Filming began on September 1st for a 9-week shoot but prior to this 4 days were shot in July, filming the scenes of Jim in the deserted streets of London. Filming took place in the morning, at first light before rush hour, to make it easier to shut down the streets of London.
The scene of the notice board at Piccadilly Circus was shot before the horror of 11th September. "The image was based on a photograph I'd seen from an earthquake in China, but clearly it's based on a very human impulse - people trying to contact each other, trying to maintain links with other people when the normal channels have died or seem inadequate. Obviously, Ground Zero is the most recent and probably the biggest example of it but if you look at any of those catastrophes that happen, where people feel loss of control and information about what has gone on, it's a natural thing that people do. I wouldn't have filmed it after September 11th but we tried, in the editing of it, to make sure that it didn't feel it was prurient or intrusive upon people's real grief. "
"The filming of the London sequences was absolutely fantastic. Before we started the main shoot we took a week in July, beginning each day at three or four every morning and would wait for the sun to come up," recounts Macdonald. "We were able to shoot for an hour or so before the city got too busy for us to hold back the traffic. It was very exciting, and when you see the whole of Westminster Bridge and the embankment all closed for you, and the traffic stopped, and you can't hear anything, it was thrilling but strange as well. "
"Alex's original thought for deserted London was silence, which happily is easily realised on film," explains Macdonald. "However we had to film a lot of 'day for night' as it was easier to grade the images to darkness than to try and digitally remove all of the street building lights. "
Boyle continues, "Walking around deserted London was a huge buzz really because that was a major ambition in the film, to actually make it look real. We were only able to achieve it by using lots of DV cameras - if you use them craftily enough, you can build what appears eventually to be a finished sequence that is elaborate and complicated, rather than just one shot. "
Including the London scenes was very important to Boyle. He explains: "We wanted to see Britain as a mythic landscape. Unfortunately it's a relatively small place and we tend to be over familiar with it through background shots from even a few days of television. We felt it was important to try and make it unfamiliar, so audiences could look at it in a slightly different way, a bigger way, than they do in their normal lives. "
When considering locations away from the London landmarks the filmmakers decided to make the film in one area and stick to it. They had to find an area that they could make feel abandoned quite easily and the East End seemed ideal. "Living in the East End, I know you can move around more easily than the West End," comments Boyle. "The roads aren't quite as gridlocked, permission to film is a bit easier to come by and anyway, there's far too much bias in the film industry towards West London. " The Docklands were also used for filming. "The Docklands has this feeling of a plastic city and so the idea of commercialism being redundant is particularly poignant so we filmed there rather than using more residential locations. "
Other locations used were Trafalgar Park in Salisbury, the TRL Research Centre in Crowthorne, and the final week was shot in Germany at Schwaben Park where the laboratory scene was filmed.
One of the biggest challenges of the film was filming on a deserted motorway. The production got permission to shoot on the MI on a Sunday morning between 7. 00am and 9. 00am. With the help of the police gradually slowing the traffic both ways, and using ten cameras, the filmmakers managed to capture a minute of emptiness as Frank drives his cab towards Manchester. "It was a technical nightmare but a fantastically weird scene," says Boyle. "It makes you feel that the whole of Britain has been abandoned. "