THERE might not be much to see when you enter Scotland’s newest film studio. High ceilings, blackout walls, and a handful of TV production staff milling around.

However, in just days this expansive site will be transformed into the set for the second series of Crime starring Scots actor Dougray Scott.

It is the site of a former distillery which was turned into Buchanan Business Park after the blending and bottling complex was shut down in 1987. The site, which was purpose-built for the whisky makers, officially opened May 22, 1969, and always housed distillers or brewers in some capacity.

Read more: Glasgow streets closed due to filming of TV crime drama

What was once home to Black and White whisky, Buchanan Business Park is now the location for Scotland’s newest film and TV studios.

In an expansive site just off the M8 motorway, in Stepps, former whisky warehouses have now been transformed and for the next six months will be home to the team from Crime which is also due to start filming on location in Glasgow from next week.

The trio behind Pioneer Film Studios have a vision and while they might not have a background in the film and TV industry, they have brought all their business and individual career skills together to forge ahead with their new concept.


Dougray Scott starring in the first series of Crime

Dougray Scott starring in the first series of Crime


And they could have come in at just the right time as latest figures predicted the value of the Scottish TV and film industry could double to £1bn by the end of the decade.

In a report by Screen Scotland, a Scottish Government agency promoting the TV and film sector in Scotland, it showed the industry contributed almost £568m to Scotland’s economy in 2019.

The Pioneer Film Studios’ team comprises of Faye Clark, finance director, Michael Parker, construction director, and Jamie McCoy, digital director.

They have now had chance to draw breath and step back to survey the main 30,000 square foot Stage 11 studio, and look around at just how far they have come since taking on the site in April.


Pioneer Film Studios is an expansive site

Pioneer Film Studios is an expansive site


“We had a job on our hands to make it wind and watertight, that’s where Michael’s skills come in,” said Mr McCoy. “We have blackout walls, installed lighting and now have a 200,000 square foot studio site which has flexibility to meet tight production schedules. We can easily adapt to what they need.

“TV production teams will be working in what would have been whisky bottling and labelling sites before the whisky was dispatched. The site has an amazing history and for us it was right location with its transport links and also a gateway to fantastic locations in Scotland within just a couple of hours.”

The team have known each other for many years and when they learned there was a shortage of studio space in Scotland, they had what they described as a “what if moment” and it is how the studio idea came about.

“There was certainly a point where we had a what if moment and we began to look into it. We've got to this stage self-funded but applying for funding or grants is something that could happen in the future,” said Mrs Clark. “We have also set up a charitable arm of Pioneer which was a decision we took early on as we are very passionate about putting something back into the community.

“We think Scotland is ready for larger studios and the more we looked into it there seemed to be a real need for the size of studio space we can offer.”


Stage 11 at Pioneer Film Studios due to host the crew for the filming of the second series of TV series Crime starring Dougray Scott. Photo by Gordon Terris.

Stage 11 at Pioneer Film Studios due to host the crew for the filming of the second series of TV series Crime starring Dougray Scott. Photo by Gordon Terris.


The trio pulled their plans together and with Covid restrictions in place for part of last year, many of their meetings were held online. It was only in January that they began looking at sites and took on the whisky warehouses in April.

After six months Crime will move out ready for another production to move in and Pioneer say the turn around can happen at great speed.

“It is an industry that once budgets are signed off, everything moves very quickly,” added Mr McCoy, a self-confessed film buff. “We can offer more than just filming here, there is the space for post-production as well and that will suit many companies’ needs.

“In London some studios are being booked out for two or five and even 30 years by the likes of Netflix which is great for them, but generally it doesn’t work like that. The industry is recovering from the pandemic and is having to build up again. We know that once another client signs up everything runs at full speed.”

Pioneer say they are not just about growing the business, but also the skills connected with the film industry.


Outlander star and actor Sam Heughan. The drama is filmed at Wardpark Studios.

Outlander star and actor Sam Heughan. The drama is filmed at Wardpark Studios.


They believe their site can help drive the area as a Scottish hub for the film and TV industry with the potential to bring in casting agencies, camera crews, and grip firms - teams responsible for setting up, rigging, and striking lighting equipment on set.

And while it might be used for a TV crew at the moment, with the possibility of expanding the site they have Hollywood in their sight.

