Line of Duty: Northern Ireland location scout ‘in the know’ on series finale

As series five of BBC drama Line of Duty reaches its highly-anticipated finale tomorrow night, we spoke to a Co Antrim man who knows exactly how the hit show will play out ... but he’s giving nothing away.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 4th May 2019, 9:00 am
Steve (MARTIN COMPSTON), Hastings (ADRIAN DUNBAR), Kate (VICKY MCCLURE) on set in Northern Ireland. (C) World Productions - Photographer: Peter Marley
Steve (MARTIN COMPSTON), Hastings (ADRIAN DUNBAR), Kate (VICKY MCCLURE) on set in Northern Ireland. (C) World Productions - Photographer: Peter Marley

David Cooke, 43, from Larne is the location manager for the NI-filmed cop drama which has become essential Sunday night viewing.

Series five’s opening episode drew in a peak audience of over eight million viewers, with each subsequent episode averaging an audience of seven million.

Mr Cooke said: “We get the scripts at the start of each series. You have to read them to know what’s going on in each scene to see what location you’ll need.

Location manager David Cooke from Larne

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    “I do get asked by my friends every now and then what’s going to be happen. There’s been a lot more questions this series.

    “I’m always teasing my wife when I get the scripts – she’s a big fan. I’ll be asking her if she wants to know what’s going to happen, but I never give anything away.”

    The first series of Line of Duty was shot in Birmingham before filming moved to Belfast. Mr Cooke – a freelance location manager – joined the show for series four and five.

    He said: “I don’t know if I’ll be working on the next series. I hope so but nothing is given.

    The opening scene of Line of Duty series five was shot on Divis Moutain. (C) World Productions - Photographer: Peter Monaghan

    “With the second series they did it pretty tightly so people wouldn’t know where it was shot, but these last three series, particularly the last two I’ve worked on, they’ve felt a bit more confident with showing a bit more of Belfast, even though it still is meant to be the Midlands.

    “Obviously you avoid prominent landmarks like the cranes and the Albert Clock.”

    Asked how he goes about securing filming locations, David said: “Normally I’d take a brief from the director and production designer and I would try to get maybe four or five options that I thought worked well in terms of layout and camera angles.”

    Of his job scouting locations, Mr Cooke said: “I’ve been at this for about 15 years. It’s changed a lot in that time.

    A screenshot of Corbett (Stephen Graham) and Lisa (Rochenda Sandall) in the Limelight complex

    “There wasn’t much of an industry when I was coming out of school, it took me a while to drift into it. I was always interested in the creative side of things, I made a few short films and wanted to get into the business full time. Locations was one of the departments that was recruiting.

    “For a long time there wasn’t any BBC productions made here. What the industry needed was a large scale returning series as a catalyst. Game of Thrones has been incredible for this country.”

    Mr Cooke said at least 60 Belfast locations feature in the six episodes of this series.

    He commented: “For each location you might have to find about four or five possibilities so that’s a lot of locations that have to be scouted to reach the final 60 odd.”

    Mr Cooke said: “It helps that Line of Duty has recognition. I think Thandie Newton coming into series four really helped the show grow in popularity along with the move to BBC One. When you’ve got recognition it’s much easier approaching places to ask if you can film there.”

    Discussing some of the locations used he said: “The Limelight worked well as the nightclub used by the OCG (organised crime gang). The Limelight is a busy club itself so there’s filming logistics – how long you can get it for, how quickly we can turn it around for them to start setting up for their club nights.”

    He added: “The Telegraph Building (former home of the Belfast Telegraph) was a good one for us. We were able to get multiple locations out of it.”

    Mr Cooke, who is currently working on a comedy-horror film written by an Omagh director, said: “I can’t take credit for East Belfast Yacht Club – that’s the pier where people tend to get murdered. That was scouted by the guy from series three.”

    Recalling some of the other locations used in the series he said: “We were up Divis for the opening hijack scene. The service tunnel at the Waterfront was the secure facility – it looks like the entrance to a nuclear bunker. The Harbour Estate was a great location for the shoot out.”