Scotland now stands as the only UK nation without its own world-class film studio; a statement so shocking that you’d be forgiven for assuming temporary amnesia.
As a country for filming, Scotland has some of the best locations and crew in the world. Beaches. Estates. Industrial city centres. An astounding breadth of architecture and character. Woodland. Islands (hundreds of them). Hidden spots. Beautiful backdrops. Epic landscapes. Happily, I’d know; 10 years ago I set up a business on the back of what Scotland has to offer, and we’re now the largest stills and motion service production company in the UK. We set our business apart by going to market; the investment of which brings global clients, big brands and well known photographers and directors to our shores.
And herein lies the problem. Despite the work we and other, like-minded Scottish companies and industry-folks put in to spreading the message of Scotland, our lack of studio can make this job harder than is necessary. When a client, be it a production company, brand or agency, need a big, purpose built, multi-faceted studio – they often choose elsewhere. They choose Prague, Ukraine, Estonia… They’d choose London if there wasn’t a 10-month waiting list for space and the studios weren’t over capacity. On the film side, 3% of the industry spend is used in Scotland. Macbeth. Frankenstein. World War Z. Films come here to shoot on location, and then take the studio portion to another destination. Advertising is slightly more positive – we do a lot of great work, with some great brands. 02, Peugeot, KAYAK and Stella McCartney to name just a few from the past 18 months. But we could do even more. Last year we lost more jobs to large studios in other countries than those which were cancelled altogether. A music video here, a global fashion campaign there. It’s a sad statistic for a country that has such an incredible amount to offer.
With the simple adage that world class facilities encourage world class work, not enough is being done by officials to rectify a problem that, if left unsolved, could plunge Scotland’s film industry into an Industry-Siberia from which it may never recover. A bleak picture, possibly, but I say this because it's possible to act now – and, much like Daniel Wolfe’s optimistic, revolutionary, fluffy muppet 'Jackson' in last year’s blockbuster ad for 3, we must #makeitright.
The current development on the table - Pentland Film Studio Development - proposes a privately funded £120million, purpose built Film Studio on the outskirts of Edinburgh, complete with eight sound stages, rehearsal space and a team of developers with substantial experience in complex film projects. Transcending ye’olde East/West divide (the long forged and rather outdated industry rivalry between Edinburgh and Glasgow, for those not aware), this development was set to put Scotland on the global map. That is until it got stuck in a quagmire of bureaucratic power plays that have left the industry flummoxed and frustrated.
At its basest level, this studio would help change the face of Scotland’s film and TV industries, whilst aiding the commercial and advertising sector. It would help tourism, the food and drink industries, travel, accommodation – not least the 900 jobs that Pentland Film Studio would provide from the off. It would help keep talented players in the North, encouraging more jobs, funding and training. It would improve the esteem of the Scottish people; those in the industry and those not. It would put Scotland and its talented crew on an even playing field with other home nations and global nations. It would entice even more top-notch commercial jobs to Scotland. With so many “woulds” to so few “wouldn’ts”, the depth of positive impact cannot and should not be underestimated.
As an industry and a collective, we must band together and recognise the importance of this development for not just Scotland but the whole of the UK. Please make your opinion heard. Use social media. Lobby. Write to the press. If you live locally then write a letter of support to your local MSP. Our voices, although small on their own, are heard much louder when shouted together.
As for the next step, we will find out in April whether or not the assigned reporter to the case helps push the planning permissions through Midlothian Council, and, ultimately, whether we’ll get this film studio. The current lack of good facilities curbs the global potential of all working in the Scottish Film, TV and Advertising industries, but it won’t curb our ambition. That, just like Jackson the Muppet, we’ll keep fighting for.
For everyone hoping to work in a growing Scottish creative industry, I hope that it’s a happy outcome.
Marie Owen is the Founder and CEO of LS Productions