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The Sheffield culture guide written by in-the-know locals

Mark Herbert

Whether it was the shadow of Park Hill in ’71, a familiar park in This Is England or a favourite takeaway outlet in Four Lions, you might have spotted Sheffield in Warp Films' productions over the years since it started out in the early 2000s. That’s because – wonderfully – Warp Films is based in Sheffield, which means some of the best British drama is being created in our backyard.

We spoke to Mark Herbert, joint CEO of Warp, about the company's beginnings, This is England, and Sheffield's independent spirit.

Can you tell me a little bit about the origins of Warp Films?
It was a very organic process. It was initially an idea from Warp Records founders Steve Beckett and Rob Mitchell. They wanted to build on the music videos they’d done and look at marketing short music films. Then sadly Rob passed away and Warp Films wasn’t being run by anyone really – it was more of an idea with a bit of investment. This is when I came along. I’d known them both and I was a producer, so it organically evolved into what it is now. We set out to break the mould and to make things that have a different point of view. I think we’ve been consistent with that. With everything we make we always ask “do we think it’s brilliant?” and “do we think the people that are trying to make it are brilliant?” If both answers are “yes” then we’ll give it a go.

When you started out with This is England, did you have any idea that ten years later it would have made such a huge impact, won a ton of BAFTAs and have a TV series?
No, not at all. Me and Shane were talking about this after the last BAFTAs. We went back to the hotel and went “God, this is mental!” Chanel (Creswell) had just won best supporting actress and there were all these people there that were part of this massive thing. When we were making the original film and were casting Shaun, all we could think about was that. If someone had come along and told us where we’d be now, we’d have thought they were mad.

You've had the opportunity to work with some outstanding individuals. Who else would you really love to work with?
There are a lot of people I would love to work with right across the production process. The film that really blew me away last year was Alejandro Iñárritu’s The Revenant. The director of photography, Emmanuel Lubezki, is an amazing talent. What he did on The Revenant was incredible, so I’d love to work with him. It’s a tough one to answer really – there’s so many people I’d like to work with it is hard to single one out.

Why is Sheffield a good place to have a production company?
The main reason is because it is a great place to live. There is also a great influx of talent. I’m a Sheffield Hallam graduate and quite a lot of the people that work for us are Hallam graduates too. It is a great resource for new talent. It's also quite helpful being outside the capital. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those northerners that is anti-London – we have an office and a team down there – but I can make decisions better up here. By that I mean, if I am looking at projects, a director, writer or a screenplay, I am not affected as much by whether there is a buzz about the person or not. People say: “is there a lot of heat on this person?” I don’t care about heat; I just want to know if they are really good.

What do you love about Sheffield?
The sense of community. Even though it is a city, there is a real sense of community. It’s just a lot of big villages and I like that. I like its independent spirit too, both in music and art. I like its honesty really. It just feels a very honest place, where you can’t get ideas above your station.

What would you do to improve the city?
I think they are getting there with cycle lanes. I think that the cycle lanes should share with pedestrians rather than with the traffic.