It’s very rare that I get to see filming as it happens. I often visit locations years, even decades after they’re used in a film or TV programme. But last month you could barely move in Cardiff for camera crews. A trip first planned back in August to visit friends in the Welsh capital and to go see former Doctor Who writer Russell T Davies do a Q&A for the Royal Television Society , happened to coincide exactly with the filming dates of scenes for a new Mark Wahlberg film – 26th to the 29th October 2019. The film is apparently called ‘Infinite’ and is based on a 2009 novel, ‘The Reincarnationist Papers’ by D. Eric Maikranz.
I travelled down the Saturday afternoon and they were to close off a major road into the city centre at midnight, only to reopen the morning I left. That was uncanny given that I’ve been to Cardiff many times and wanted to see Doctor Who filming every time and failed. The reason I knew about the planned filming was thanks to coverage in the local paper – a major part of the city centre was going to be used and would impact on pretty much everyone who lived or commuted by it. https://www.walesonline.co.uk/whats-on/film-news/mark-wahlberg-cardiff-newport-road-17104506
Now what fascinated me was the amount of planning that the filming for about at 54 hour period would have needed. Road closures (a major road at that), traffic management, barriers, security staff, as well as allowing residents and businesses to function as normal. It must have cost a fortune – something only a film with a Hollywood budget could afford.
The part of Newport Road being closed was between the city centre and my friend’s house so I knew it well. We got the bus passed on the Saturday afternoon and spotted that they’d already begun preparations, so later that evening about 9pm we wandered over before the barricade were raised.
Thanks to a helpful bit of set dressing we realised that a hotel was being turned into a New York City Police Department building and would be the focus of the filming. The Mercure Cardiff Holland House Hotel & Spa is a handsome, modern building which I’ve never really thought was that out of the ordinary. I’ve been to charity event there years ago and my friend used to use its gym. There was a lot of activity going on by the side of the hotel so that they would be ready to start as soon as possible once the road closures were in place.
I’ve always thought having a dog is wonderful excuse to wander past things and be nosy. In the absence of a dog I’ve now found being a runner is another way to pass by places with purpose. So early Sunday morning, about 7am I pulled on my trainers and ran towards the hotel. Road closure signs and people in high Vis jackets were out already. As I got close to the barricade that had been erected I got directed around it, down back alleys and roads. Not much to see except two massive lighting rigs we’d seen parked up the night before.
But it paid to go out early as there was a section of the barricade by a main road intersection that allowed tantalising glimpses between fences. Pausing on my jog I managed to snap a few pictures and could see filming taking place – extras standing round, NYC police cars and streetlights. I could also see some crew looking towards me and the gaps. A few hours later when we went into the centre they’d added some sheeting along the barricade to completely shield it.
They couldn’t stop people taking pictures from buildings overlooking the filming though, which essentially covered a city block. I think it was incredibly naive of them if they thought they could film in a major city centre and not get folk curious. Photos and videos appeared on social media quite quickly. https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/newport-road-filming-mark-wahlberg-17157103
On the Monday we walked passed again (no alternative if you wanted to avoid getting a detoured bus). They’d opened up a section of the barricade for some reason and it was easy to see inside the compound and witness some kind of action scene being filmed – men were hiding behind a car in what looked like a shootout. My friend and I paused at the corner of a junction to grab a quick picture when the traffic cleared. I ended up in an argument with a policeman who seemed to think two people equalled a crowd…
When I passed by Tuesday morning all roads were clear and other that some vehicles and crew down a side street, and some grey dust on the road there was nothing to show that New York City had been recreated in Cardiff. There were also no reported sightings of Mark Wahlberg.
I found it a fascinating glimpse into what happens on a major Hollywood film shoot. I’m curious why a location scout picked a hotel in Cardiff for the scene. I’m sure tax breaks and politics play a part. I look forward to seeing the final film when it’s released and I’ll be able to bore my friends with my tales of trying to watch the filming.