The three film studios at the heart of the Scottish screen industry revival

A decade ago Scotland’s film and TV sector was strugglingnote-0 without a proper studio to house major productions – soon it will boast three.

Sunday, 28th March 2021, 7:00 am
Updated Sunday, 28th March 2021, 6:25 pm

Within weeks, new facilities in Edinburgh and Glasgow will finally get up and running, to join an existing facility in Lanarkshire where the origins of the current boom period can be traced back to.

Hopes of Scotland secure a full-time studio facility had made headlines in The Scotsman as far back as 1935 but came to nothing, despite the best efforts of industry figureheads like Sir Sean Connery.

However it was the work of an American author, Diana Gabaldon that finally to the creation of a major facility when the rights to her best selling series of Outlander novels, which are largely set in Scotland, were snapped up by American TV giants Sony and Starz. A Scottish Government-backed deal was quickly done to secure a vast warehouse complex in Cumbernauld for a vast base for the show, which began production in 2013.

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It has become so successful that it it is still being made – filming has just begun on a sixth series, with a seventh confirmed for next year.

The success of Outlander, starring Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe, pictured, sparked calls for new studio facilities to be created but it was not until 2017 when another massive site emerged in the former of a former wave turbine plant in Leith, which was used to film scenes for Avengers: Infinity War, along with several locations in the city centre.

Four years later, the old Pelamis building has become a permanent studio facility, after Sir Sean’s actor-director son Jason and producer Bob Last struck a £1m deal with the Scottish Government to run the facility.

The “big blue shed” has now been transformed for the filming of The Rig, a supernatural thriller for Amazon Prime which will see scenes set on a North Sea oil rig filmed in the heart of Leith’s docklands by an all-star cast including Schitt’s Creek star Emily Hampshire.

Outlander, the historical time travel series starring Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe, has been made in Cumbernauld since 2013.

Glasgow entered the studio fray belatedly in January when the city council revealed that part of the historic Kelvin Hall was being converted under a £12m deal with the Scottish Government.

It has since emerged that a major drama series is about to start filming there – although intriguingly the details of the show are being kept firmly under wraps.

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First Stage Studios in Leith will be playing host to the Amazon Prime series The Rig.

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Plans to covert part of Glasgow's historic Kelvin Hall into a new film and TV studio were unveiled in January.