ONE of the world’s leading special effects experts has called on the Scottish Government to get work under way on the nation’s first film studio complex as soon as possible.
Steve Begg, who has just received an outstanding achievement award from Bafta Scotland, said the country’s standing as a potential location for big-budget films would soar if it had production facilities to match its spectacular landscapes and historic buildings.
The 52-year-old, who worked on Bond epics Casino Royale and Skyfall, is the latest industry figure to speak out on the issue, which is the subject of a major study by Scottish Enterprise into various options around central Scotland.
Edinburgh-born Begg said he was surprised a permanent studio had still not got off the ground in his home country as it had a proven record of standing in for other cities and countries around the world.
Begg urged the Scottish Government to get “really basic” infrastructure in place as soon as possible and then improve its facilities as work comes in and demand grows.
Begg, who is working with Michael Caine, Colin Firth and Samuel L Jackson on his latest film, said he would be the “first in the queue” to work in Scotland should a studio get off the ground.
His views have emerged amid mounting speculation Scotland is being lined up for location filming on the next Star Wars movie, which is to be based in the UK.
Two locations are vying to be the hub of film and TV production in Scotland – Cumbernauld, where the US sci-fi series Outlander is currently being filmed in a former warehouse complex, and in Govan, close to the existing Film City production hub.
Creative Scotland has ring-fenced £1 million from its budget for such a venture, while the Scottish Government has pledged to create a £2m loan fund in its latest budget.
Begg, who started out making effects in a garden shed before being discovered by Thunderbirds creator Gerry Anderson, said he had been forced to relocate to England to pursue his career.
His other films during a glittering 30-year career include Aliens, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, The Wolfman, The Golden Compass and Batman Begins.
During a visit to Glasgow for the Bafta Scotland awards, Begg told The Scotsman: “There’s a lot of talk about getting film production going up here, which I think is terrific. I’m very excited about it. People say there is already infrastructure up here, and that may be the case, but what you don’t have is a big, international, four-walled studio.
“Not only is Scotland a beautiful place for Scottish locations, but it can stand in for Canada and America, and I know it has done with films like World War Z. In Glasgow, you could virtually be anywhere in the world.
“I’d love to work in Scotland, I’d be the first in the queue. I’m as surprised as anyone that there isn’t a studio, I just don’t get it. Ultimately a film studio attracts millions and millions of pounds.
“In Belfast, they are using the old shipyards for film studios. That’s what they should be doing here. They need to take a really big area and start kitting it out. It could start really basic to begin with and once the work comes in you then tart it up.”
Scottish Enterprise has pledged to publish its analysis of options – including building a studio complex from scratch and converting existing buildings – within the next few months.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We’ve made clear our commitment to facilitating the creation of a film and TV studio for Scotland.”