“Stunning views everywhere you look” – Halifax drone operator on filming Happy Valley 3

in Halifax

Phil Fearnley works for Halo Vue Aerial Filming and has worked on Gentleman Jack as well as the hugely popular third series of Happy Valley. Written by Sally Wainwright and starring Sarah Lancashire, the BBC One drama is a showcase of Calderdale filming locations.

Phil Fearnley on Happy Valley

We caught up with Phil to ask about filming in the Halifax area:

Drone filming on Happy Valley or indeed any of Sally Wainwrights productions is always a joy. We also filmed on both series of Gentleman Jack with Sally.

As a drone operator we are just a very small part of the production team and yet crutial when visually setting a scene.

Happy Valley used several different drone teams on the production but for my team we found it challenging due to weather conditions but super rewarding especially when you see

the shots on TV. The Yorkshire country side just gives the whole program a look of epic-ness, if there is such a word. Calderdale really is the most amazing location to work in with stunning views everywhere you look.

The main difficulties to overcome when working on a major drama with drones is keeping everyone safe. We careful coordinate with various departments such as camera, lighting, sound, and special effects, to ensure the smooth and successful completion of each scene. It’s a big team effort and overcoming these challenges is all part of the job for a drone team. I’m pleased to say filming on Happy Valley went without any major issues due to good planning and preparation.

I’m a Halifax lad and in fact live on the same street as the filming location in Ripponden so I guess all the locations are my favourite but shooting one of the high speed car chase scenes in episode 3 was a highlight. Not just because of the stunning location but the nature of of the flight. I won’t give the location away but it involved flying at high speed to keep up with the car full of baddies flying just feet from the ground passing under telephone cables and power lines. Credit to this goes to my camera operator, brother Ian Fearnley who keeps the subjects in frame whilst I fly the drone keeping everything safe. It’s a team effort involving three of us with myself flying the drone, a skilled drone camera operator keeping the subject in frame and a focus puller keeping everything sharp and in focus.

In terms of what I’m working on next, I can’t say too much due to NDA’s but there some big shoots this year. I’ve also got some great non dramas currently on the go including Ch5’s Spring Time on the farm, BBC Countryfile, Ch5’s Bargin Loving Brits by the Sea, and at the moment I’m just about to finish a very long shoot for BBC4’s Canal Boat Diaries.

So it should be another brilliant year.

Phil Fearnley

Phil’s Drone Video of Calderdale


Find the locations

Get a full list of locations used in the series here.


Watch Happy Valley

You can watch Happy Valley on iPlayer in the UK or see the finale live on BBC One on Sunday 5th February at 9pm. The show will be going live in the US in May 2023 on BBC America, AMC+, and Acorn TV.


Take a Happy Valley Holiday

There’s a new Happy Valley & Brontë tour just been announced by Just Go! coach holidays, which includes 4 nights in a hotel and a tour of locations from the Happy Valley filming.


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