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Iconic flats

Florin Court- Star of the small screen

Florin Court is a beautiful building, a truly iconic block of flats. But few people outside London would be aware of its Art Deco charms were it not for the television dramatisations of Agatha Christie’s Poirot.

The ITV series first arrived on TV screens in 1989 and Florin Court has doubled as Poirot’s London home, ‘Whitehaven Mansions’ from the very first episode. Jeff Tessler, current Production Designer for Poirot says that Florin Court was the obvious choice for the programme makers. “There are very few blocks in London that would provide

the Art Deco image that was required. Florin Court has an excellent central location, and, other than changing the name of the building to Whitehaven Mansions, not much needed to be done.” Once a building has been chosen the production team have to get permission to film. For Poirot the film company only needed to use the outside of Florin Court, so permission would initially be sought from the owner of the freehold. The buildings managers would be consulted

and then, ideally, the leaseholders would be allowed their say. “Most people are delighted if their building appears in a television drama,” according to Jeff Tessler. “We always do all we can to minimise disruption. Even a short

scene can take many hours, so we have to ensure that people do not wait for more than a few minutes to enter or exit the building. The biggest difficulty we have is closing off the street. Most councils

have a Film Commission Office, and we get permission from them. It still takes a lot of organisation once permission has been granted. All parked cars need removing, and other anachronisms such as yellow lines and parking bays need disguising.” Jeff is fiercely proud of the work done by production designers, and as you would expect hates errors appearing on screen. “Most of the time when you see errors such as yellow lines on the road the Production Designer is not at fault. He would probably have been assured that the lines would be digitally removed during the post production process, only to find money being saved and the work not done” he says with amused resignation. Such is the difficulty and cost of closing off streets, that Florin Court is not often used for shooting. “We try to get a large number of different shots when we do have access to the site. We will shoot Poirot arriving and leaving a number of times, and in a variety of vehicles. We also have a large number of exterior shots of Florin Court on file. With all of

these available it might not be necessary to film there for two or three years.” There is, sadly, not too much money to be made by using your block of flats as a film location. Florin Court was only used for exterior

shots, and it is the disturbance caused by shooting interiors which is best compensated. If residents have been inconvenienced, the building

owner should use monies received from filming to go towards off-setting service charges. There are, however, no fixed regulations governing this. Florin Court will not be seen in any more Poirots during 2011, but Jeff Tessler does not think that the building’s illustrious film career is over


yet. “We only have four or five more Poirot stories written by Agatha Christie that we have not filmed. I think everyone involved would like to complete the set. I know David [Suchet] wants to finish the job. I also expect that Florin Court will appear on other programmes and in films….it really is a perfect example of a 1930s London building.” Jeff finds it difficult to watch anything without his Production Designer sensibilities coming to the fore. “It is a problem. I am always recognising locations and buildings that I have used or spotting places I might want to use. I watched The King’s Speech and enjoyed the film….but could not help but mentally list all the locations used that have featured in my career.” His favourite building for filming is not too far from Florin Court,

and also glories in its art deco styling. The Freemasons Hall in Queen Street, Covent Garden has also been extensively used in Poirot. “It really is the most beautiful building” says Jeff, “and very familiar

to viewers, being the exterior of M15 in Spooks as well as being an ever-present in Poirot”. As, indeed is Florin Court. It seems that after 23 years as Whitehaven Mansions there are perhaps a few final shots to be filmed of the building doubling as the famous home of Hercule Poirot.

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