Possible film studio in Scotland

Possible film studio in Scotland

A report published this month confirms, that for the Scottish film industry to grow, major investment has to be put into a facility to accommodate mobile productions.

Thanks to its unique scenery and atmosphere, Scotland hosts regular flying visits from major Hollywood productions and stars. So it’s a tragedy that there are no major facilities to enable Scotland to be a base of production rather than simply a “shot on location” credit.

In a recent report, Creative Scotland gave a dire warning that unless a long-term strategy was put in place, Scotland would continue to fall behind other countries thanks to a lack of studio space. With independent filmmakers claiming that Scotland was in a crisis it’s clear that something needs to be done.

Films like Skyfall, World War Z and Harry Potter, have all had major components shot in Scotland, so there is an appetite to do business here. And why not? We have some of the best creative talent in the world. But currently they have to go elsewhere if they want to perform at the top of the international industry.

The massive international hit Game of Thrones, filmed its pilot episode in Scotland, but then lost it’s production to Belfast’s Titanic Studios. And who knows what else Scotland will be overlooked for now that a new Pinewood studio complex is to be built in Wales.

Scottish Enterprise released a significant report yesterday in partnership with Creative Scotland, stating that, with recent tax incentives Scotland would increasingly become an attractive option for filmmakers, but warned “Scotland currently has no dedicated film and TV studio, and this constrains its ability to compete in this market.”

Five options were considered in the report. Detailing facilities at Dalmarnock, Gartcosh, Wardpark, Pacific Quay and a lower risk “Foundation Studio” at the Pacific quay site. It’s worth pointing out that the Wardpark studio option is already occupied by Sony/Starz production of Outlander, in warehouse conversions.

Of the options illustrated, the expansion of Film City Glasgow’s site at Pacific Quay is the favourite. Tiernan Kelly, director of Film City Glasgow was quoted in the Scotsman today as saying that Pacific Quay could become “the most connected screen production facility in Europe.”

“In the wider area there is now a critical mass of screen and creative companies, with the major terrestrial broadcasters, 40,000 sq ft of post-production facilities, the Glasgow School of Art Digital Design Studio, and the SSE Hydro and SECC complex.”

The estimated cost of the full Pacific Quay expansion is set at some £54m. Certainly a big ask for investment. So the smaller Foundation Studio option is favoured by the report.

Costing £15m it would be a 70,000 square foot facility with half being occupied by two sound stages and half workshops; but no space for facilities village, back lot, water tank or other flexible space. However it’s intended that this would form the beginning for future expansion to be built on with the initial site seeing a completion around 2017. Funding is expected to come from private investment in the first instance, and failing that, public funding top ups or government assistance.

While it is an excellent start, it does however feel like a small gesture to the industry compared to the investment in Wales and what is available in England. Private investment and the Industry in Scotland should put its all into trying to bring a fully realised studio with all the facilities that go with it. Not to be cynical, but “future expansion” has a habit of never coming. Some bravery is required on the part of investors here certainly, but the rewards for the industry and Scotland as a whole would be massive.

The government needs to do its bit too. For private investment to really have confidence in the project, productions have to continue to want to come to Scotland. And that will only happen with the continuation of funding and tax breaks for film. Currently only a maximum of £300,000 is available for feature films in Scotland. No matter the scale, cast, or expected gross. We will see what happens when Creative Scotland outlines a new strategy in June for the industry.


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Possible film studio in Scotland
Written by Chuck Cumming

Editor at 20/20 Productions

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