Scots military bases get star billing in film plan

WITH sea views, spectacular mountain ranges and an abundance of accommodation and outdoor activities, they would not look out of place in a holiday brochure.

Faraid Head Coastal Radar Station, Highlands. Picture: Contributed
Faraid Head Coastal Radar Station, Highlands. Picture: Contributed

But these postcards of Scotland’s far-flung corners do not depict your usual holiday destinations. What they show are air bases, firing ranges and army barracks. And they have not been produced to lure in tourists – rather they are Scotland’s star attractions in a big new campaign aimed at persuading filmmakers to use Ministry of Defence sites as shooting locations.

Action blockbusters, sci-fi thrillers and even Bollywood epics are the kind of productions that experts hope will be wooed to Scotland by the various locations, which are being promoted with the help of 550 commissioned publicity photographs.

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Sixteen sites across Scotland are being showcased on a new website which is being targeted at some of the biggest names in the film industry.

Cambussbaron Driver Training Circuit, Stirlingshire. Picture: Contributed

Creative Scotland, responsible for securing new film and television productions, is elping to promote the new MoD website, which is being run by a commercial company responsible for managing its properties around Britain.

It has already helped the makers of James Bond epic Skyfall, musical Les Misérables and romantic drama Anna Karenina to find locations for key scenes.

Now it is hoped lucrative productions will be lured to military sites such as the RAF base at Lossiemouth in Moray; Cape Wrath, the most north-westerly point of mainland Britain, which is often used as a bombing range; and Fort George, an 18th-century fortress near Inverness.

Other locations on offer include a remote lodge at Kinlochleven in Lochaber, surrounded by mountains; a radar station at Peterhead in Aberdeenshire; a cross-country driving circuit at Cambusbarron in Stirlingshire; and a training camp, complete with its own lighthouse, at Carnoustie in Angus.

Mark Hudson, business development manager at Landmarc Support Services, which is responsible for some 600,000 acres of MoD land around Britain, said: “You’re talking an average of £2,500 a day for a big film production to hire a site and £1,500 for a TV production. However, if it is going to involve several weeks we will try to offer the best deal.”

There has been little filming on MoD sites in Scotland in recent years, with the exception of the first two Outpost zombie horror films, shot on an isolated training estate at Kirkcudbright, and the BBC Scotland sitcom Gary Tank Commander, filmed at a training camp at Garelochhead. However, some of the dramatic opening sequence of the most recent Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises, was filmed above a military training estate at Wyvis in the Highlands.

It is hoped Landmark’s marketing muscle combined with Creative Scotland’s efforts to promote the MoD sites will trigger a new wave of interest in shooting films north of the Border, although experts admit the country would be a lot more attractive if it had a dedicated film studio.

The Scottish Government has pledged £2 million for such a project, while Creative Scotland has ring-fenced £1m – but a viable location has still to be decided on.

Tony Burlton, who advises the MoD on film locations and is involved with the new campaign, said: “The film industry is still very London-centric for this kind of thing. The production companies usually want somewhere close to one of the big studios. That’s why somewhere like Hankley Common, one of the MoD’s sites in Surrey, stood in for Scotland in Skyfall.

“But there is definitely more interest from film countries in using locations in Britain at the moment, due to tax incentives, and a studio would certainly make a big difference, as it has done for places like Wales, where Doctor Who and Casualty are now filmed.”

Brodie Pringle, Creative Scotland’s locations manager, said: “We’re very excited about having better access to these sites. It can be very handy for productions to have access to hangars and bunkers so they do not lose time when there is bad weather, but there is no doubt a studio facility in Scotland would have the potential to really open up the market.”

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