“Guns” and “airport” sit uncomfortably in the same sentence. Yet I am airside at London Stansted, beyond the security check, in a loose scrum with 100 other people – some of whom are openly carrying firearms, from handguns to assault weapons. The airport police are in attendance, yet they are simply looking on. Or are they actually actors dressed as airport police?
Welcome to Stannywood, home to a pop-up film set.
“All passengers clear”. The announcement rings out at 11.18pm. Tens of thousands of passengers on hundreds of flights have either flown away during the day or headed home at night from the Essex terminal. No arrivals or departures on Ryanair, easyJet or Jet2 are scheduled for a few hours. So the UK’s leading low-cost airport can now resume its nocturnal role as film set for an extraordinary action thriller: One More Shot.
At Stansted – one of the UK’s four busiest airports – the shooting is about to begin. In both senses.
The finished product premieres on Sky from 12 January. One More Shot features dozens of terminal departures, but not in a good way. And the people doing the dispatching are wearing semi-automatic weapons rather than hi-visibility jackets. Ironically, everyone in the crew who is not on camera is wearing a high-vis jacket, except when it might show up in a reflection in this vast steel and glass “studio”.
Filming “landside” at an airport is challenging enough: staff are needed to keep passengers out of the way and safe, and to glance through the viewfinder to ensure the camera is not inadvertently featuring airlines in an unflattering way.
The challenges multiply for airside filming. Everyone involved must undergo a background check. If they pass, their problems are only just beginning. They must go through the usual security check (no sharps, no liquids above 100ml …) accompanied by an authorised airport chaperone.
All of that still applies if all the director wants is to film a cheery Love Actually-style scene.
If, though, you have hired Stansted airport for a feature film in which grisly gun deaths are scripted to take place at an average of one a minute, you need some exceptional cooperation.
“People are just like, ‘You’re going to do what? You crazy?’,” says the director, James Nunn. Night after night, he, the cast and the crew are working against a hard…