Bristol film studio and city locations to star in TV adaptation of Jane Austen’s final incomplete novel

February 15, 2019

A major outdoor film set is under construction at Bristol’s Bottle Yard studios for its latest high-end TV drama – the upcoming adaptation of Jane Austen’s final incomplete novel Sanditon.

A 10-week build process is underway following planning approval of an application to Bristol City Council by Red Planet Pictures, the London-based independent production company behind hits like Death in Paradise and Dickensian

Red Planet Pictures is bringing Sanditon to a wide television audience for the first time. Adapted by acclaimed screenwriter Andrew Davies (War & Peace, Mr Selfridge, Les Misérables, Pride and Prejudice), Austen’s original 11-chapter fragment will be brought to life in eight, hour-long episodes.

As well as filming at The Bottle Yard in Hengrove, it is also on location in Bristol with assistance from Bristol Film Office and in North East Somerset.

Set builders are creating an 1820’s outdoor Regency street of a ‘quiet seaside town’ within the studio’s back lot. External elevations are being constructed from open frame scaffolding and wood, against which the authentic period street façade is being built, measuring 67 metres long by 21 metres wide, with heights of up to 10 metres in some places, according to set designs. Sets have also been built inside the studios, in 22,000 sq ft of build space in its Tank House 4.

Red Planet Pictures head of production Alex Protherough said: “When looking for a suitable production base for filming Sanditon, we were immediately drawn to Bristol and the South West.

“There is a wealth of locations in this area, perfect for period drama, and particularly the Georgian period where our story is set. The country houses, Bath and its elegant Regency architecture, even the Somerset coastline all offer a wide range of locations perfect for Sanditon.

“The Bottle Yard Studios are perfectly located to access these locations, and they have more to offer. Sanditon was always going to require an element of set building, as is often the case with continuing drama productions of this size. The construction and studio spaces at the Bottle Yard have made Bristol the obvious place to base film and television production in the area.”

Bottle Yard site director Fiona Francombe added: Sanditon is a lavish, high-profile production at The Bottle Yard which will also put Bristol locations on screen, thanks to the help of the city’s Film Office.

“It’s wonderful to see the external sets going up in addition to those inside the studios; our spacious back lot allows for this type of build to take place where needed. Builds like this are so beneficial to the local area, they present excellent new opportunities for trainees in South Bristol as well as employment for a high percentage of local crew.”

Bristol Film Office manager Natalie Moore said Sanditon was an ideal production for Bristol to host.

“With our own studio base and excellent Regency locations to offer, producers can also benefit from locations support from our neighbours at Bath Film Office nearby. The versatility of the West of England and its network of film friendly support makes this a prime region to base this type of drama, which brings valuable and production spend and employment into the local economy.”

Sanditon is a Red Planet Pictures production commissioned for ITV by Polly Hill and MASTERPIECE by Rebecca Eaton. Created by Jane Austen, it is written and executive produced by Andrew Davies with Belinda Campbell as executive producer for Red Planet Pictures and Rebecca Eaton as executive producer for MASTERPIECE. Series producer is Georgina Lowe, and casting director is Jill Trevellick. BBC Studios is distributing the series internationally.

Productions made at The Bottle Yard Studios range from Hellboy to Poldark, The Crystal Maze to Andy’s Safari Adventures.

Written only months before Austen’s death in 1817, Sanditon tells the story of the joyously impulsive, spirited and unconventional Charlotte Heywood and her spiky relationship with the humorous, charming – and slightly wild – Sidney Parker. When a chance accident transports her from her rural hometown of Willingden to the would-be coastal resort of the eponymous title, it exposes Charlotte to the intrigues and dalliances of a seaside town on the make, and the characters whose fortunes depend on its commercial success. The twists and turns of the plot, which takes viewers from the West Indies to the rotting alleys of London, exposes the hidden agendas of each character and sees Charlotte discover herself… and ultimately find love.

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