Verdict soon for Cumbernauld film studio proposals

Written by Scott Campbell, Cumbernauld Media's Senior Reporter.

Published at 12:14 on 22 May 2015

Outlander    Film Studio

Former Isola warehouse is the production site for Outlander. Picture: courtesy of Bill Henry.

CUMBERNAULD Media has learned that a decision on where a national Scottish film studio should be located is imminent. 

Since 2012, the debate over where a Scottish film studio should be based has been the subject of intense discussion between key public bodies.

In March 2014, an options appraisal report by EKOS Consultants for Scottish Enterprise and Creative Scotland, considered the feasibility of a production space/studio for film and TV in Scotland and analysed how it might be delivered.

The options report concluded that: “there is a clear opportunity for a studio in high end TV and medium budget film production, supplemented by local production and commercials”.

After consultation with movie moguls and industry experts, EKOS Consultants confirmed that the ‘ideal’ type of studio would be a 15,000 to 20,000 sq. ft space, with 3 to 4 sound stages, and enough floor-space to accommodate offices and workshop areas. 

Appraising Cumbernauld’s potential as a site for any new Scottish national film studio, the report confirmed that the town “…is already occupied by a high end TV production (Outlander), and the production team converted the existing space for use as a studio. There are currently two soundstages on site along with production offices and workshops. In addition to the space occupied by the Outlander production, there is an additional 65,000 sq ft currently unoccupied and in need of some refurbishment.”

The document concluded that “…the most significantly constrained [potential studio site] is Wardpark”, adding that proposals for a Foundation Studio were the “strongest of the all of the options appraised”. 

Scottish Enterprise’s appraisal report on options for a Scottish film studio was followed in October last year by the publication of Creative Scotland’s lengthy 2014-2017 film strategy, with proposals for a national film studio at the heart of the document.

Creative Scotland’s strategy claimed that the “the establishment of a sustainable film studio” in Scotland was a key priority.

The strategy promised that “…as part of our work with Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise to establish a film studio in Scotland, we will focus on the requirement for the studio to operate in a way that supports and serves Scotland’s own productions as well as international mobile productions,” over the next year.

The report stated: “The creation of a film studio has been identified as a key priority in order for Scotland to accommodate high-profile international projects as well as properly supporting and serving Scotland’s own productions.

“A Scottish film studio would also support and serve connected companies, such as picture and sound post-production facilities, and encourage the growth of digital companies including VFX companies, increasing output and creating employment with the associated economic benefits. 

“With this in mind,” it added: “Creative Scotland, Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Government are committed to establishing a sustainable studio, working within the European Union’s rules on State Aid.”

Today, however, Cumbernauld Media can reveal a decision is imminent, and that details of what proposal will be taken forward will be released “within weeks”, according to one industry source.

The news comes after a number of film and television production experts visited Cumbernauld’s former OKI printer plant, giving the site the thumbs up, as a potential home for any new Scottish film studio.

Asked to comment on where discussions were on a Scottish film studio, a Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government and its agencies recognise and value the vision and the ambition of Scotland’s screen sector.”

The spokesman explained: “We have demonstrated great support for the film industry in Scotland and we are committed to working together to create the conditions to enable the sector to flourish.”

The spokesman confirmed that a proposal has now been received by a private sector developer, adding: “We are pleased that a proposal has been received by Scottish Enterprise on behalf of the film studio delivery group from a private sector developer to provide studio infrastructure. That bid is currently under consideration but the need for commercial confidentiality means we are currently unable to provide any more detail. 

“We remain committed to developing suitable studio facilities in Scotland that fall within State Aid rules,” the spokesman explained.

A spokeswoman for Creative Scotland was just as coy as the Scottish Government’s spokesman on the proposals.

“We are working hard with our partners at Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise (members of the Film Studio Delivery Group set up by Cabinet Secretary in 2014) to make progress on a film studio proposal for Scotland,” the group’s spokeswoman told us.

“Creative Scotland has ring-fenced £1m towards the cost of a studio. Meanwhile, Scottish Government has committed a £2 million loan fund for capital funding for film and television production facilities: this means the loan is intended for infrastructure not content development.”

The body’s spokeswoman added: “Following a feasibility study, a new proposal has been received by Scottish Enterprise on behalf of the FSDG from a private sector developer to provide studio infrastructure.  The details of this proposal are confidential as due process is being undertaken.

“Whilst this bid is being considered, we continue to be open to any new proposals from the private sector in the short term. We would welcome any new proposal which meets the criteria we have set out and does not expect 100% public sector funding.”

A spokeswoman for Scottish Enterprise added: “The process on this matter is still ongoing. A final decision and announcement is due in the near future, however, but due to business confidentiality I cannot comment any further.”