How Film Edinburgh helped make T2: Trainspotting a reality

Film Edinburgh's Rosie Ellison. Picture: Jon Savage
Film Edinburgh's Rosie Ellison. Picture: Jon Savage
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CHOOSE Edinburgh. Choose Princes Street. Choose filming in one of the nation’s busiest cities. Choose painstaking planning for scenes that don’t make the cut. Choose a job that’s so exciting you don’t even mind.

While Film Edinburgh manager Rosie Ellison didn’t get to choose which scenes made it, she still got to play a vital role in the making of T2.

More than 20 years after the original, it’s now been a week since the Trainspotting sequel was released and it’s already proved a hit, raking in more than £5 million in its first weekend alone.

Complete with its sweeping shots of the Capital, award-winning director Danny Boyle and first-rate cast, it’s perhaps no surprise that the film has been so well received.

But just how do you go about shooting such a hotly-anticipated film on the streets of a busy capital city?

That’s where people like Rosie come in – she’s has been working at Film Edinburgh for over a decade to offer film and television crews practical support when they set their sights on the Capital.

The Stockbridge mum-of-one explained her role at the company meant she was involved in T2 from its earliest stages of production.

And as is often the case, it all started with a phone call.

She explained: “The location manager got in touch in October 2015 and said we are looking for a range of locations.

“They are very generic at that point and the closer you get to the time of shooting the more and more detailed the description of what they are looking for becomes.”

Location requests for T2 included “the worst pub in the world” – to create Sick Boy’s Port Sunshine bar – a massage parlour, a prison and a hospital, with the latter proving particularly challenging.

After a lot of hard work film crews eventually ended up in the Royal Infirmary, which Rosie admitted was a “very difficult” location to organise.

“As you would imagine they are incredibly busy places with people needing medical treatment so it’s not an easy choice to film,” she said. “But it was a short scene and very carefully managed – you don’t just rock up and do it.

“It was amazing that the NHS managed to turn that around.”

A trip into the Royal Infirmary wasn’t the only challenge Rosie and her team came up against – it was after all “a very large-scale production”.

She recalled having to make a pile of cobbles “vanish” from Circus Place – they were being replaced at the time – and making sure T2 didn’t overlap with simultaneous filming for the biopic Churchill, which is due to be released later this year. “They did an awful lot of filming that they decided not to include,” Rosie added. “There was a whole sequence of them running down Princes Street and Leith Street and that doesn’t make it into the film at all.

“There was an awful lot of traffic management in the street at the time because of the St James Centre.

“Traffic was being controlled through various high-vis cones but you can’t have high-vis cones in shot without the light bouncing off and detracting from the characters, so we had to make sure all the cones were removed.

“We had to organise other traffic management systems, for example police and marshals set back way out of shot.

“It’s an awful lot of organisation that went into that bit but it didn’t get into the film.”

While roadworks and traffic were out, the same wasn’t the case for Edinburgh residents.

“They wanted a free-flowing city,” said Rosie. “When we were filming on Princes Street people were just carrying on doing their shopping. “Similarly on Arthur’s Seat they were filming a running sequence and other people just carried on going for a run. They just allowed everything to carry on as normal.”

And when the films do get released, Rosie admitted it was always “fascinating” to see how they turned out, adding: “Particularly something like T2 when there were so many locations and set pieces – it’s really interesting to see how it’s put together.

“It will always look different to what it looks like in real life. It looks fairly regular and then you see it on the screen and it can be quite transformed. The lovely thing about the job is there’s always something new to learn.

“I get to explore the other neighbourhoods and places you just perhaps wouldn’t go to. I love getting to know the place you live in, it’s fantastic.”