PLANS for Scotland’s first major film studio are now more than six times bigger than originally envisaged and on the same scale as the vast complex where Game Of Thrones is filmed in Northern Ireland.
Scotland on Sunday can reveal that around 100,000sq ft of studio space would be created on up to 30 acres of land on the Clyde Waterfront in Glasgow if the £15 million scheme is given the go-ahead by the Scottish Government.
Although it has yet to back the plans for the Glasgow site, it has emerged that ministers have ring-fenced £2m for a film studio project in their budget for the next financial year.
Film City Glasgow, an existing film industry hub based in the old Govan Town Hall, has dramatically increased the scale of its plans since winning a separate £1m pledge from Creative Scotland for a studio development last year. It is now being advised by experts at the renowned Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire over its plans.
The far bolder vision for the project in Glasgow – which has been in development for around two years – was drawn up after the government and Scottish Enterprise got involved with the scheme. Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop has declared there is “clearly an appetite” for a large-scale studio in Scotland.
Details of the new plans have emerged in the wake of a row over the level of support for the film industry from the government and Creative Scotland, which spends just £3m of its £97.5m budget on film productions. That figure is expected to increase in the next financial year after a review of the film sector is published in the new year.
The industry hub at Film City Glasgow is already home to some of Scotland’s leading filmmakers and has been used for a string of recent movies such as Filth, Perfect Sense, Under The Skin and Sunshine On Leith.
Tiernan Kelly, the director of the complex, says work could be under way by the end of next year if it wins official backing over the next few months, with around a third of the cost being met by private finance.
The film studio would be built over several years on two vacant plots of land in the “Creative Clyde” area – near BBC Scotland’s headquarters and the Glasgow Science Centre. Two major sound stages are planned, as well as fully equipped bases for film and TV production companies.
The decision to pursue a much more ambitious scheme came following visits to the Titanic Studios complex in Belfast, which has around 100,000sq ft of space, and the Sharp Project in Manchester, which has around half that amount of space for film and TV productions.
Representatives from the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and Creative Scotland took part in the trips.
Kelly said: “We had our eyes opened to the kind of scale that we needed here to compete internationally. Belfast has 100,000sq ft of studio space in what is essentially a land-locked space.
“It really ramped up our ambition from the original vision that we had, which was quite modest. Our original plans covered around four acres and would have created 15,000sq ft of studio space, but the proposal at the time would only have involved a facilities village, with a small studio bolted on.
“There’s big plots of land lying empty in this area which are the same size as sites that big studios have been built on around Europe.”
He added: “The cost is between £12m and £15m. We were actually asked to come up with a bolder vision and we’ve taken that challenge on.”
However, despite spending more than two years on the project, Film City Glasgow has been warned it may not now be guaranteed the funding, as several other options for a film and TV studio around the country are being explored.
Among the favourite sites is an industrial estate in Cumbernauld where US fantasy series Outlander, which is partly set in Scotland, is about to start filming. Its owners are converting several warehouses on the site and hope to retain a permanent facility for production companies. Two sites at Gartcosh, in north Lanarkshire, and Dalmarnock, in the east end of Glasgow, are also in the running.
Scotland on Sunday understands two major new studio centres could be created on different sites.
Industry insiders say an expensive complex being used for TV productions could be tied up for years for a major series such as Game Of Thrones or Outlander.
Film producer Gillian Berrie, one of the co-founders of Film City Glasgow, said: “It’s just so obvious for us to do the film studio here. We’re bursting at the seams, everybody is actually fighting for space now and it’s been a great success.
“Incoming productions find it so incredibly easy because they can just walk in here and there is a ready-made office for them.
“It’s also so close to the city centre, the airport, decent hotels and cafes. They can just come in and pitch up.
“If we are going to do the job properly in future and want to have a studio to compete with places like Belfast we are going to need 100,000sq ft of shooting space. That’s what we’re being told by the industry and studio operators around the world.”
Scottish Enterprise has pledged to publish its analysis of the various studio options by the end of this year.
The Scottish Government confirmed it has set aside £2m in its forthcoming budget to “support the longer-term development of production infrastructure for commercial film and television in Scotland”.