Scotland ‘Needs New Film Studio Or Risks Losing Out’

FEATURES | 20.01.22

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Photo | Ryan Hendrick/Magic Monkey Films
Perfect Strangers is about a man and woman trying to get home for Christmas

It’s a bit like buses. You wait around for a while and then two rom-coms come at once.

Anyone living near Fort William or Glencoe at the moment, can’t have missed the film crews on location in the area.

First there was Falling for Figaro, about an aspiring opera singer in the Highlands, played by Danielle Macdonald alongside Joanna Lumley (whose opera director husband Stephen Barlow is a consultant on the film.)

Then Magic Monkey Films, set up by Scottish director Ryan Hendrick, arrived in Glencoe with their tinsel and festive jumpers to begin filming their Christmas rom-com, Perfect Strangers.

Photo | Ryan Hendrick/Magic Monkey Films
Perfect Strangers was shot in the Highlands

The cast includes Sylvester McCoy, Frazer Hines, Sanjeev Kohli and Claire Grogan.

By the weekend, they’d moved to Fort William where they’d enlisted the choir of Duncansburgh Macintosh Church to sing Christmas carols on the high street (rather helpfully, the local council had left the Christmas decorations up).

It’s believed the new Batman movie, starring Robert Pattinson (already nicknamed R-Batz) will film some key scenes in Glasgow next month, although Screen Scotland would not confirm details since it “provides a confidential locations service to film and TV productions looking to film in Scotland.”

What they can say is that Scotland continues to experience something of a boom in filmmaking – a record 95 million in 2017 – with that figure expected to rise again when the latest numbers are published.

Other filming in the Highlands included the latest Bond movie No Time to Die, which filmed a key section in the Cairngorms last summer.

Films made in Edinburgh recently include Fast and Furious 9 (the franchise previously filmed in Glasgow) and Our Ladies (the new film version of the Alan Warner novel The Sopranos).

Sam Mendes filmed a key section of his Oscar-nominated film 1917 in Govan graving docks in Glasgow.

There have also been a number of TV dramas shot here including channel 4 drama Deadwater Fell starring David Tennant (filmed in Dunlop and Kilbarchan), Call the Midwife’s Christmas special (which relocated to the Hebrides) and The Nest starring Martin Compston (shot on location in Glasgow).

But this filming boom isn’t unique to Scotland and many people in the industry argue that a national film studio would increase Scotland’s offer substantially.

The American TV series Outlander has established Wardpark Studios in Cumbernauld, but with season five due to air shortly, it’s rarely free for other productions.

Photo | Aimee Spinks
Outlander has been one of the few big-budget productions based in Scotland

“Hollywood does come here,” says Ryan Hendrick, director of Perfect Strangers. “You only need to look at Fast and Furious or Batman – big blockbusters do come here but they only come in for a couple of weeks and then they go away again.

“For the industry to be sustained at home grown level, to really benefit, you need to have a good strong base of films made here where people can develop and be nourished and they don’t go away to London or Los Angeles.

“I think Scotland does need a studio. I think we lose out to various incoming productions as a result of not having one.

“If you want big Hollywood productions coming in for a couple of weeks to shoot on location, that’s great but if you have a studio you’re more likely to bring them in for a longer period of time and that’s what sustains our industry. ”

A major film studio facility could be established in the Port of Leith

Fourteen months ago, Isabel Davis of Screen Scotland insisted they were closer than they’d ever been to establishing a facility in the old Pelamis building in the Port of Leith.

If a private developer could be found, she said, a studio could be up and running by the end of 2019.

With that deadline past, and a new season of filming starting over, many wonder if Scotland’s moment has passed – particularly since many areas with established studios are expanding and adding second or third studios to their complex. But perhaps this will be the year.

Asked to comment, Screen Scotland said: “We are completing the final stage of due diligence on the necessary technical and legal processes and will have more to say shortly.”

(By: Pauline McLean, BBC Scotland arts correspondent | BBC NEWS)

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