First Day of Principal Photography on “Titanic” Miniseries

Lookout Point Announce First Day of Principal Photography on “Titanic” Miniseries.

With a budget of $4.5m an hour, the all-star ensemble miniseries Titanic begins shooting today in Hungary. The 3-month shoot takes place at the Stern Studios on the outskirts of Budapest and on location around the city.

Written by Oscar-winning screenwriter Julian Fellowes and directed by Jon Jones (Northanger Abbey, Diary of Anne Frank), the 4 x 60’ series is produced by Nigel Stafford-Clark (Bleak House, The Passion) and Chris Thompson (The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency, Love Actually).

Titanic was first developed by Lookout Point’s Simon Vaughan, as a high quality television event designed to mark the centenary of the tragic sinking. When international co-production specialist Lookout Point partnered with ITV Studios, the project began to take shape, as Simon Vaughan, Chief Executive of Lookout Point and Executive Producer of Titanic explains:

“It is over three years since we started development. The original notion was to develop a long running series, with the boat sinking in every hour, but with ITV’s involvement and under Julian and Nigel’s creative leadership, it evolved naturally into the spectacular four-hour event miniseries we are now shooting”.

Mounting the production itself has been an enormous creative endeavour. The question of how to deliver an original television spectacle, able to stand proudly alongside other versions (most notably James Cameron’s 1997 movie) but offering the viewer a new experience, all within the constraints of a television budget, is no mean feat.

Julian Fellowes’s take, which presents a rounded, human version of life on board the ship encapsulating the society in which she existed, provides a comprehensive portrayal of all the passengers and crew. Whilst Cameron’s film was primarily a love story between the two central characters, Fellowes was inspired by the hundreds of poignant untold stories of those aboard and the miniseries will show the bravery, courage and sometimes bad behaviour demonstrated by all sorts of passengers and crew, using both fictionalized and real-life characters.

Following on from Gosford Park and Downton Abbey, Titanic will feature Fellowes’s trademark ensemble cast of leading stage and screen actors, flowing camerawork and interweaving storylines, as viewers get to know the multi-class, multi-nationality characters, brought to life by 89 actors, including Linus Roache, Celia Imrie, Toby Jones, Geraldine Somerville and Timothy West.

Production designer Rob Harris (Generation Kill, Hornblower, The Devil’s Whore) has created an extraordinary 2-tier set, housing a 60m promenade deck, 50m boat deck, 4 working lifeboats, 2 collapsible lifeboats, the ship’s bridge and pursers’ offices, stairways, 75m of interior corridors and over a dozen separate interior rooms – from boiler rooms to dining rooms, third-class bunkrooms to first-class suites. As well as having an incredible attention to historical detail, this unique set will not only allow the cameras to sweep naturally through from room-to-corridor-to-room, but by doing so will allow the audience to feel as if they too were on board, marvelling at the splendour of the décor, finding ones cabin and ultimately running through the cramped corridors in a desperate attempt to find loved ones and be saved.

A show about the sinking of the Titanic requires a lot of water and Harris and his team have built the biggest tank in mainland Europe at the Stern Studios, on the outskirts of Budapest. This vast 30m square water tank features a sliding immersible section of the ship’s deck and interior, and a huge green screen backdrop.

A project of this scale cannot be achieved without CGI and whilst the miniseries does not seek to equal the special effects of the 1997 movie, the storylines include scenes in London, the shipyard in Ireland, and the now familiar Southampton departure dock and on to open water. VFX Supervisor Tom Turnbull of Rocket Science (The Nativity, The Day of the Triffids, National Treasure) is recreating the huge gantry cranes and the imposing cathedral-like brick and sandstone Victorian building housing Harland & Wolff’s headquarters, and of course the arresting sight of the grandest ship ever built.

Backed by major broadcasters around the globe, including ITV1 in the UK, ABC Network in the US, Global Television in Canada, Seven Network in Australia, Antena 3 in Spain and TV3 in Ireland, Titanc is a Deep Indigo, ITV Studios, Lookout Point, Mid-Atlantic Films and Sienna Films Production. The miniseries will air globally in April 2012.