Mr McCoy added: "The more we grow and the more we can offer, we do want to be going for the big blockbusters and also offer the space for post-production as well - everything could be done here."

Already, they are in good company as just along the M8 corridor is Wardpark Studios. Home of cult time travel drama Outlander starring Sam Heughan, the campus was acquired by Hackman Capital Partners and partner Square Mile Capital Management in late 2021.

Nearby Pyramids Business Park saw Good Omens 2 filmed there and was acquired by London and Regional in late 2021.


The iconic Buchanan tower now home to Pioneer Film Studios.

The iconic Buchanan tower now home to Pioneer Film Studios.


Deals have already been agreed with occupiers including Amazon Studios and the BBC.

Screen Scotland supported Glasgow City Council's bid to redevelop areas within Kelvin Hall as a television studio and drama production space which is operated by BBC Studioworks.

The new facility secured £11.9m of funding in January 2021, £7.9m from the Scottish Government and £4m from GCC, with Channel4’s Screw the first drama production to film there.

In March 2020, FirstStage Studios Limited, part owned by Jason Connery, son of the late Sir Sean Connery, were announced as the operators of the studio facility at Bath Road in Leith.

Later that year, it was confirmed that the first project to film in the new studio would be The Rig, a super-natural thriller filmed exclusively in Scotland by Wild Mercury Productions for Amazon Studios. The Rig provided a significant number of jobs for the Scotland-based crew and Screen NETS (New Entrant Training Scheme) trainees were recruited across 2021.

This was followed by Amazon’s TV adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys, again providing many jobs for Scottish based crew and supporting an accompanying significant training s scheme.

The studio is on the site of a former wave power plant and has already been used in the Marvel franchise. It was a filming location for ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ in 2017 before being officially converted into a production facility.

ITV recently announced that Line of Duty creator Jed Mercurio’s new series Payback will film on location in Scotland.

In Glasgow, film crews have become a familiar sight over the past few months. From the latest Indiana Jones movie filmed on location in the city to more recent blockbusters including Batman and Batgirl, which has now reported to have been canned, the city’s dedicated film office has been highlighting the what the city has to offer.

Last year was a landmark year for Glasgow City Council's Glasgow Film Office (GFO) as their work helped to generate £42.4million for the city's economy over that period, a record annual figure for the city.


Second series of prison drama Screw to be filmed in Glasgows Kelvin Hall

Second series of prison drama Screw to be filmed in Glasgow's Kelvin Hall


While some residents and businesses have been subject to road closures and disruption, it has put the city centre stage.

Filming for the second series of Crime is due to begin from September 11 with restrictions in place in some streets until September 15.

Other recent productions in the city include Mayflies (BBC), Debutante (Apple TV), Tehran (Bollywood geo-political thriller), Batgirl (Warner Bros), Borderland (Sky Cinema IRA-related film), The Control Room (BBC), and Loss and A Return (TV series with Martin Compston, unsure who’ll be broadcasting, but it is the Line of Duty production team).

In June a report, commissioned by Screen Scotland found that the screen sector in Scotland contributed £567.6million to Scotland’s economy in 2019, providing 10,280 full time equivalent jobs.  

Mr McCoy believes there is room for growth and for Scotland to get a bigger slice of the action when compared with a report published by Screen Alliance Wales last year which showed around 8,000 people working in the industry, generating £2.2bn.

“We have more than 10,000 people employed in the industry in Scotland which brought in more than £567million in 2019. However, if you look at Wales as an example they have less in the industry, with 8,800 employed but brought in £2.2bn,” added Mr McCoy. “There is no doubt there is room to grow the Scottish industry."

A Screen Scotland spokesperson said: “The increase in studio infrastructure has been a gamechanger for Scotland. It has enabled the large increase in the number and scale of productions coming to Scotland, as well as ensuring that Scotland can host the entire production, not just the location shoot. Just recently we’ve had Good Omens 2, Anansi Boys, Borderland, Outlander, Annika and The Control Room. Other productions are working in Scotland right now, and there is far more to come.

“These studio productions offer the ideal training ground for the next generation of Scottish crew and talent, and Screen Scotland and its partners are investing in and delivering a skills strategy that will secure sustainable careers in Scotland. At the same time, we are focused on developing Scotland’s filmmakers, funding new feature films from Scotland that this year have been part of the Sundance, Cannes, Edinburgh, Venice, London and Telluride film festivals.”