Flags for film and TV
Taking a call from a film or TV company needing our help with flag and banner props, historical and make-believe,is one of the highlights of working with flags.
There are two types of flags which most enquiries fall into. Firstly, the make believe ‘Cinderella’ flags, mythical flags made to the film producer’s imagination and made for special productions and never to be seen again (most like given away as trophies to the cast). A good example of these is the flags recently designed for the Star Wars film (2015).
The second type are those flags to be flown is historical productions and this type of flag, national or military (or even personal) must be accurate to the period in which the flag is set. For these historical flags we usually avoid researching on the internet, as experience has shown us that you can’t be sure of the accuracy of the information.
Period films, documentaries and events
Period events sometimes require regular issue national flags, made new and then ‘distressed’ back to show wear. In the 1970s when Admiralty bunting (bunting is the term used for flag fabric) was made with a combination of nylon and wool fibres this was relatively easy to do as the natural fibres would take discolourants and bleaching well. The modern woven polyester MOD spec fabrics are harder to change (which is great if you want your flag to last but not so great if you want to age the fabric). With this in mind, we have become peculiarly specialist in the margination of flags in good old fashioned NAAFI (or these days - builder’s) tea which works a treat!
When a production focuses on a specific historical period, the flags and standards can be complicated, fairly expensive but beautiful and accurate and in no small part due to a good degree of research. We hold what is probably the largest flag reference library in private hands (some 2000 books) and are able to reference and put our hands on the details of the appropriate flags for the right time in history which otherwise might not be available through conventional library and internet research.
We long ago learned that procurement for films try to work to a tight budget and want as much as possible for as little as possible, and when this is genuinely the case we do make what is needed and hire the goods out but ultimately the cost may well be as high as if the flags are purchased outright.
As an example we were contacted by a film producer asking for flags relevant to a period of conflict between France and Britain in 1792 in the Caribbean. The scene was for British Naval Forces against French land forces defending the island in question and we were asked which French Land forces would have been involved and could we make the required regimental standard.
Having discovered that the French forces in question were republican (as the period covered the early years of the French revolution) the flag bearers could have been supporters of King Louis VI and we advised that the colours of the Fifth Battalion of the Republican Army would be the most likely candidate to fit the bill. We were trusted on this information and fixed a price for the hire of the flag which would send back after the making of the film going on to make a beautiful French Military revolutionary standard. The film producers were pleased with what we produced and the the flag played exactly the right part in the context of the film.
Filming over – the flag arrived back through the post and was still on my office floor in a semi unwrapped state when the phone rang and another film company making a film era c.1810 (this time based in Warsaw) asked for the exact same flag. Napoleon was having trouble with the countries of Austria and Russia on his eastern borders a bit before his 1812 invasion of Russia and we knew that the French units under the flag we had already made would have been appropriate and so we hired the same flags out again.
The standard in question duly was returned and is in our stockroom to this day. With a bit of luck Napoleon will attack again and it will be pulled out to fly once again!
What have we made lately....?
We have very recently made several WWII Nazi Swastika banners and flags - this time for sale rather than to hire – historically the Germans always lost in battles and the flags are sent up in smoke, so we are called upon to make these design of flags more than most. Look out for The 43 on our screen in 2016 (http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/news/the-43-story-of-how-uk-jews-fought-a-wave-of-post-war-anti-semitism-to-be-subject-of-new-tv-series-a6677751.html).
These were for the 2016 film release 'Anthropoid'.
We were sub contracted to another company to help make the fully sewn pseudo historical Nazi banners, flags and coffin drapes for the BBC One series SS-GB.
Below we show these on our workshop tables just before shipment to the set.