Filming Locations Guide: Where was 1917 filmed?

George MacKay actor in the trenches playing Lance corporal Will
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We are not only wondering where 1917 was filmed, but we should also go behind the scenes to answer how the 2020 Golden Globe winner movie was filmed. The action, happening in real time, seems to have been filmed at a single location, in an immersive one continuous shot. In fact, principal photography lasted about 65 days and the filming locations are many miles away from each other, all around the United Kingdom.

Film director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Skyfall), decided to paste takes up to nine minutes long to tell the story of two young men who are sent on a suicide mission into enemy territory during the First World War. They'll try to stop an attack and save a British battalion from a German army ambush. To make you feel that you are in the trenches with these characters, the camera never ever comes away from them during the nearly two hours running time of the film, so spectators can understand how hard it was.

Maintaining the continuity of the scenes across the movie is a perfectly well executed cinematic illusion. Where are the cuts? Production designer Dennis Gassner declared that the whole idea was not to get caught. Birdman director Alexander Iñárritu chose to obscure the frame to hide edits. The method used in 1917 is far more complex than this, involving lots of planning and rehearsing. The movie was shot in story order, so the filmmakers had to exactly match the previous sequence to the inch and to the second.

How was 1917 filmed?

Tom Blake and William Schofield taking refuge from a plane

The First World War started literally with horses and carriages and ended with tanks. It can be argued that it is when modern warfare begins. Fortune reported that trenches were built at the RAF Bovingdon Airfield in Hemel Hempstead (Hertfordshire), the same town used in After Life series doubling as Tambury. A disused quarry in Oxfordshire served as an additional filming location. According to local media Surrey Live, a large film set was built at Hankley Common near Farnham (Surrey).
(You can open all the locations on Google Maps clicking on the links below in the captions ↴)
Image courtesy of Universal Pictures- Bovingdon location


French farm filming set
A lot of filming took place in the Salisbury Plain near Netheravon. The French Farmhouse was built there and taken down at the end of the shoot. The producers completely depended on the natural light and the weather. They had to film in clouds to get the continuity from scene to scene. When the sun was shining, the team was rehearsing with the eyes up in the sky. Image courtesy of Universal Pictures


Scene soldier climbing a wrecked bridge
The pictured sequence was filmed in the Govan graving docks on the banks of the river Clyde in Glasgow, Scotland. George MacKay as William Schofield (Captain Fantastic, Ophelia) and Dean-Charles Chapman as Tom Blake (Tommen Baratheon in Game of Thrones, Into the Badlands) star in a film where the support cast includes veteran actors Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange, Sherlock), Mark Strong (Shazam, Kingsman: The Golden Circle), Andrew Scott (Sherlock, Fleabag) and Richard Madden (GoT's Robb Stark).
Image Universal Pictures - Map - 1917 Drehort


Ruins of the town sequence filming 1917
The French bombed town of Ecoust was built on a set from scratch for the film. Roger Deakins director of photography, also commented that the camera had to be in sync with what the actor is doing: 'Sometimes you have a camera carried by an operator hooked onto a wire, that then steps onto a small jeep which carries him another 400 yards. Then he steps off it again and goes around the corner'. Image courtesy of Universal Pictures


Low Force waterfall
The 1917 river scene was filmed in the Low Force waterfall in Teesdale valley near Barnard Castle (County Durham). This section of the movie was shot using a drone. If you are a fan of long take scenes, the 2002 film Russian Ark is a real one-shot movie that takes place in real time in the Hermitage Museum. Alfonso Cuarón's 2006 movie Children of Men includes several long, amazing single take scenes. Image courtesy of Jake Cook - Map


shooting final scene 1917 white trenches and soldiers running
The trench scenes were also filmed in the Salisbury Plain. Filming took place along the A345 Salisbury Road, in the old Avon Camp military base, just a few miles from Stonehenge. 1917 almost doesn't take place in a series of interiors, but endless exteriors. No location ever repeats, so the cast and crew were constantly moving through different landscapes. Some shots required around 500 background extras.
Image courtesy of Universal Pictures - Map

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1 comments
  1. Like this movie and appreciated the work involved greatly. I watched the DVD on my 28 inch computer mtr then reran it after resetting the screen to B&W. WOW, just like Victory At Sea and other B&W WW1 and WW2 films! Great job guys!
    bill Berit in the Keys

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