Is a future Oscar nominee among Scotland’s Outlander trainees? – Brian Ferguson

The Outlander TV show and Fast & Furious film have helped dozens of people in Scotland get a start in showbiz, writes Brian Ferguson.

Krysty Wilson-Cairns attends the 73rd British Academy Film Awards at the Royal Albert Hall, London.  (Picture: Matt Crossick/PA Wire)
Krysty Wilson-Cairns attends the 73rd British Academy Film Awards at the Royal Albert Hall, London. (Picture: Matt Crossick/PA Wire)

Now that the film awards season is finally over after the Oscars at the weekend, I hope it is okay to admit I’d never heard of Scotland’s big contender at the turn of the year. However the profile of Krysty Wilson-Cairns in the “ones to watch” edition of The Scotsman magazine at the beginning of January had me gripped.

Her rise from her first job as a runner on Taggart – after talking her way into a work experience stint as a 14 year-old – to co-writing the screenplay for First World War epic 1917 is almost worthy of a movie in itself.

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Her story is one of dogged determination to make it in the industry, being marked out as a rising screenwriter in her 20s after developing her own scripts while working in a bar job before she graduated from film school, pitching ideas to Sam Mendes after she met him while working on the horror series Penny Dreadful, and then landing a dream job for her first feature film, 1917, which was partly shot in her home city of Glasgow, in the Govan area where she used to hang around on the set of Taggart.

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Since that interview appeared in The Scotsman, Wilson-Cairns has been on a remarkable run, notching up Bafta and Golden Globes wins with Mendes, as well as nominations for best original screenplay at both the Writers Guild of America Awards and the Academy Awards, where 1917 was honoured with three Oscars.

Now one of the hottest names in the British movie industry, Wilson-Cairns has already lined up future projects with Edgar Wright, creator of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Spaced, and the Russo Brothers, directors of the Avengers blockbusters.

With her remarkable ascendancy and awards ceremony appearances rightly capturing the headlines in recent weeks, the seemingly success of Wilson-Cairns will should certainly provide future generations of writers with the impetus to pursue their own ideas and chase their own dreams with even greater vigour.

There has arguably not been a greater time to be an aspiring screenwriter in the UK, given the recent revival in TV drama, the booming film industry and the success of streaming services such as Netflix.

In Scotland, the advent of the new BBC Scotland channel, a greater commitment from the BBC to make high-quality drama, the extra Scottish Government funding ploughed into the new Screen Scotland agency and the prospects of a new film studio finally getting off the ground – despite the numerous false dawns over the last decade – have given a real shot in the arm to the industry recently.

However could the modern-day equivalent of Taggart provide the real long-term legacy in terms of firing the imagination of future generations of not only screenwriters, but actors, designers, directors and special effects experts?

Just a few days before the Oscars, the producers of Outlander, the Sony-Starz series which has been based in a converted Lanarkshire warehouse since 2013, launch a search for up to 20 trainees for the sixth series of the show.

There is little doubt that the show offers invaluable experience for those hoping to enter the industry. Filming of the latest Fast & Furious blockbuster over several weeks in Ednburgh last autumn also included the hiring of 50 “new entrances” to the industry, who secured jobs as marshals, and more than 850 extras.

What are the odds of history repeating itself and an Oscar nominee emerging from the ranks of the Outlander or Fast & Furious recruits?