England expects as Sheffield-shot TV drama returns to our screens

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The long-awaited final part of Shane Meadows’ saga about disaffected youth through the decades, This is England ’90, starts on Channel 4 on Sunday.

As with the two previous TV mini-series the four-parter is a Warp Films production shot on location in and around Sheffield.

“The difference this time was that we shot it in two blocks,” explains producer Mark Herbert. “From last September we filmed the first three episodes. The series is divided into seasons so we did spring, summer and autumn in a row. The last episode is feature-length and we shot that at the start of the year – and we’re still working on it.

“Channel 4 have given us this amazing slot, 9pm on a Sunday, which meant bringing our schedule forward. With it being the last episode there are a lot of story arcs to deal with and bring to a conclusion.”

Various locations were used, centring on the Gleadless Valley as before and as far across the city as Stannington (the house of Shaun, the Thomas Thurgoose character).

“We also used Norton College and in the summer section we filmed in the Peak District. By the Nineties the characters have developed so we were able to get out of the estates a bit more. It’s more cinematic.

“As a production this was harder because it’s four seasons and visually you’re trying to make Sheffield look its best at different times of the year,” he continues.

“You dream of snow but it comes when you don’t want it. One day we were creating snow with a snow machine and the next day having to get rid of it when real snow came.”

“On the other hand, things do get easier with the actors much more experienced – and the crew as well. They all love being in Sheffield.”

The developing careers of some of the cast meant it was much harder scheduling everyone to be available at the same time. “ Vicky McClure was working on the next series of Line of Duty in which she has dark hair but as Lol is blonde and Stephen Graham fitted us in between Boardwalk Empire in New York and Pirates of the Caribbean in Australia,” says the producer. “It’s testimony to their success.”

Herbert, co-CEO of Warp Films who are about to move base from Electric Works to Park Hill, reflects: “This Is England ends two years of hard slog which has also seen our biggest production, The Last Panthers for Sky Atlantic. We will be delivering the last episode of This is England on Saturday for transmission on the Sunday and then on the Monday we fly out to Cannes for the world premiere of The Last Panthers at Mipcom. Filmed in Serbia, Montenegro, France and London and starring Samantha Morton, Tahar Rahim and John Hurt, it’s a crime drama based on the true story of The Pink Panthers, a notorious gang of Balkan jewel thieves.

Jack Thorne (who co-wrote This is England with Shane Meadows) has written the script and the director, Johan Renck, comes from Breaking Bad.

“It’s our biggest in terms of per-hour budget but also in scope,” says Herbert. “It’s truly international in three languages with crews from different countries and two broadcasters in Canal + and Sky.

“We have a slate of other projects, including some with Shane Meadows including his long talked-about biopic of cyclist Tommy Simpson.

“We’re looking at more international productions to move the company forward. That’s the new direction we want to be but as always it’s about creating quality and supporting writers and directors.”