Producer warns Lothians not to waste studio opportunity

Iain Smith says the proposed studio will go to Glasgow if the Lothians don't support it. Picture: Julie Bull
Iain Smith says the proposed studio will go to Glasgow if the Lothians don't support it. Picture: Julie Bull
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A CELEBRATED film producer has warned council chiefs not to waste an opportunity to bring a slice of Hollywood to the Lothians.

Iain Smith, the Scot behind blockbusters Seven Years in Tibet, The Fifth Element and Children of Men, said Glasgow would be the winner unless leaders “put their hands in their pockets”.

The Evening News revealed yesterday how plans for a 
£40 million world-class film studio on the outskirts of the Capital had been drawn up.

However, Mr Smith warned that financial backing had to be forthcoming to ensure the Scottish Government-backed project wasn’t taken elsewhere.

Rival bids are being considered – with an economic boost of £30m a year potentially up for grabs.

Mr Smith, a former board member of the UK Film Council and Creative Scotland, said: “This is an interesting development, but it remains to be seen if it’s real and is going to happen the way they say it will.

“The frustration is that things have been taking far too long in Scotland and a lot of producers are now establishing relationships of trust with Northern Ireland and increasingly in Wales. It’s important that Scotland competes.”

Securing a major international TV hit such as Game of Thrones or Outlander could reap huge investment for the region, according to Mr Smith, but he warned that Glasgow was years ahead in terms of fostering a film industry.

“Most crew and facilities tend to be on the Glasgow side, but I think something like this would change that to a large extent,” he said. “I think you would see more and more people coming into the business.

“Any city that’s associated with film becomes more significant in the popular 
imagination. That doesn’t just help tourism, but it also helps business.

“The council definitely needs to do more than it has done. Glasgow has always been up for it. On the face of it, they’ve always had an industrious approach to wanting film to come. I think in that sense Edinburgh should compete a bit more, and that means putting their hands in their pockets.”

Midlothian Council leader Owen Thompson said no talks had been held regarding financial support for the studio, which would be based in Straiton.

Councillor Thompson said: “Anything that helps to enhance Scotland’s film industry is an exciting prospect. At the same time, there is still the planning process to be gone through.

“It’s not something that we’ve had any discussions about as yet. Obviously we would need to have a look at anything that came through.”

A spokeswoman for Edinburgh City Council said it had not been approached about funding, but said officials had been updated on the project.

paris.gourtsoyannis@edinburghnews.com