A major new BBC2 spy drama starts Thursday 30th April and while the story is set in London those eagle eyed viewers will spot many familiar Birmingham locations as the six part series unfolds.
Film Birmingham is happy to share the news that the wait is over for the anticipated series ‘The Game’. The 1970s Cold War spy thriller The Game was filmed almost exclusively in Birmingham back in the autumn of 2013. Film Birmingham worked closely with the production team from March – December to bring back the 1970s era.
Created by Being Human writer Toby Whithouse, ‘The Game’ is a tense Cold War spy thriller set in London in 1972. MI5 discover details of a Soviet plot, named Operation Glass, from a defecting KGB agent and set up a select committee to investigate. Each episode investigates a different Soviet agent in a frantic race to save the country and prevent a worldwide crisis.
The Game stars Tom Hughes (Dancing On The Edge) as interrogator Joe Lambe, Brian Cox (The Bourne Supremacy) as MI5 head ‘Daddy’, Paul Ritter (Quantum Of Solace) as Bobby Waterhouse the head of counter-espionage, Shaun Dooley (Misfits) as Special Branch detective Jim Fenchurch, Chloe Pirrie (Black Mirror) as secretary Wendy Straw, Victoria Hamilton (Toast) as Sarah Montag, the deputy to Bobby Waterhouse and Jonathan Aris (Sherlock) as Alan Montag, husband of Sarah and a bugging expert.
The series has already aired in the United States on BBC America and received rave reviews. The New York Post described it as “…the best show you’re not watching…”, while the Los Angeles Times reported that The Game is “…at the top of its spy game…”.
Perfecting the Seventies look
One of the major challenges for the series was to create a look and feel of a 1970s London in a 2013 Birmingham and selecting the right locations was key to achieving the right mood for the era. Film Birmingham worked closely with the production team every step of the way to facilitate the requirements of this project. A large amount of the series centres around the MI5 headquarters and with the recently closed Birmingham Central Library, this 1970s example of brutalist architecture was seen as a perfect set for the production team to fully utilise. The team set about converting the former library space to create sound proof meeting rooms, typing pool desks, tape recording booths and the office of the MI5 chief, Daddy. The transformation was stunning, as you will see when the series airs and with some clever post production even the exterior scenes transport the viewer back into the world of 1970s espionage in the city of London. As well as being home to the MI5 headquarters the vacant entry foyer area of the library was transformed into an airport terminal building and the loading bays and underground storerooms were also effectively utilised.
“Birmingham had a variety of excellent period locations which helped to provide such a good look for what was required. Film Birmingham was there every step of the way to assist with bringing this drama to life on screen which I hope is enjoyed by all.” Thea Harvey, Line Producer.
The attention to detail of the props team was outstanding, with hundreds of classified files and letters created for MI5 worker to process and handle. They could’ve been forgiven for cutting a few corners but every letter was addressed and stamped, keeping with the period, and this helped to transport the headquarters set back in time.
Visitors to the city centre on successive Sundays in late October and early November 2013 may have witnessed two days of intense filming along Newhall Street as the production team captured one of their most spectacular scenes of the series.
There were a number of challenges to overcome for these two days of filming including road closures, bus route diversions, health and safety protocol, the removal of a modern day bus stop complete with an electronic timetable, Christmas lights and a Pay & Display parking machine, which would have certainly ruined the period look. Film Birmingham co-ordinated the complex shoots with the different service providers for the removal and re-instatement of equipment and street furniture to assist the production in ensuring the scenes were authentic.
“This was a challenging project in more ways than one! The scope, complexity and detail required for this project were staggering. Film Birmingham is delighted to have facilitated this series that is already a huge success in the USA and is bound to be a success both sides of the pond.” Sindy Campbell, Film Birmingham Manager.
Period police vehicles, motorcycles and cars filled the street and were joined by a red London Routemaster bus, from the Aston Manor Transport Museum collection, to complete the seventies theme. Dozens of supporting cast in seventies gear walked carefully choreographed paths as several cameras captured all the action. The stunt, featuring a huge building explosion from the Council owned Louisa Ryland House on Newhall Street, will be no secret to those that have already seen the BBC series and it certainly looks like the huge effort of those two days have paid off and created a spectacular and memorable scene.
Moor Street station provided the setting for a tense scene of covert cat and mouse which saw the production team using two of their own red telephone kiosks. Many other Birmingham locations were used, some to look out for include an office in the Birmingham Council house, which was given a full 1970s make over to transform it into the office of the Home Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister. Cannon Hill Park, Warstone Lane Cemetery Catacombs, Old Rep Theatre, Moseley Swimming Baths, Fletcher’s Walk, The Former Municipal Bank and the canal network off Livery Street were amongst those used. You can even catch a brief glimpse of the underground tunnels linking the Mailbox to New Street station as these are also used as part of the MI5 headquarters complex.
The series was filmed over 88 days, 78 of those days filmed at locations in the city of Birmingham. Other locations used outside of the city were facilitated by Creative England.
It’s certainly been a long wait for this great looking drama series to reach the UK TV screens, whilst now it has finally arrived we can’t wait to see how the story unfolds and we hope that the many Birmingham locations used contribute to what promises to be a gripping and tense drama from the talented and creative team.
Film Birmingham is Birmingham City Council’s film & TV office. We facilitate and support film & TV production in the city. For crew, facilities, locations, filming permits or further information, please visit our website here.