THE COUNTY of Sussex has played host to a wealth of screen productions, being seen as an ideal place for making movies, commercials and TV programmes.
In his book, Sussex on the Screen, Daryl Burchmore has a long list of examples of Hastings on film; the picturesque town and surrounding communities have attracted film-makers for over a century.
At the age of 20 Hastings photographer George Ivan Barnett founded GIB Productions, having made his first Hastings-based, war-themed film in 1942, when aged 16.
He went on to direct The Fall of the House of Usher in 1949.
His star was local girl Gwen Watford, who subsequently had a long and successful career on the big and small screen; Fairlight Hall and the Queens Hotel featured in this horror story. Hastings and its environs were often chosen as settings for on-screen murders and violent and seedy plots. In 1950 the atmospheric The Dark Man featured various locations around the town, including the seafront and Claremont Steps. One of its stars, William Hartnell, was destined to become the first Dr Who in 1963. In 1998 Richard Attenborough shot scenes in Hastings for his movie Grey Owl, starring Pierce Brosnan, the story of the locally born and bred Archie Belany who, after moving to Canada, posed as a Native American.
Initially a pretender with a chequered background, the film depicts Belany as the famous conservationist, natural history writer and public speaker he became. In the film he is seen returning to his Hastings
roots, to visit the aunts who brought him up, with shots of Milward Road the West Hill and Hastings Pier.
The TV Series Foyle’s War is deservedly listed in the book.
Based on a real life detective Inspector Foyle, played by Michael Kitchen, the series is set in Hastings Old Town, with shots of this historic quarter too numerous to mention.
Since its 2001 pilot the programme has been shown world-wide, bringing thousands of tourists to Hastings to see key locations from the series.
The legendary actor Michael Caine was in Hastings in 2008, to shoot scenes in Bottle Alley and on the West Hill for the film “Is Anybody There?”, in which Caine plays a dying magician
who befriends a retirement home owner’s young son obsessed with the afterlife.
Children’s TV production companies have made numerous visits to Hastings; the Tweenies used the fire station, Underwater World and the East and West Hills, scenes
for Art Attack and the Teletubbies were recorded on the beach.
A Sainsburys commercial was made in Hastings Old Town, a pop video with Paul McCartney shot in a Hastings subway. Among Daryl’s lists of movie trivia are the facts that The
Hastings Old Town Flowermaker’s Workshop and Museum supplied flame-proof artificial foliage and flowers to many screen productions, including Gladiator and
Reign of Fire, and an air combat scene for the 1969 production The Battle of Britain was filmed over Hastings; in the final print the pier can be seen.
Further Reading: Sussex on the Screen-A Guide to Filming in the County 1896-2012