Will Scotland’s reservation production industry be the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trap?

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Director Douglas Mackinnon, whose credits include Neil Gaiman’s “Doctor Who”, “Sherlock” and “Good Omens”, still remembers the moment he realized London was no longer the center of the universe in terms of premium British film and television production. .

He was in his native Scotland, where he was directing a few episodes of “Outlander”, when one of the show’s executives asked him what he was planning to do next. “I said, ‘I’m probably going to go to London as usual and look for work.’ And she said, ‘Oh, I’ve never been to London.’

“As someone whose entire life has been sort of ruled by London in one form or another […] the idea that an executive had never even been to London and was working on one of the biggest shows in the world, ”he says. “I just went, alright, alright, that means we don’t have to go anymore if we want to.”

“I kind of mentally walked through the Rubicon.”

Just six or seven years ago, the idea would have been unthinkable. But today Scotland is experiencing a boom in film and television, which is also evident in the lineup of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, which features two world premieres: the documentary ‘Prince of Muck’ and ‘The Road Dance ”.

As for Mackinnon, alongside his longtime collaborator Gaiman, he will soon be working on two series simultaneously for Amazon, “Good Omens,” which is filming in Bathgate, and “Anansi Boys,” which will move into the all-new first scene of Edinburgh. Studio installation in Leith.

Michael Sheen, David Tenant and Douglas Mackinnon on a panel for “Good Omens”
PA

The studio, run by producer Bob Last (“The Illusionist”) and actor / director Jason Connery (son of Bond star Sean Connery), opened in March 2020 with funding from the Scottish Government. It currently hosts “The Rig”, another Amazon Prime production by Scottish premier writer David Macpherson.

Meanwhile, “Outlander” continues to shoot in the 200,000 square foot Wardpark studios between Glasgow and Edinburgh.

“Scotland has kind of accelerated over the past couple of years,” says Isabel Davis of Screen Scotland. “What we are seeing now is, if you will, the constellation of settlements across what is called the central belt of Scotland, the part between Edinburgh and Glasgow.”

And with Amazon investing so heavily in Scottish production, rumors that its “Lord of the Ring” series is set to tour the country when it leaves New Zealand are also swirling. (Davis declined to comment on the direction the show might take in the UK).

Rosie Ellison of Film Edinburgh explains that the Scottish production wave started with Disney. In 2017, the studio shot “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame” back to back in Scotland (“Infinity War” in Edinburgh and “Endgame” in the Scottish Borders). “I think that really puts us on the map in terms of being able to accommodate massive productions,” says Ellison.

The House of the Mouse was quickly followed by Universal, who spent nearly two weeks filming “Fast & Furious 9” in the capital. And with the rise of premium film and television production in the UK (the BFI recorded an expenditure of £ 1.19bn ($ 2.23bn) for the last quarter of 2020, which is expected to be eclipsed in 2021), it’s no surprise that studios and streamers are looking beyond London and the South.

“The team, the places, the studios, the money,” says Ellison as the reasons Scotland is getting so much attention.

Davis agrees that ‘Scottish teams are second to none’ and that the country offers a plethora of locations – from Gothic streets of Edinburgh and towers of Glasgow to magnificent views of the Highlands – as well as a plethora of studio spaces. , including the recent redevelopment of Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall will house a new £ 12million production town, which has just hosted the upscale prison drama ‘Screw’.

“Our locations are incredibly versatile and we can double down for a lot of landscapes for more distant countries and even around the world,” Davis said.

As if to underline his point, the teams of “Good Omens” and “Anansi Boys” are building London sets in their respective studios. “We’re building Soho in Bathgate and we’re building Brixton in Leith,” Mackinnon explains.

Scotland also benefits from the generous UK tax break and provides its own funding through a Local Talent Production Fund and Production Growth Fund.

For Davis, the goal is now as much to nurture Scottish creative talent as to facilitate external productions. “We know Scotland has the creative firepower to create its own work,” she says. “And this is the part of the economy that we want to see side by side with the thriving service industry.”

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