Film Edinburgh celebrates 25 years of movie magic

Ewan McGregor, Kerry Fox and Christopher Eccleston in Shallow Grave

Ewan McGregor, Kerry Fox and Christopher Eccleston in Shallow Grave

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From Trainspotting to Sunshine on Leith, it has found settings for some of the biggest films of the last quarter of a century.

Film Edinburgh, Scotland’s oldest film office, which is this month celebrating 25 years in the spotlight, now responds to filmmaker inquiries from all over the world as it hunts for locations in the Lothians and the Borders.

It has generated more than £65 million for the Capital in production spend alone – and tourism chiefs insist the long-term benefits are actually much higher, with blockbuster films showcasing local landmarks to a global audience.

John Donnelly, chief executive of Marketing Edinburgh, described the publicity generated through film and TV as “priceless”. He added: “We know from VisitBritain’s research that 40 per cent of visitors choose to come to visit a destination after seeing it on screen.

“The success of films such as The Railway Man, Da Vinci Code, Filth and Sunshine on Leith have meant images of our beautiful city have been seen by millions.”

After the Rosslyn Chapel in Midlothian featured in the climactic closing scenes of the big screen adaptation of The Da Vinci Code, the 15th-century building reported a 500 per cent rise in visitor numbers.

Children’s TV series Teacup Travels, filmed on location in Princes Street Gardens and at Loretto School in Musselburgh and the CBBC series Eve, filmed in West Lothian, have also helped put the area on the map for younger audiences.

Since its launch, Film Edinburgh has dealt with over 8000 inquiries, converting into more than 4000 productions filming in the city. Back in 1990, Edinburgh’s film office dealt with 100 inquiries and worked with 50 productions.

This has surged to 550 inquiries and 360 productions in 2014, bringing £5m of economic benefit to the city region last year.

Rosie Ellison, film manager at Film Edinburgh, said: “The industry has come a long way since the days of having to post location images and information to LA filmmakers.

“E-mail and the internet have transformed how we work, allowing instant response to filmmaker inquiries and ensuring the city region is in the mix from the word go.

“With over 25 per cent of Scotland’s production workforce based in and around the city, Film Edinburgh has a long-standing, mutually beneficial relationship with the majority of them.”

Filming highlights over the years include the comedy crime thriller Shallow Grave which helped to provide the breaks for Ewan McGregor who went on to play heroin addict Mark Renton in Trainspotting.

There have also been challenging production requests. Finding period-style interiors for The Railway Man proved difficult until permission was given to use Gilmerton House, shortly before it was given a modern makeover.

One of the stranger requests came from the producers of BBC crime drama series Case Histories who wanted “posh men’s loos” for a fight scene and ended up using the toilets in Gosford House.

Film Edinburgh has also helped provide film locations for Rob Roy with Liam Neeson, science fiction thriller Under the Skin and the time travel series Outlander.

john.connell@edinburghnews.com