Netflix film The Dig showcases region’s big screen potential

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A movie telling the extraordinary true story of Sutton Hoo in Suffolk will pique interest in the historic site and showcase the wider region as a filmmaking location.

The Dig, starring Ralph Fiennes, Carey Mulligan and Lily James, was filmed on location in Suffolk and Norfolk last year and launches on Netflix tomorrow (Friday 29 January).

Based on the 2007 novel of the same name by John Preston, it reimagines the events surrounding the 1939 discovery of the burial ship, and the relationship between Edith Pretty, who owned the land, and Basil Brown, the local archaeologist she appointed to excavate the site.

The horde of Anglo-Saxon treasures unearthed at the site, near Woodbridge, is described as “one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time” and revolutionised our understanding of early England.

Sutton Hoo is run by The National Trust and the development of its visitor facilities, including a viewing tower for the celebrated Royal Burial Mound, received £200,000 from New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership’s Growing Places Fund.

Covid-19 has seen the heritage site closed to the public for much of the past year, but the high-profile Netflix film is expected to tempt more visitors when the easing of restrictions allows it to reopen.

Nick Collinson, General Manager at Sutton Hoo, said: “Many of the events and characters depicted in The Dig are inspired by real events and real people and we’re excited to see the incredible story of Sutton Hoo brought to life, in this new film by Netflix.

“It remains one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time and we look forward to welcoming people back with renewed interest in one of Suffolk’s great treasures when lockdown restrictions ease.”

Carey Mulligan and Ralph Fiennes with staff and volunteers from The National Trust. Credit: Larry Horricks/Netflix 2021

Filming took place last autumn and Screen Suffolk locations used in the film include Thorpeness Beach, Shingle Street, a footpath in Snape on Suffolk Wildlife Trust land, and an RSPB site called Boyton Marsh. The unit base was set up in the Snape Maltings.

Screen Suffolk has secured over 500 locations all over the county since it launched and is contracted by and represents all Suffolk district councils and Suffolk County Council.

Rachel Aldridge, Operations and Buisiness Development Manager, said: ‘We now have a huge database of locations that we manage on behalf of the council and private owners. We work with many organisations all over Suffolk and have worked hard to build contacts.

“This ensures that when a film like The Dig comes to Suffolk, we know exactly who they need to talk to.”

Location scouts working on The Dig contacted Screen Suffolk to help identify places that would set the tone of the film. Although the main dig location was in Surrey, director Simon Stone was adamant they film in Suffolk.

He said: ‘You go to Suffolk once and visit the estuary lands and you see such a unique landscape, like a world that you just don’t recognise as quintessentially English… and so I thought to myself this is a real opportunity to show a side of England that you don’t usually see…. as you see, it’s (Suffolk) constantly through the film, we keep cutting back to shots that were shot in the environment where it took place.”

Norfolk Screen, a new service founded by Claire Chapman (Managing Director) and Craig Higgins (Head of Development), is championing all that Norfolk has to offer local and incoming production companies in terms of the region’s wonderful locations, rostra of local talent, services and facilities.

“As we all know, incoming screen production reaps huge benefits for the local economy, so it’s great for Suffolk and Norfolk that The Dig chose to shoot in the East of England,” said Claire.

“It is no secret that Norfolk has hosted a number of notable film and TV productions – ranging from classic TV shows such as Dad’s Army to epic Hollywood blockbusters such as Atonement, Shakespeare In Love and Avengers: Age of Ultron, British feature classics like 45 Years, Yesterday and Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, and most recently The Personal Life of David Copperfield.

“It is so important that we shout about the county and its assets to production companies and encourage economic and cultural growth in the regional screen sector.”

 To find out more about Sutton Hoo, go to

To find out more about the LEP’s Growing Places Fund, click here

Header pic credit: Netflix

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