Essex may not quite boast the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, but over the last year it has become the backdrop for many television and movie shoots.

Back in April, for example, Tom Hiddleston, was spotted filming The Essex Serpent in Brightlingsea while other scenes for the drama were shot in Alresford and Maldon.

In the same month actors and writers of the Stars Wars series Andor were also seen by fans at the former Coryton Refinery site in Corringham.

Oscar-winning actor Gary Oldman also spent time at Harwich Haven Authority’s Navigation House for his new AppleTV+ production Slow Horses.

The small town also played host to Downton Abbey stars and crew members who transformed parts of the area, including King's Quay Street, into a 1900s film set.


More recently, EastEnders' Jessie Wallace, Steve McFadden, and Letitia Dean, were clocked shooting at a St Osyth caravan park – much to delight of Tendring soap fans.

Clearly north Essex harnesses a certain attraction for filmmakers, but exactly is it about the county that makes it such a silver-screen go-to?

“Essex has always been a fantastic place for filming, but only in recent years people have realised it’s true potential,” said Colchester film columnist Rodney Appleyard.

“It’s got everything you need in a production - beautiful scenery, interesting history, a rich variety of locations and some of the friendliest and talented people to work with.

“People are also realising there are a lot of people in the area trained with the skills needed to create these productions and star in them.

“In Colchester for example, you have a plethora of students studying television production and film and Signals also provides BFI courses.

“This creates a community of filmmakers who are ready to jump on board to help with new productions when they film in the area.”

In addition to big-budget productions such as those already mentioned, local, independent movie-makers have also chosen Essex for their industry outputs.


Dom Morgan, 48, from Colchester, for example, recently shot his “utterly bonkers” feature in Clacton while giving marginalised teenagers a chance to work on a film set.

Entitled Morris Men, the award-winning film buff’s latest effort is described as being an urban vengeance thriller about ninja fighting Border Morris dancers.

His first feature cost little more than £10,000 to produce and went on to win 30 awards across the world and also gained distribution with Moviehouse Entertainment.

But he opted to shoot his most recent flick in Essex because it is where the “spirit of independent film is alive and kicking” and the cost of doing so is more affordable.

Dom said: “With limited resources it’s paramount to find locations where people understand your limitations and embrace the spirit of independent filmmaking.

“For our last feature we had the support of Tendring Council the likes of the Royal Hotel’s Jason Smedley, and the owners of Walton Pier and The Martello Tower Zoo.

“We are so blessed with some amazing locations in the region to produce credible, and sellable, works with extremely high production values.

“This brings greater attention to the region as a viable production base and over time we are now seeing more films shot in the area which boosts our cultural footprint.”


A.G Longhurst, from Thorpe-le-Soken, also utilised locations dotted along the north Essex coastline for his movie Lucas & Albert.

The comedy gangster film sees two ageing hitmen forced into doing one final job before they can hang up their guns for good.

It stars the likes of John Altman, known for playing Nick Cotton in EastEnders and Michael McKell from medical soap opera, Doctors.

The movie, which was premiered in Clacton, has since gone on to fend off Oscar-nominated film 1917 to win a National Film Award.

“Having been in the business for more than 30 years it is no surprise that other companies, be it film or television, have suddenly discovered it,” said Mr Longhurst.

“Although the area is underfunded and the transport is a nightmare there are plenty of people in the community willing to help and this attracts people from our industry.

“If their life is made easy they are willing to come and also filming off- season is brilliant as the hospitality and structure is there, with hotels and venues.

“In general if you can bring something that is of benefit to the area you are filming in then the people will accommodate you.

“I gave an interview last year and I said the East of England and Tendring could become the next Hollywood - I meant it.”

Dom agrees, and like Mr Longhurst, believes Essex and more specifically places like Clacton could well become the next La La Land.

“There has never been a better time for independent film and we are thankful to live in a place that embraces, and actively supports our filmmaking efforts,” he said.

“Our vision is to turn Clacton and the surrounding areas into our own little Hollywood-on-Sea.

“The Princes Theatre is certainly geared up for large scale film premieres, so maybe it won’t be long before we see the red carpet and the limousines rolling in.”