Comment: Firms shall not pass on Tolkien-related benefits

The planned location of the studios at Bath Road, Leith. Picture: Liam Anderstrem.
The planned location of the studios at Bath Road, Leith. Picture: Liam Anderstrem.
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With the Lord of The Rings TV series set to be filmed in Leith, Scott McKerracher, area director at Bank of Scotland, examines the potential local opportunities.

Edinburgh is one of the UK’s top tourist hotspots. Aside from the usual attractions, the capital is increasingly becoming known for its creative film, design and TV industries.

This is particularly true for Leith. Shortlisted this year as one of the best places to live in the UK, the old maritime centre of Edinburgh is known for its dockside restaurants, bohemian art galleries, and a variety of creative design agencies. It’s also been used as the backdrop for musical film Sunshine on Leith, and comedy crime film Trainspotting.

Tourists travel to the port-side suburb of the city to soak in this eclectic atmosphere, but there’s a new phenomenon set to hit the docklands area later this year. The Lord of the Rings effect.

It was announced recently that Amazon’s Lord of The Rings TV series is set to be filmed in a proposed new waterfront studio with a production value of £1 billion.

The Pelamis warehouse in Leith’s docklands will be home to a new national film and TV studio expected to attract productions from across the world. The complex will feature five sound stages up to 100 feet tall, workshops and offices enabling it to produce major blockbuster films and high-quality drama series.

The Lord of The Rings series is the first production to be announced and is set to be the world’s most expensive TV show. Bids for the former wave power plant-turned studio are still to be finalised, but local businesses should start to think about the opportunities it could create.

Dockside economy

In the north of Scotland, we’ve seen the “Outlander Effect” result in an increase in loyal fans of the TV series flocking to more remote areas that have featured on screen. This includes Newtonmore, home of the Highland Folk Museum, Glencoe and Rannoch Moor.

The Isle of Skye also saw a spike in visitors in 2018 after blockbuster movies King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and Transformers: The Last Knight featured its scenery.

The Pelamis warehouse was used last year as a base for Avengers: Infinity War, with film and production crews contributing to the £10 million impact on the city’s economy in just six weeks. So what impact will the latest adaptation of Tolkien’s work have on the local Leith economy?

Baggins of growth opportunities

As part of our commitment to always be by the side of business, we aim to help companies reap the benefits of any increase in trade from those working on the latest spin-off from the fantasy trilogy. As the drama series is expected to be filmed in blocks – the first lasting three months, starting by the end of the year – the influx of workers, and even tourists, could be sporadic. It’s essential businesses be prepared to cope with these fluctuating trading periods.

As production crews and supporting staff arrive to assist filming, local businesses may require extra staff or stock. To help, we have products companies can use to assist with cash flow during busier periods. For example, invoice finance lets businesses access up to 90 per cent of the value of an invoice, typically within 24 hours. This takes the pressure off possible payment delays from other parts of the supply chain, allowing them to continue trading as normal.

Chain reaction

From local taxi companies taking people from the airport to their hotel, to the local bars and restaurants that will cater for visitors, the entire supply chain will be affected. We need to be aware of how other Scottish cities and locations have already adapted to the pop-culture trend. As part of our commitment to helping Scotland prosper, we will ensure the support is in place to help businesses achieve success in what can be a highly competitive industry.

The Lord of The Rings trilogy was filmed in New Zealand, creating an industry worth £17m in 2002 from tourists alone hoping for a glimpse of real-life Middle-earth. We anticipate a similar effect here in Edinburgh.

As negotiations with bidders for the studio complex near completion, we are ready to support businesses. We also recently committed to lend up to £1.6 billion to support Scottish firms as we understand the importance of providing both the financial backing and expertise required for long-term success.