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Top film producer warns lack of studio could cost Scotland

One of the UK's leading film producers has described the lack of a movie and television studio in Scotland as "a disgrace in the making" and has urged the Scottish Government to back a plan before jobs and income are lost.

WAKE-UP CALL: Film producer Iain Smith said the lack of a permanent studio would cost Scotland jobs.
WAKE-UP CALL: Film producer Iain Smith said the lack of a permanent studio would cost Scotland jobs.

Iain Smith, producer of films such as Seven Years in Tibet, Children of Men, Wanted, Cold Mountain and currently the new Mad Max movie, Fury Road, said a new UK tax break for "high end" television production will lead to a surge in production, which Scotland will miss out on because it has no significant studio facility.

Mr Smith, originally from Glasgow and currently chairman of the British Film Commission (BFC), will this week urge the Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop to lead the efforts to build a studio complex in Scotland.

Recently, a group of leading US television executives visited the UK and noted that Scotland lacked permanent studio facilities.

Over the years there have been several attempts to build a facility in Scotland, both public and private, with the current focus on a £7m studio proposal for Govan on a gap site between the Film City Glasgow complex and the BBC at Pacific Quay.

Mr Smith said the new corporation tax relief for animation, TV and video games, which began on April 1, could be of immense economic benefit to Scotland.

He said: "Many English regions, and other UK nations, in particular Northern Ireland, but also Wales, are finding, or have found, suitable production spaces, mostly in the form of large industrial facilities capable of being adapted to suit.

"Amazingly, Scotland remains the only area of the UK which has no significant dedicated shooting space to offer, in spite of the fact that Glasgow and Edinburgh represent one of the largest production crew and facility clusters outside of the south-east."

Mr Smith acknowledged that Creative Scotland has been backing the proposal for a studio facility at Pacific Quay, "and Scottish Enterprise has been acknowledging the project with mild encouragement, but little more".

He added: "[Scottish Enterprise's] seeming need for gilt-edged certainties and evidence-based proof of viability is all very well, but in real terms it means that, after years of discussion, nothing much has been done.

"This is, quite frankly, a disgrace in the making as it unfortunately undermines the ability of Scottish production to compete for market share in this important and growing sector."

Mr Smith said that if nothing is done quickly, then Scotland's lack of readiness could cost the country jobs and "much needed foreign earnings". He added: "The current situation is simply not right."

Last night, a spokeswoman for Creative Scotland confirmed it had ringfenced £1m towards the cost of building a studio and is "actively involved in conversations about creating a film studio in Scotland".

She added: "We have invested £75,000 from our capital fund to further develop the feasibility, technical specification and future business model for an expansion of current screen industry facilities in Glasgow, to explore a production facilities village and international-standard studio sound stage."

The body admitted Scotland would compete better with a fully equipped studio and said the tax changes are a significant opportunity.

The BFC recently hosted a group of American television executives on a "familiarisation" trip of the UK, including senior staff from ABC, Sony, CBS, New Regency Television, NBC Universal and HBO.

Mr Smith said: "Creative Scotland did their best to show the visiting Americans several temporary facilities, but the lack of dedicated facilities was noted. This lack of readiness is extremely unfortunate, to say the least, in the light of the window of opportunity now afforded us.

"More than ever before, television production in digital times requires controllable shooting spaces within which to work.

"Our traditional Scottish reliance on the beauties of 'oor wee bit hill and glen' is no longer sufficient to draw in production on this scale and diversity."

The Scottish Government said it would welcome the industry coming forward with proposals for development of a sustainable production studio.

Scotland has been successful at attracting films in recent times, including Brad Pitt's forthcoming zombie movie World War Z, which was partially shot in Glasgow, and Cloud Atlas starring Halle Berry and Tom Hanks. Parts of hit series Game of Thrones were also filmed in Doune Castle in Perthshire.

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