Well known as the choice of many filmmakers, Glen Afric Lodge close to Hartbeespoort dam (known more commonly as "Brookers"), owned by John and Jenny Brooker came alive

Coronation Street's Cilla being interviewed by "This Morning", a British ITV daytime television programme.
recently with the twang of Mancurian as cast and crew of the fabled United Kingdom daily drama Coronation Street completed their shooting in South Africa.

Having spent ten days prior to moving to Brookers at Sun City, the final shoot phase involved a myriad of "Bush" shots with the ever present and obliging animals which has made Brookers the favorite of wildlife themed drama. Indeed Wild at Heart has been shooting at Brookers for many months, and this fact was the inspiration for Coronation Streetchoosing the same venue. Both productions are facilitated by The Out of Africa Picture Company, and both are for ITV in the United Kingdom.

In Focus spoke to Laura Graham, Coronation Street Publicist and an invitation to visit the set at Brookers resulted. On the day of the visit shooting was taking place with three key cast members, namely Andy Whyment who plays Kirk, Sam Aston who plays Chesney and Wendi Peters who plays Cilla. Jennie McAlpine who plays Fiz had returned to the United Kingdom, as she was required for shooting on the main series. Also present was producer Gavin Blyth who gave of his time to talk to In Focus:

"We are actually shooting a 'Big Film' of Coronation Street which is a self contained story with a beginning and an end. Although we will see the cast leaving for their 'African Safari' and returning in the main series, the actual events of the Safari will be contained in the 'Big Film'. We have done this a couple of times before both in Las Vegas and aboard the QE2 and it has proven hugely popular.

We came up with the story which is my idea for Cilla's biggest scam to date. In Coronation Street the show, she is renowned for throwing scams to earn a fast buck.  Although the character of Cilla has left the show back in the UK, we liked the idea of really trying to pull together effectively a big film of Coronation Street.

The last one we did in Las Vegas around ten years ago, so we started to look around in Europe and also America again, and then we hit on the idea of South Africa. We have several productions working in this area at the moment with Wild at Heart and Prisoner, and it really meant that we could tap into their experience, and this would save us a lot of time, short cuts and legwork on the ground, particularly working with the production company Out of Africa, as this has meant that any questions we had would be answered very quickly and simply because of their knowledge of the area.

We also decided to use local crews as well, so it is really only myself, Duncan Foster the director, Andy Hibbert the DOP, Laura Graham and Josh the line manager who have come out as crew from the UK. I think this is important because I think you come to South Africa where the film and TV industry is really starting to fly, so to have brought the entire crew from the UK wouldn't have been right  we would like to help this market grow as we would anywhere, but I have to say its been fantastic. I think the biggest task for the crew was realizing how quickly we have to shoot this thing. It's 90 minutes shooting in 15 days which is a hell of a task.

We are shooting with two cameras, and occasionally if we are able to split we shoot two units, for instance today we have a 2nd unit to shoot our POV of the lion pride, and also of the plane touching down in South Africa, so we are able to split the unit to save us some time which has been great as we know we can trust this crew inside out now, and once we tell them what we need we can be sure they will take off and give us what we want.

We shot the plane landing at Lanseria Airport although obviously they would have landed at Johannesburg International, but it is too big. At Lanseria we could shoot the exterior, and show them actually arriving in the sunshine with a bit of depth. We didn't want it to look as if we were cheating, and shooting anything back in the UK and doubling up, and shooting at Lanseria allowed us to do that. The minute they landed on African soil they came through the sliding doors and were hit with sunshine. And it's just beautiful, and it has been beautiful from start to finish.

We shot at Sun City for 10 days and it went very smoothly given what we were trying to achieve there. I think on one day we had 68 different set ups that is the sort of pace we were going at, and of course we had a lot of extras drafted in and we had to shoot around the people who were actually staying there which was an added problem but one that was overcome  the PR there really pulled out the stops to make it smooth for us.

I came here to recce about seven weeks ago, and that was my first look at Sun City and Brookers and the cast that we would need to find out here, and it was unknown territory on both fronts. But the minute we went to Sun City we found everything we wanted, it was all there for us. We needed to find about 11 key South African cast members so we were really reliant on the talent out here. Again we were not disappointed. We cast amongst others Tim Plewman, Kate Normington and young Lizzie (Lisa Marie) who plays Ellie in the film she is a little star of the future in my mind.

All the equipment was sourced locally. The DOP came out early to get himself familiar with the HD cameras that we are using, as the show in the UK isn't yet shot on HD, but seeing as this film is for DVD release we wanted to shoot on HD because it looks so spectacular.

All of the crew are from South Africa - it made so much sense because Out of Africa know all the local crews, and also we were assured from day one that they are very talented, and this has proven true. We have been 2nd guessed, the sound man is fantastic. We are using a lot of radio microphones so it is quite complex, but the South African production management have been great and we haven't been let down at all.

We send the dailies back to Joburg for duping, and we then sent copies back to our editor in England and when we know they have safely arrived we release the masters and it has all gone very smoothly. The editing has started so they have a head start and by the time we arrive home they will have completed a lot of the editorial".

Laura Graham the publicist added: "Coronation Streetgoes to about 38 countries. It's big in Canada, New Zealand and Finland. Sometimes it's sub-titled and in some cases overdubbed. The accents are broad, and can get lost in translation some times  a bit like South African English in a way. Its funny at times, we had 11 young boys as walk-ons at Sun City, and we gave them a number each and there was confusion about number 'wun', the extra asked 'have I won'. We have had a lot of fun on set. We are celebrating our golden university in 2010.

The DVD is to be 90 minutes, and it will only be sold as a DVD. It will be a Christmas release. The previous sales have been very big  the Vegas one sold 700,000 tape copies so we are very optimistic about this one now that DVD's are so popular.

The show in the UK goes out twice on a Monday night two episodes, one on a Wednesday and then two again on a Friday. Coronation Street is the most popular soap in the UK.

There is a magazine show out here from the UK right now doing a special behind the scenes. We have had a lot of UK interest but nothing locally really apart from yourselves.