A VAST TV and film studio complex will be a permanent legacy of Scotland’s answer to hit fantasy series Game of Thrones, under plans announced by the owner of the industrial site where filming has just started.
Terry Thomson, owner of the former Isola factory in Cumbernauld where US sci-fi show Outlander is being filmed, said the complex would help prevent Scotland missing out on major productions in future.
Mr Thomson revealed he had struck a deal with the makers of the time-travel fantasy series, set in the Scottish Highlands, to leave hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of facilities behind when they shut the production down.
His plans dramatically raise the stakes over which location will be home to a permanent studio complex, with a rival project in Glasgow set to cost at least £15 million to deliver.
Around £640,000 is currently on offer from the Scottish Government and Creative Scotland to help with the making of Outlander and ensure as many facilities as possible are retained at the new Cumbernauld complex.
A deal to bring the Outlander series, based on American author Diana Gabaldon’s best-selling series of Jamie and Claire novels, was revealed in June.
A 200-strong crew is working on the 16-part series, expected to be worth around £20m to the economy. Historic Scotland has already agreed to shut down one of its main attractions, Doune Castle in Perthshire, for a month to accommodate filming.
Mr Thomson said 130,000sq ft of facilities are already in place at Wardpark Studios, with work under way to create a further 65,000sq ft in warehouses which have been derelict for eight years.
The Scotsman was given an exclusive guided tour around the site where production of Outlander, which is due to start screening in the US next summer, is taking place amid tight security.
First Minister Alex Salmond announced in July that public money would be found to support Outlander to ensure a “lasting studio legacy that would enable further large-scale productions to be filmed in Scotland”. However, details of the potential financial package have been under wraps until now.
Two major sound stages have been created for Outlander, and a further two are planned in other parts of the complex by Mr Thomson, whose engineering firm received an approach about filming the US series there just ten days after buying the site earlier this year.
Mr Thomson, chairman of engineering firm Thomson Pettie Group, said: “We are really keen to create a long-term production facility on the site.
“It’s obvious there was a great deal of disappointment about Scotland missing out on Game of Thrones. People are crying out for a permanent facility in Scotland to ensure something like that doesn’t happen again.
“Outlander is only using around two-thirds of the warehouses here at the moment. The deal we have struck is that everything fitted to the building stays. From day one, my thought was that this should be a permanent facility and would last well beyond Outlander.”
Can be two
A remake of 1986 cult fantasy action film Highlander is back on the cards after a new director was signed up.
Summit Entertainment has appointed Cedric Nicolas-Troyan to the role that 28 Weeks Later director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo quit about a year ago.
The original film starred Sean Connery and used locations in the Highlands, including Eilean Donan Castle, and Cioch Buttress on Skye.
Work on the remake is expected to start next year. The original Highlander was a hit and was followed by movie sequels and a television series.