Steve Patterson started Supersets, which makes sets for film, TV, fashion shows and pop videos, in a series of railway arches in Ladywell in 2015, and now they have plans to expand to Catford, putting south east London firmly on the movie-making map
Words: Nikki Spencer
Lead image: Some scenes from Cuckoo’s Calling were shot in the centre of Catford
When Steve Patterson from Supersets says that every day is different, he really does mean it.
‘In one week, before Christmas, we were making hundreds of bespoke snowflake LED lights for Uniqlo’s flagship Oxford Street store, creating a giant sleigh for the Royal Albert Hall, making a huge grain silo for a WWE wrestler to blow up, and building a 14th century thatched cottage for a film starring Charles Dance.’
He adds that in the summer he was in the Seychelles working on High & Dry, a brand new comedy series for E4 made by Steve Coogan’s production company Baby Cow. Other recent projects include creating interiors for JK Rowling’s Cuckoo’s Calling BBC crime drama – they worked on model Lula’s glitzy Kensington apartment – and Jack Whitehall’s hit Sky One comedy drama Bounty Hunters.
Supersets have also built sets for everything from Saturday night TV shows such as Strictly Come Dancing to pop videos, including former One Direction star Liam Payne’s first single, Strip That Down. Film credits include Free Fire, starring Cillian Murphy and Brie Larson, where they created an abandoned Boston warehouse on a Brighton industrial estate, and they have made store displays for fashion designers including Karl Lagerfeld and Chloe.
Patterson, who lives in Lee with his partner and three children, started the company in a series of railway arches next to Ladywell station back in 2015. Perhaps not surprisingly, the large open plan office is now dotted with all sorts of weird and wonderful remnants from past jobs.
There’s a couple of giant sharks from a shop window display that have been put to good use as coat hooks, a shield from a Snow White film and giant fluffy white clouds from a Marc Jacobs fashion show hang from the ceiling.
You never know quite what you will find when you turn up for work. One day I found a severed limb on my desk and what looked like a bomb
‘You never know quite what you will find when you turn up for work,’ reveals Caitlin McMillan, who is responsible for marketing and outreach at Supersets. ‘One day I found a severed limb on my desk and what looked like a bomb. There is never a dull moment!’
Most of the smaller sets and props are currently made onsite in a series of adjoining workshops by a team of in house carpenters and freelancers, but early next year Supersets are moving up the road to Catford.
‘It has been great being in Ladywell, and when art directors come to see us here they love all the local shops and cafes on our doorstep, but we quickly outgrew this space and we are delighted we have managed to find somewhere bigger nearby,’ says McMillan.
After a successful £46,000 crowdfunding campaign this summer they have just taken over a massive derelict council warehouse on Thomas Lane, which will not only provide more space for their set building, but also enable them to offer a whole host of community initiatives from drive-in movies with Catford Film to educational opportunities with Lewisham Youth Theatre, alongside plans for murals, a skate park and an urban beach as well.
‘We have got lots of exciting plans and the support from people locally, and the council, has been wonderful,’ says McMillan. ‘There is so much stuff happening with the regeneration of Catford at the moment and we want our workshop to be at the heart of it.’
Supersets also plan to offer apprenticeships for young people. ‘We want to encourage local kids to think about working in the industry. As painters or carpenters they don’t have to stick to houses, they could be working on film sets,’ explains Patterson, who followed his dad into carpentry, and credits him with his career choice.
There used to be a huge film studio in Catford in the 1920s and then they closed it and opened Pinewood. Over the last few years, more and more TV and film companies have been using this area as a location
‘My dad is an amazing carpenter, but the one thing he had never done was work in film and TV so I decided to do that. I still sometimes get him to help me out on certain tricky jobs. To a lot of people, the film and TV industry can seem like a closed industry, but it doesn’t have to be that way.’
Over the next few months Supersets will be converting the Catford depot and hope to be able to move in by February. The arches at Ladywell will then be rented out to local artists and creatives.
‘When we took over the arches in Ladywell they were derelict and in a really bad state with graffiti and rubbish all over the place,’ says McMillan. ‘So we have renovated a wreck before, though obviously not on such a large scale. Supersets have created quite a few derelict warehouse sets for movies, but this time we are doing it the other way round!’
And Patterson and his team are looking forward to bringing film making back to Catford.
‘There used to be a huge film studio in Catford in the 1920s and then they closed it and opened Pinewood,’ he explains.
‘Over the last few years, more and more TV and film companies have been using this area as a location; recently they shot some scenes from Cuckoo’s Calling in the centre of Catford and some of the next series of ITV’s popular show Endeavour was filmed locally.
We reckon having Supersets in the town centre will help build on this and put Catford back on the movie map.’