A NEW multi-million pound movie about Bonnie Prince Charlie is at risk of being filmed in Ireland rather than Scotland.

The producers of The Great Getaway are now urging the Scottish government to support efforts to have it filmed in Scotland.

The Great Getaway will follow the story of the flight of Charles Edward Stuart to Skye in the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden.

The filmmakers say they have already secured an offer of help from the Irish film board, but are determined to ensure that it will be shot in Scottish locations. To stay in Scotland, and not have to take up the Irish offer, the producers need more funding.

Stranraer has been pinpointed as the ideal location to recreate the Battle of Culloden, which will be organised by top fight director Seoras Wallace, who is known for this work on major movies such as Braveheart, Gladiator and Saving Private Ryan.

The idea has also been backed by local councillors, who say the move could bring a huge boost to the area and see it become a filming hub for other productions.

Scotland's film industry has come under increasing scrutiny in recent months, with critics warning it is lagging behind other competitors such as Northern Ireland, Ireland and Wales in attracting productions.

A long-awaited permanent film studio facility is on the horizon after years of campaigning, although details of the project are still to be unveiled.

Producer Mairi Sutherland, who was born in Dumfries, said the Irish Film Board had offered assistance - meaning it could be similar to the situation with Mel Gibson's 1995 hit Braveheart, which had much of the battle scenes shot in Ireland.

But she said: "We felt that if we shoot it in Ireland that would be a bit of a defeat for Scotland's production infrastructure.

"For the last three months we have been looking at different places in Scotland, and to raise additional funds, to shoot the Battle of Culloden on Scottish soil in Scotland and to film in Scotland."

Sutherland said they had received an indication from national arts development body Creative Scotland that it would help support the film financially.

But she said shooting the battle scenes - which was written into the script after a suggestion by Wallace, and would include training hundreds of local people as extras - will require involve additional costs which would push up the current £3 million budget.

She said she had written to Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop in the hope of securing a meeting to see if money could be raised in other ways, such as securing funding on the basis of boosting local employment prospects.

"We are looking at raising some public funding packages for Seoras to come and do workshops in Dumfries and Galloway and prepare the ground, with a group of local people that we would have to train," Sutherland said.

She added: "We are very buoyant about the film and feel very positive, and are going to make sure every single avenue (to film in Scotland) is exhausted.

"I am determined to try and do something to try and bump up the budget to get what we need to get, otherwise it will be another film that goes to a foreign country."

Scottish actor Tommy Flanagan, who recently starred American crime drama series Sons of Anarchy, has been lined up for a key role in the film and talks are said to be ongoing with other major actors.

The Scottish scriptwriter and director of the film Robbie Moffat said he was keen to use various locations in Scotland - such as Skye, Knoydart and South Uist - to make the story more authentic.

"We might shoot elements in Ireland, but then where is the authenticity?" he said. "The key people involved and most of the cast will be Scottish. So it seems silly not to keep it in Scotland."

Moffat said he had the idea for the film for around a decade - and described it as an exploration of human nature and Bonnie Prince Charlie coming to understand what it was to be Scottish.

"It was the aspect of Bonnie Prince Charlie not knowing the people in Scotland until he was on the run - and the discovery of what it was that made the people loyal to the cause that he had and why they stuck with him and didn't turn him over to the British," he said.

Wallace said the deal from the Irish film board was strong and that made it something of a "risk" to think of filming Culloden in Stranraer. However, he said he was aiming to set up workshops to help train locals in Stranraer to fill the roles of the 500 extras needed for the Culloden battle scenes.

He said it was hoped the area could become a hub for filming - such as Ardmore in Wicklow, Ireland, which provides film and television facilities - and that he knew of further productions in the pipeline which could use the area for filming battle scenes.

"In Stranraer the scenery is there for doing this particular battle (Culloden)," he said. "But we also want to make it a filming hub - there are aircraft hangers which could be used for example."

However, simply setting a training facility for fight scenes is complicated enough in Scotland, let alone creating a film studio or movie hub as in Ireland.

Wallace says he is frustrated by foiled attempts to set up schemes to train people in film combat in Scotland - despite the fact groups had been set up in various other countries including England, Ireland, Sweden, Italy and Spain.

"I can't get a club opened up in Scotland - everyone is saying to me we can't afford the halls, we can't afford the training areas," he said.

"This is crazy as I have at least five films and a TV series waiting to come somewhere with Scottish themes.

"It is so frustrating - I have to go out on a limb to see films made in Scotland because it is made so difficult."

A meeting was held last week between the filmmakers, members of public and local businesses. Dumfries and Galloway councillor Willie Scobie, who is backing the plans, said: "The Battle of Culloden could involve more than 500 - so that is training up local people in the art and profession of fighting and then there is introducing others to camera work and acting.

"It means local people getting opportunities - and then you have got the visitors who will follow to see where the film was shot.

"Tourists coming to see the area where it was filmed would bring in thousands to the area, with the benefits to local businesses. "

Last year Creative Scotland published a film strategy which outlined a commitment to a permanent studio facility in Scotland.

Asked to comment on the plans for The Great Getaway, a spokeswoman for Creative Scotland said it provided a confidential service to filmmakers considering Scotland as a filming location.

She added: "Therefore we are unable to comment specifically on the possibility of a production seeking to work in Scotland."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "Individual film funding decisions are a matter for Creative Scotland as the national development agency for the arts, screen and creative industries.

"The Scottish Government has demonstrated great support for the film industry in Scotland, for example through two recently announced funds to support production and skills development, and is committed to helping the industry to grow and develop."