Lothian film studio plans triple in size

Rosie Ellison. Picture: Jon Savage
Rosie Ellison. Picture: Jon Savage
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THE backdrop to a huge film studio aiming to lure Hollywood blockbusters to the Capital is set to triple in size under ambitious new plans.

It means epic movie sequences such as those seen big-budget productions like Pirates of the Caribbean and Game of Thrones could be filmed at a massive backlot adjoined to the proposed £40 million Pentland Studios in Straiton. The giant film set – equivalent to around nine full-size football pitches – could accommodate construction of entire city streets, exotic beaches and rainforests – a massive hook to attract large scale movie-makers.

Plans for Pentland Studios – earmarked as Scotland’s answer to Tinseltown – have been developed by Jeremy Pelzer, who enjoyed spells as a studio director at Ealing and managing director of Elstree Studios – where Eastenders is made – and former Warner Bros chief Jim O’Donnell.

Mr O’Donnell, development director of Pentland Studios, said the expanded space would allow filmmakers to construct huge sets that could not be “adequately recreated on green-screen”.

As well as the state-of-the-art studio, the development would boast a 180-bedroom hotel, energy production facility and data centre.

But plans to build hundreds of homes at the site have been axed by architects Keppie Design.

Gordon MacCallum, director of the architects firm said: “The council appeared less enthusiastic about using the land for anything other than economic development and local job creation, and so we decided to redesign the development in such a way that it would cater to the diet of uses more acceptable to them with regards to economic development.”

Earlier this year, the Scottish Government invited applications to construct a national film studio that could rival London’s iconic Pinewood Studios and capitalise on Hollywood’s rising interest in filming north of the border.

Creative Scotland has already set aside £1m towards such a project, while the Scottish Government has pledged a £2m loan.

Rosie Ellison, film manager at Edinburgh Film Focus – which helps production firms find Scottish locations for filming – said plans for an enlarged film backlot at Pentland 
Studios would be a major 
draw.

She said: “ITV’s drama The Great Fire is a great recent example, because they had to use a huge backlot space to build an entire portion of London just so they could burn it all down.

“That’s the kind of thing backlots are handy for.”

If studio blueprints are rubberstamped, it is hoped major movies could be filmed in Midlothian by 2017.

The plans will go on public display in January.

Last year, Sky Movies 
ranked Edinburgh as the world’s sixth most cinematic urban space.

The Capital played host to almost 350 TV and film productions across 2013.