Film studio decision in limbo

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

Published at 12:01 on 1 September 2015


Former Isola warehouse was looked at for a film studio. Picture: Courtesy of Bill Henry.

DISCUSSIONS about where a Scottish film studio should be based continue to be shrouded in secrecy, as Scotland’s cultural bodies try to batter out a definitive plan.

Cumbernauld Media understands that Cumbernauld was at one time on the shortlist of potential film studio locations, with a decision expected to be imminent back in May.

The debate over a film studio for Scotland has been ongoing since 2012, when the issue of where a Scottish film studio should be based became 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 or 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.”

Hopes over a final decision were raised in May this year when an industry source explained to us that a decision was imminent, with details of what proposal will be taken forward expected be released “within weeks”, at the time.

The renewed hopes came 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.

Three months on, hopes have been dashed of a quick decision, with the key public bodies charged with working out a settlement keeping their cards close to their chests.

Confirming where the proposals where, a Scottish Government spokeswoman could only confirm that Scottish Enterprise had “received a proposal on behalf of the film studio delivery group from a private sector developer.”

“Negotiations are continuing around that bid but the need for commercial confidentiality means we are unable to provide more detail at this point. 

“We are working incredibly hard to develop enhanced studio facilities for Scotland,” she added.

A Scottish Enterprise spokeswoman remained just as secretive when asked for an update, stressing that commercial confidentiality was inhibiting any detailed comment.

“Negotiations are continuing around the private sector proposal, but the need for commercial confidentiality means we are unable to provide more detail at this point,” she explained.
The spokeswoman added: “However, we are working incredibly hard to develop enhanced studio facilities for Scotland and hope to have a update in due course.”

Creative Scotland remain just as tight-lipped as the other public bodies involving in hammering out a deal, with a spokeswoman for the agency merely confirming that “negotiations are continuing” though a “private sector developer.”

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