My Column

Its Batty not to embrace film windfall

  • Date: Monday 20th January 2020
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So far, 2020 is proving to be a challenging one.  With global catastrophes such as the infernos striking Australia, the looming doom and gloom of international relations on edge and the dreaded return of ITV’s Love Island, we could all do with a way to take our minds off things a bit.

 

One solution I usually find solace in is a trip to my local cinema to get enthralled in a fantastical world or edge-of-your-recliner seat drama. However, it’s always a wonderful surprise to spot a familiar locale or recognisable Scottish setting on the big screen – one that brings me gently back down to earth brimming with patriotic pride.

 

As a filming location, Scotland has recently been at the forefront of Hollywood with both cities and countryside playing a starring role in both blockbusters and indie gems alike. This fame has provided a significant boost to our economy over the past few years, as well having a promising impact on tourism.

 

The latest of these roles was announced recently with a DC Comics juggernaut destined to be swooping down on the streets of Glasgow. Warner Bros are planning to capture the city centre’s gothic architecture for their upcoming superhero blockbuster The Batman, bringing actor Robert Pattinson, Batmobile and all, to Scotland for a number of scenes this February.

 

This isn’t the first time that Glasgow has been the backdrop for a Hollywood heavy hitter either.  Last year, Idris Elba paid the city a visit for a car chase or two for action thriller spin-off Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw and current Academy Award-favourite war epic 1917 turned back the clock on Govan with some Clyde-side scenes filmed in the summer. Even back in 2011, George Square was patient zero for Brad Pitt’s post-apocalyptic zombie flick World War Z. 

 

As well as fans trying to get a glimpse of A-list talent, each has brought a substantial financial boost to the city. According to the Glasgow Film Office (GFO), over £320 million has been generated through Hollywood productions in the city since 1997, with the aforementioned World War Z bringing an estimated £3.3 million to the Scottish economy in just the 17 days it took to film.

 

It’s not just Glasgow that has seen this financial impact either.  Over the past few years, parts of Scotland as remote as Argyll and Bute have seen more than £1 million through productions filmed in the area.  Over in Berwickshire, small fishing town St Abbs has also seen superhero fans flocking to its shores after the town after it was feature in Avengers: Endgame, which is currently the highest grossing movie of all time.

 

In addition to the big screen successes in which Scotland is making a name for itself, historical highland epic Outlander has cemented itself as a cult TV classic, showcasing a taste of Scottish culture across the globe. Since the show’s first season back in 2017, Visit Scotland have seen views on Outlander related content skyrocket and it’s believe over 200 jobs were created just to support the show.

The horizon looks promising for television shows opting for the Scots as well, as Netflix fantasy The Witcher has allegedly set its sights on the Isle of Skye for a filming location for its second season, following a debut which was viewed by over 30 million viewers according to the show’s producers.

Being able to continue these relationships with high end film and television production companies from across the globe is a substantial way to benefit Scotland and it’s refreshing to see the Scottish Government begin to support more and more ways to grow this. However, this wasn’t always the case and it’s clearly a lesson they’ve learnt the hard way.

Once upon a time in Holyrood, the producers for an upcoming fantasy TV series were in talks during their scout for locations, originally considering Scotland. However, due to a lack of supportive infrastructure at the time, the series was diverted over the Irish Sea to the neighbouring Northern Ireland. That series was George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones, which has gone on to become one of the most popular TV shows of all time, bringing an incredible £251 million to the Northern Irish economy.

But, I’m proud to see Scotland taking more a starring role these days. By becoming a more inviting location for Hollywood, we’ll be able to reap the benefits both on and off the big screen.

 

 

WEEP

It was sad news to hear that regional airline Flybe is in trouble. Following the demise of Thomas Cook, there’s no doubt travel companies will already have been worried about the state of the industry.

Flybe had been operating on losses but millions of passengers and employees will be able to let out a small sigh of relief now that the government has stepped in.

However there are many who disagree with the rescue plan including competitors such as British Airways who believe it’s wrong for public money to be used to save a private business.

This may be true but my thoughts are that we have to remember that Flybe has many domestic routes which are not flown to by other airlines, and over 8m customers flying with them every year.

More importantly, we want to ensure that the thousands of Flybe employees remain in jobs otherwise this could have devastating consequences.

LAUGH

Despite the devastating reports of the bushfires in Australia, one Scottish reporter brought some much needed light-hearted relief to the situation.

Debi Edward, UK’s ITV News Asia correspondent, visited Kangaroo Island and was presented with an ‘exclusive’ to meet one of the rarest animals on the island – the drop bear.

The reporter was kitted out with a suit to protect her whilst meeting the ‘vicious’ animal, and it wasn’t long before she was crying out for someone to take the drop bear from her.

Turns out the rescuers and Debi’s producer were in on the joke and the animal was in fact a koala bear and not a deadly, venomous animal.

This is a lesson to all – make sure you do plenty of research ahead of time, you can never be too prepared, whether it’s a business proposition or a trip to the zoo.

 

 

SIDE

Glasgow is globally renowned for its thriving music scene, with some of Scotland’s finest music venues located in the city, which is why it is so disappointing to see the end of a real institution.

The Art School, Glasgow School of Art’s student union building, has been a home to artists, bands, music-lovers and club-goers for decades.

Members of iconic bands such as Franz Ferdinand, Travis, Belle and Sebastian and Frightened Rabbit all studied and/or worked there, while everyone from Jarvis Cocker to Courtney Love have danced on that famous chequered dancefloor.

Club-wise, it has been the home to some of Glasgow’s most beloved parties, from the long-running Divine to Optimo’s infamous Hogmanay events.

It’s more than a venue in other words, it’s part of Glasgow’s cultural heartbeat.

After shutting to the public late last year, it has now been announced it has closed indefinitely due to financial limitations and all staff have been made redundant.

The venue had been financially unstable for the last couple of years and of course the two GSA fires did not help the situation, I have to winder just what was going on up there to allow such a situation to develop.

The Art School is business that should, if not look after itself, certainly be a very viable concern at worst and the fact that it’s been allowed to deteriorate to such a level that the liquidators have been brought in is as infuriating as it is baffling.

I dearly hope that this isn’t the end for the Glasgow institution, but in the meantime over 30 people have lost their jobs and the city has lost a huge part of its cultural makeup. Questions need to be asked.

 

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