BACKERS of multi-million pound plans for a huge film studio complex on Glasgow’s waterfront have expressed fears about the project being relegated by the US sci-fi series that is being shot in a former warehouse in central Scotland.
Producers based at Scotland’s major production base in Govan, who have been pursuing a dedicated studio for nearly two years, are concerned that they may risk losing out in favour of the former Isola factory where time-travel fantasy Outlander is being shot.
Around £640,000 of financial support for the new base at Wardpark Studios, next to the M90 at Cumbernauld, has been offered by the Scottish Government and arts agency Creative Scotland. Its owner, who has declared he wants it to become a permanent base for major productions, may also be able to utilise a £2 million loan fund which the government recently set aside to boost film and TV infrastructure.
However Gillian Berrie, one of Scotland’s leading film producers, who is based at Film City Glasgow, said: ”Cumbernauld is fine for TV and it’s great that Outlander is there, but we must not forget the down-time when its in post-production, the sets will be gathering dust and therefore the space won’t be available.
“It’s not clear how many series they’re planning but potentially the site could be tied up for years. Also, without a guaranteed continuous income stream, this facility is vulnerable should there be gaps in productions using the space. Who will meet this shortfall?
“Film City Glasgow, on the other hand, is already a thriving production hub, and prior to any of the recent developments around the high end TV tax incentive, has for the past 18 months has led the national discussion on the requirement for improved screen infrastructure and studios in Scotland. Govan has Film City Glasgow, the major broadcasters, new hotels, post-production facilities, the impending £40m Fastlink transport system, and most importantly, land, existing buildings and opportunity.
“Alongside a very proactive and well-funded screen agency, let’s not forget that Northern Ireland has invested nearly £10 million in the Paint Hall and Titanic Studios, and plan to spend more. This is the level we want to operate at, not more temporary development of old sheds.”
Film City Glasgow, which won a pledge of £1 million last year for a new studio near its existing base in the old Govan Town Hall, has now been told other locations for studios must be explored to ensure such a scheme is “commercially viable and sustainable.”
However the centre, which is home to around 25 permanent tenants from the screen and creative industries, has dramatically increased its plans for Scotland’s first proper film studio, which are now six times bigger than originally envisaged and would offer 100,000 sq ft of studio space.
In contrast, Wardpark Studios has 25,000 sq ft of studio space, across two sound stages, but these will be used to make Outlander for the foreseeable future.
Terry Thomson, the owner of the complex, which was lying empty for around eight years until Sony started making Outlander, said he has struck a deal to ensure all facilities installed for the programme remain on site.
Tiernan Kelly, general manager of Film City Glasgow, added: “Our proposal has resilience and sustainability at its core, and the opportunity to build a centre of excellence for both the screen and creative industries for years to come.
“We will continue to be deeply rooted into and for the indigenous community, but also now open and ready for international film and television production.”
Days after it was confirmed that a 16-part first series of Outlander was about to begin filming in Scotland, in a deal expected to be worth at least £20 million for the economy, First Minister Alex Salmond revealed that public money would be found to maximise the “economic and creative benefits of the production and creating a lasting studio legacy that would enable further large-scale productions to be filmed in Scotland.”
Earlier this month Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said the £2 million loan fund would help the country meet the growing demand from film and television companies looking to film in its “unique scenery and heritage locations.”
Scottish Enterprise is due to report back at the end of this year on its options appraisal, which is expected to provide detailed analysis of both the Cumbernauld and Govan options, as well as several other mooted sites.
A film studio delivery group, created by the Scottish Government, will then make recommendations to ministers on the project.