Hatfield's University of Hertfordshire, on areas ranging from IP law and commercialisation to heritage and local history.

Once approved, applicants can then apply for a grant of up to £8,000 (20 per cent match funding required) to support the development of the screen tourism concept.

They will be supported with the full application process to help ensure the expenditure is eligible.

Successful applicants will also have access to state-of-the-art facilities and expertise at the University of Hertfordshire’s Creative Arts School and Innovation Hub.

Eligible Hertfordshire businesses who are interested in getting involved in the Screen Tourism Development Programme, can apply here.

For further information, visit here or email danielle.gawler@visitherts.co.uk

Full eligibility criteria and guidance for applicants can be found on the Visit Herts Business website www.visithertsbusiness.co.uk/screen-tourism/screen-tourism-development-programme/

Applications close at midnight, February 2, 2022.