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Is Soho the new Hollywood? – Part 1/2

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If you take the second left after Leicester Square station, amble down Shaftesbury Avenue roughly 500 feet, then plunge into Dean Street on your right, you’ll find yourself in the heart of the New Hollywood – known more commonly as Soho. Far removed from the glitz and glamour of LA and the desert sun, this small area of London has been making huge waves in the film industry of late, growing into one of the most renowned sectors of creativity in the business.

Dean Street, Wardour Street, Berwick Street; the main arteries of Soho all used to comprise one of the darker spots in London, known for its looked-down upon slew of Paul Raymond revue bars and myriad sex shops during the ‘80s, and as crime central in the ‘40s. While quaint reminders of its history remain in the form of Walker’s Court (a residual patch of nostalgic sleaze), those streets have been enjoying the patter of more upscale feet: you’ll now find any number of movie stars, directors, writers, producers… sashaying through Soho; pinballing between cutting edge post-production facilities and studio headquarters – all enjoying somewhat of a renaissance in the film world.

But what exactly is it that’s transformed Soho into a blazing hub of cinema magic, and more importantly, could it take over from Hollywood?

First of all, let’s look at the work itself: Soho has produced some of the most jaw-dropping work of the last few years, bringing cinema to a new level of expertise. Visual effects have enjoyed a huge surge in quality, thanks to some Soho-set teams; there have been a number of films in the past few years that have shown the world the power of British-based visual effects companies, but none more so than 2013’s Gravity.

When the BAFTA nominations were announced for that year, Gravity had many of the nods, including ‘Outstanding British Film’. But this was a movie that only starred American actors Sandra Bullock, George Clooney (and Ed Harris to an extent), and was directed by a Mexican filmmaker, Alfonso Cuarón – surely this was not a British film? But if you were watching the Oscars the same year, you slowly realised that, on a nuts-and-bolts level, Gravity could not have been a more British film. When it kept triumphing in the technical categories during the ceremony, winning seven Oscars overall, each subsequent acceptance speech for Best Film Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Score, and Best Visual Effects was given in firmly British accents. Chief among those wins was Framestore, who provided the visual effects for Gravity, creating the state-of-the-art world of the film, which blended photorealism with giddy beauty and a huge scope. It really did set the bar, and it was all done in Soho.

Having found out about the history of the area, we wanted to know what was happening next. Find out more in the second part of our feature when we look at what’s happening in Soho in the future…

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