Hollywood designer David Balfour slams studio failure

Scottish Bafta winner David Balfour, who has worked on films such as The Da Vinci Code, backs creation of new studio. Picture: Andy Buchanan
Scottish Bafta winner David Balfour, who has worked on films such as The Da Vinci Code, backs creation of new studio. Picture: Andy Buchanan
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A HOLLYWOOD prop designer honoured at the Scottish Baftas has warned the country is being badly “let down” by the lack of a proper film studio.

Martin Scorsese, Tim Burton, Kenneth Branagh and Andy Serkis were among those to record special tributes to Glasgow-born David Balfour, who has worked on films likeThe Da Vinci Code, Hugo, The Mummy, Cinderella, Sweeney Todd and the remake of The Jungle Book.

Speaking to The Scotsman after receiving his outstanding contribution award, Balfour urged the Scottish Government to get on with building the long-delayed venture.

The prop master, who started working at Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre, said Scotland had been talking about a film studio for 30 years while they had been built in Wales and Ireland.

He said filmmakers had no option but to shoot in the countryside in Scotland and said he could not explain why it had not happened before now.

Balfour was praised by Scorsese as “a legend” in a video message recorded for the ceremony in Glasgow, while Lord of the Rings star Serkis said he was “the most talented, most brilliant, forensic, artistic, creative props man in the universe.”

Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop instigated a film studio delivery group two and a half years ago a lobbying campaign by industry leaders. However a preferred site has never been announced amid concerns over where such a venture should be located and the need to avoid breaking strict EU state aid funding rules.

Balfour said: “My message to the Scottish Government was that they need to build (a studio) now and invest in the future.

“There’s so much talent coming out of this country. I work with them all the time in London and abroad. It’s time we did something. We’ve been talking about a studio for 30 years now.

“I don’t know why it’s not happened before now, I wish I could tell you. There are studios in Wales and Ireland… everywhere. I think we’ve been let down in that sense.”

Balfour cited the new big-screen version of Macbeth as an example of a major film that was shot on location in Scotland, but had to go elsewhere for interior filming due to the lack of a studio.

A temporary studio had to be created in a disused warehouse in Cumbernauld to allow the American time-travel fantasy Outlander ot be filmed there.

Balfour added: We’ve got the architecture and breathtaking landscapes, as well as swagger, attitude and style.

“Outlander has made a start, but the optimum is still a state-of-the-art purpose-built studio in central Scotland, where skills and apprenticeships can be developed.”