Outlander gives Scottish film industry £40m boost

Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan star in lucrative romantic fantasy Outlander. Picture: AP
Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan star in lucrative romantic fantasy Outlander. Picture: AP
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THE FILMING of a US fantasy television series in Scotland sparked the most lucrative year ever for film and TV productions – virtually doubling their value from five years ago.

The year-long shooting schedule for the first series of Outlander helped deliver a £40 million boom for the industry, compared to £21 million generated from the screen sector in 2010.

The lucrative benefits could be repeated for years to come as a second full season was commissioned before the first run of 16 episodes was even shown.

A vast warehouse complex in Cumbernauld, Lanarkshire, was converted into a temporary studio by US cable channel Starz and entertainment giants Sony, who are behind the show, which will be based there for its entire second season.

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Locations across Scotland have also been deployed for Outlander – which was thought to have a £50 million budget for its first season – including Doune Castle near Dunblane, Falkland and Culross in Fife, Blackness Castle in West Lothian, the Highland Folk Museum in Newtonmore, and Pollock Park in Glasgow. Around 200 crew and 2,000 actors have been working on the show, dubbed Scotland’s answer to Game of Thrones, with filming due to get under way on the second season in the spring.

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There is a huge global audience for the time travel show, adapted from US author Diana Gabaldon’s bestselling series, which focuses on the adventures and romantic entanglements of Claire, a married British Army nurse from 1945, and Jamie, an 18th-century warrior, after she is transported back to the time of the Jacobite Rebellion.

While around five million people are thought to have watched the first episode across various platforms in the US and the show has been picked up by many countries, its UK premiere has yet to be confirmed.

Although £20 million worth of economic benefit had initially been predicted for Outlander, its year-long shoot was far longer than the predicted 38 weeks.

The production is the biggest single inward investment into the film and TV industry in Scotland. The first batch of filming on the show was included in the overall figures for 2013 which also included the film shoots on What We Did On Our Holiday, the comedy drama David Tennant shot in the Highlands, and The Silent Storm, a Second World War drama Homeland star Damien Lewis made on Mull.

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Last year’s major film productions included the big-screen adaptation of Sunset Song, which was on location in Aberdeenshire for two weeks, and Robert Carlyle’s directorial debut, The Long Midnight of Barney Thomson, filmed in Glasgow.

A spokeswoman for Creative Scotland said: “It is anticipated that production spend for 2014 will dramatically exceed 2013 and we expect this to be in excess of £40 million.”

Natalie Usher, director of film at Creative Scotland, said: “In terms of production spend, that figure was £33.6 million in 2013, the highest ever in Scotland so far. That included part of the first season of Outlander, which was a production that we attracted here to spend money, engage with crews. It has been incredibly significant for Scotland.”

Janet Archer, Creative Scotland’s chief executive, is to make the case for the Scottish Government to allocate millions in additional funding for the film industry to help attract big-money productions from overseas, saying “what ought to be an achievable amount” of money could have a “significant impact” for the economy.

She added: “We should not underestimate the worth that the industry is able to achieve now. We feel that we don’t account for that story visibly enough. We all have to take responsibility for that, as succcess breeds success. It is really important we tell a powerful story in terms of what we are achieving.”