IT IS ALMOST two years since funding for Scotland’s first permanent film studio was pledged. At times in the intervening period it seems as if there has been enough written about the idea to fill the pages of an entire film script.
Yet the idea is fairly simple – create a studio complex, with at least two major sound stages, within an hour or two’s drive-time from some of the finest unspoiled scenery anywhere in Europe, and watch the blockbuster films and big-money drama series flood in.
But could those long-held dreams be about to become reality? There is a fair degree of pressure on the Scottish Government and its agencies to make a strong commitment to the concept within the next few weeks.
Leading film industry figures have spent the last year trying to hammer home the message that Scotland is being left behind when it comes to both infrastructure for making film and TV productions, as well as the financial support on offer to companies. Wales and Northern Ireland are streets ahead of what is on offer here.
But the picture is confused, to say the least, as to what kind of facility Scotland needs, where it should be located and who will be paying for it. A study of various options for studio facilities, published earlier this year by Scottish Enterprise, failed to come to any firm conclusions. Instead, the private sector was urged to bring forward its own proposals.
Most Scottish film companies are based in Glasgow and there will be huge disappointment within the industry if there is no commitment to support new facilities there. Film City Glasgow, an existing hub based in the old Govan Town Hall secured that initial pledge of £1 million in funding from arts agency Creative Scotland in September 2012 and has been lobbying hard to be the preferred partners for the project, with the city council firmly behind its plans.
Last week reports emerged that a consortium behind plans for a site at Straiton in Midlothian had already submitted a development brief to the local authority.
Another contender is the vast warehouse site where Outlander has been based, in Cumbernauld. But its facilities are likely to be tied up for the foreseeable future after a second season of the show was confirmed last week.
The Scottish Government has had a lot to say about broadcasting in an independent Scotland, but a lot less to say, so far, about the future of film-making. All that is on the table for a film studio is the possibility of a £2m loan.
Some form of decision is promised by “the end of the summer”. But if there is not a substantial increase in funding, a robust strategy in place and a clear timeline, then this is a saga that could run and run.