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A Miniature Manhattan on the Mersey: Liverpool doubles up as New York once again in Channel 4’s It’s a Sin

3 years ago

A Miniature Manhattan on the Mersey: Liverpool doubles up as New York once again in Channel 4’s It’s a Sin

Liverpool is well known for playing a starring role as a double for New York in films and TV series – now fans of Channel 4’s It’s A Sin will be able to spot the city again.

With the help of Liverpool Film Office RED Production Company filmed for two days on the waterfront and in the business district in January last year, transforming some of Liverpool’s most iconic buildings into not just New York but London too.

In fact, the Cunard Building managed a double double – one side, on Water Street, was used to shoot scenes in New York, while the other side on Brunswick Street became a London hotel.

The series, which has now become All4’s most streamed show of all time, follows the lives of five teenagers who move to London from different parts of the country only to find themselves at the centre of the AIDS crisis.

Set over five parts, it spans 10 years from 1981 to 1991 as the friends grow up and the virus becomes an increasing threat to all their lives.

It’s a Sin (Ch4)

Episode two, on C4 this Friday, sees Liverpool as a backdrop several times – as well as the two-sided appearance of the Cunard Building, viewers can spot the Town Hall as a Savile Row tailors, Exchange Flags and also an incredible transformation of Water Street into a New York street thanks to some digital image trickery.

Los Angeles-based technology specialists Technicolor VFX was responsible for introducing the instantly recognisable Empire State onto the skyline.

VFX supervisor Nicholas Bennett says every period and location detail was included to make sure the shots looked as authentic as possible:

“We converted Liverpool into the busy streets of New York by adding subtle details to every frame,” he explains. “We added iconic New York buildings into the backdrop for the wide shots as well as classic 1980s’ advertising billboards, the American flag and signature New York steam rising up from the subway.

“We also added CG traffic and crowds walking up and down the streets.”

It’s a Sin was one of more than 200 productions to come to Liverpool in 2020, racking up a total of 670 filming days and bringing in over £13million to the city’s economy.

Liverpool doubling up as London in It’s a Sin

They included The Batman starring Robert Pattinson, due for release in cinemas next year, which saw Liverpool double as Gotham City and the Liver Building used for one of the Dark Knight’s dramatic aerial scenes.

With its architectural similarity to US cities, and Liverpool Film Office dedicated to supporting movie and TV productions, Liverpool is often filmmakers first choice as a location.

Kevin Bell, Operations and Liaison Manager for Liverpool Film Office said:

“We’re really lucky in Liverpool in terms of architecture – in fact, we’re a bit spoilt.

“From the Royal Liver Building which was designed to resemble the early tall American skyscrapers, the plethora of grand buildings on Water Street, the beautiful Georgian Quarter and of course the iconic docks – they all provide stunning backdrops for period productions. And more often than not, they’re more historically accurate than the modern skyscrapers we can see in New York today.

Filming for Florence Foster Jenkins.
– Liverpool Film Office

“And of course the attraction to Liverpool goes further than the obvious quality of how the city looks on screen.  The layout of the city, being able to close roads without too much disturbance and remove street furniture, enables filmmakers to transform the streets, and turn them into a stage with cranes, lighting and 100+ cast and crew. And they’re able to do this because of the support they receive from the film office team, a network of key stakeholders and of course the people of Liverpool.”

Here are 5 films in which Liverpool appears as New York …

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Starring Eddie Redmayne and set in 1920s New York, the Harry Potter prequel spin-off was filmed in Liverpool In October 2015. St George’s Hall was used for a political rally by Henry Shaw Jnr, inside the Cunard Building stood in for the shop floor of Macy’s department store and the exterior of St George’s Hall makes a dramatic appearance in the film’s climax.

Florence Foster Jenkins

Filming for Florence Foster Jenkins.
– Liverpool Film Office

Hollywood royalty Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant star in this movie about a real-life heiress, set in 1940s Manhattan. All the street scenes were shot in Liverpool in June 2015. Water Street was used again and, like It’s a Sin, skyscrapers were added in with CGI. Drury Lane, at the back of Exchange Flags, featured as Central Park West where Meryl, as Florence Foster Jenkins, goes to Melotone Recording Studio.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

– Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions

Chris Pine was joined by Kenneth Branagh and Keira Knightley for this American spy thriller, which includes a chase scene around the Three Graces, the Strand and Water Street. The Manhattan tunnel to which Jack Ryan tracks a terrorist plot is the entrance to the Queensway Tunnel. Showing off its versatility, Liverpool also doubles as Moscow in this action blockbuster filmed in September 2013.


Jude Law filming Alfie

Remaking the famous 1966 Michael Caine original, Jude Law turned up in 2004 as the cheeky Cockney ladies man. This was good news for Reds fan Jude because it meant he got to spend some time in the city. Not only is a beach scene shot out in Formby, but he can be spotted in the film buying flowers from a shop on Brunswick Street which in real life is now the Restaurant Bar & Grill.

Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America filming in Liverpool
– Liverpool Film Office

After previously always being shot in the US, in 2010 the Marvel series crossed the Atlantic and headed to Liverpool to transform Stanley Dock into 1940s New York. Captain America, aka actor Chris Evans, didn’t travel light – he brought a cast and crew of about 500 with him. They apparently did a month’s worth of preparation ahead of a five-day shoot including laying some new York stone flagstones.

Find the latest news on filming in the city on the Liverpool Film Office website here.


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