As Amazon begins filming its first exclusively Scotland-based drama, we take a look at Scotland's rising profile as an international filming destination, its new studio developments and some of the recent and forthcoming projects to film north of the border. With many thanks to Screen Scotland and Production Intelligence.
Funding for film and TV in Scotland was doubled in 2019 with the establishment of Screen Scotland. Production spend figures have risen to the highest since records began and, over the last ten years, spend has increased more than 300%.
In February, Screen Scotland commissioned a full-scale economic impact study, to gain a better understanding of the effect on the economy of Scotland’s screen sector, more on which here.
Cumbernauld’s Wardpark Studio and Leith’s Bath Road Studio (pictured, header image on news page), operated by FirstStage, continue to house large-scale productions.
Working with member of Glasgow City Council (GCC) and the Scottish Government, Screen Scotland supported GCC’s bid to redevelop areas within the Kelvin Hall as a television studio and drama production space.
The new facility secured £11.9m of funding in January 2021 (£7.9m from the Scottish Government and £4m from GCC) and the first drama production is due to start filming soon in the Kelvin Hall, with the full redevelopment taking place over the remainder of this year.
Film and high-end TV production in Scotland
All drama production was suspended from March-September last year, due to Covid-19, but picked up again toward the end of the year. Among those projects to film in the later part of 2020 were: The Origin, the debut feature of Scottish director Andrew Cumming which wrapped its Covid-19 compliant shoot in Wester Ross in December 2020, and My Son, from Ken Loach’s Sixteen Films, starring James McAvoy and Claire Foy, which filmed in and around Lochaber in the late autumn of 2020.
Netflix returned to Edinburgh and the Lothians for the threequel, Princess Switch 3: Romancing the Star, and Peaky Blinders filmed in Aberdeenshire last year also.
Isabel Davis, executive director, Screen Scotland, said: "With the emergence of Bath Road in Leith and the forthcoming development of Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall, alongside Wardpark in Cumbernauld and the Pyramids in Bathgate, now well established as large scale production bases, Scotland now has a constellation of studios, stage and build space across the central belt.
"Screen Scotland’s role, in partnership with industry, is to support the further growth of infrastructure and crew, the development of locally originated film and TV content and to attract internationally financed production to Scotland.
“Through this work we’ll continue to make an ever larger contribution to our economy through the creation of jobs, use of facilities and businesses and enabling sustainable, rewarding careers for our talented local industry."
The Witcher 2
Netflix fantasy drama The Witcher began filming Series 2 in various UK locations last year including the stunning Isle of Skye. Henry Cavill plays the silver-haired Geralt of Riva in the show, which is adapted from the books by Andrzej Sapkowski.
Filming of The Batman, starring Robert Pattinson, began in February 2020, using multiple locations in Glasgow. The production team used the famous Necropolis cemetery, the cathedral, Glasgow Royal Infirmary, and several roads such as Drygate and Ladywell Street were closed for filming.
Director Jon S Baird recently doubled the streets of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen for Soviet-era Russia in Tetris, a feature starring Taron Egerton about the creation of the popular videogame. Matthew Vaughn produces for Marv Films.
Amazon is making is its first exclusively Scotland-based drama, The Rig, using the newly-opened FirstStage Studios in Edinburgh’s Port of Leith. Filming began on 29 March, with filming also taking place on an oil rig. Iain Glen leads a starry cast; Wild Mercury Productions is producing the hefty project.
Annika stars Nicola Walker and is adapted from the Radio 4 drama Annika Stranded. Walker plays a Marine Homicide Unit detective, among a cast including Jamie Sives, Katie Leung, Ukweli Roach and Kate Dickie.
Black Camel Pictures produced the six-parter for delivery to UKTV’s crime channel Alibi.
A Very British Scandal
Filming is due to get underway soon on BBC One and Amazon’s A Very British Scandal, which follows A Very English Scandal as the next in Blueprint Pictures’ canon of dramas based on real-life, infamous events. Claire Foy plays the charismatic socialite Margaret, Duchess of Argyll who became the subject of a sex scandal during her divorce in 1963. Paul Bettany co-stars. Around a quarter of the shoot will take place in Scotland.
World Productions is adapting Val McDermid’s Karen Pirie books for ITV, launching with three, two-hour dramas based on The Distant Echo, the first in McDermid’s books centring on the young Scottish detective. Emer Kenny has adapted the original novel. Filming begins later in the spring.
After a suspension due to Covid, filming resumed near Glasgow last August on Vigil, starring Suranne Jones, Rose Leslie and Shaun Evans.
The 6 x 60 thriller is from World Productions and creator Tom Edge and centres on the disappearance of a Scottish fishing trawler and a death on board a Trident nuclear submarine. It is supported through Screen Scotland; Angie Daniell is the producer.
Mark Bonnar and Jamie Sives star in BBC One thriller Guilt, the second series of which began filming in late November last year. The 4 x 60 is co-produced by Expectation and Happy Tramp North and is supported by Screen Scotland’s Broadcast Content Fund. Locations for Series 2 include Leith, Edinburgh.
The sixth series of the time-travelling fantasy drama Outlander commenced shooting in January this year at its usual home of Wardpark Studios. Left Bank Pictures, Tall Ship Productions and Sony Pictures Television make the show for Starz.
With the remote locations playing as big a part as any of the characters, crime drama Shetland began filming its sixth run last month. Dougie Henshall play DI Jimmy Perez in the show, that is made by Silverprint Pictures for BBC One. The series uses a variety of locations on the northerly archipelago, including Lerwick, where the exteriors of the police station are shot.
Many thanks to Screen Scotland and Production Intelligence for their help in compiling this article.
Outlander - Starz Entertainment, LLC
Bath Road Studio/FirstStage - Forth Ports