Film City keeps Glasgow in the picture

11 Jun 2009

By Cate Devine, The Herald

Once its corridors resounded to the business of running the world's greatest industrial powerhouse. Now you are more likely to encounter the 21st century movie star quality of Ewan McGregor, Peter Mullan and Jamie Bell.

Scotland's new campus for the independent film and media industry, located within Glasgow's historic Govan Town Hall, has been offically launched.

With a combined investment of £3.5m from Scottish Enterprise, Glasgow City Council and the European regional Development Fund, Film City Glasgow boasts the country's first Dolby theatre, a new filming studio, rehearsal space, sound and picture editing suites.The 65,000 sq ft site has already attracted a host of top industry names, has 21 permanent tenants and its feature film and production spend has already exceeded £30m. As such, it is a key part of Glasgow new digital media quarter, with its closest neighbours BBC Scotland and Scottish Television.

David Mackenzie's new film The Last Word, starring Ewan McGregor, is to be made at Film City.

Peter Mullan's Neds is in pre-production and is due to start shooting in six weeks, while Kevin Macdonald's Roman epic Eagle In The Ninth, starring Jamie Bell and touted as the biggest Scottish film since Braveheart, will be produced here from August.

Despite the Hollywood feel, it's not all about film-making.

Scottish rock band Franz Ferdinand have their studios there. They recorded their new album Tonight in its main auditorium, and featured the building in their DVD Between Summertown And Merryland.

Lead singer Alex Kapranos said: "A building like this is an inspiration"

Television chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's production company Keo Films has expanded to have a base at Film City.

Fearnley-Whittingstall said: "Finding the right home for our new Scottish production base was a priority for us and Film City Glasgow ticked lots of boxes.

"It's a magnificent old building in a fantastic riverside location slap bang in the heart of Scotland's vibrant screen industries quarter."

The Film City project has taken nine years to come to fruition and was the idea of Gillian Berrie, the Greenock-born co-founder of Sigma Films and executive producer of Young Adam, Hallam Foe, and Red Road, which won the 2006 Cannes Jury Prize.

Ms Berrie, 41, was inspired by a trip in 2000 to Filmbyen, a media hub in a decommissioned army barracks on the outskirts of Copenhagen created by Danish film company Zentropa.

"It had a real creative buzz to it," she recalled. "I thought it was wonderful and felt we should have this in Glasgow, where the independent film community was very fragmented and people were working from home or in rented offices all over the city.

"I felt Scotland would benefit from having a central space that would engender cross-fertilisation of ideas and talent. I wanted to get everyone under one roof and get some corridor culture going"

She approached Lenny Crooks, head of the Glasgow Film Office, with her idea. The disused Govan Town Hall was suggested, although the offices at the front of the building were occupied by Glasgow City Council social work department's methadone clinic.

Priority was given to the creation of the hi-tech facilities. The B-listed building's 1970s flock wallpaper, vintage Italian smoked glass chandeliers and brown swirly carpets have been preserved, alongside original architectural features, including high ceilings, thick walls, dance halls and stages.

"It was a fantastic, airy space and was perfect for shooting film because its thick walls provide natural sound proofing," said Ms Berrie. "You can't hear the rain when you're inside.

"Because it had been built for public use, it even had baths, showers and conveniences, but it was in a bit of a state because it had been empty for years. At one point we had to evacuate because a chimney had collapsed."

The social work department has moved to a better space, and Ms Berrie is set to relaunch her charity Starfish, which provides opportunities for disaffected local people to work in media and film.

The low cost rental model of Film City is aimed at creating affordable accommodation to those emerging in the industry, and the opportunity to work and collaborate alongside established industry professionals.

But yesterday Ms Berrie made a plea for increased support for film from Creative Scotland, the new arts funding body that will created next year by merging the Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen.

She has not yet seen a proposed strategy for the film industry. Delays in the transition process mean Scottish Screen is operating on standstill funding.

"The amount of support for film in Scotland compared with other countries needs to be addressed," she told The Herald.

"The international impression of Scotland at Cannes is there is a great deal of talent but there is so little support that we are not recognised as a real industry.

"We will wait to see what support is forthcoming from Creative Scotland.

"It's not just a cultural issue; it's an economic one. every pound put into film generates a 400% return to the economy.

"Supporting home-grown creative talent is of vital importance. I want Scotland to become a place people want to return to. Film City is the first step in the right direction."

Govan was founded by St Constantine in 565AD.

Constantine was a contemporary of Kentigern and Columba.

Once a picturesque and rural landscape, Govan was a sleepy riverside hamlet until the second half of the 19th century. Its neat fields grow potatoes, turnips and other crops, fertilised with manure from The Glasgow middens.

In 1841 Robert Napier laid out his shipyard and the first of the Cunarders was launched. Govan moved to the forefront of the industrial revolution.

Govan was granted burgh status in 1864 in recognition of its importance as a centre of commerce and industry. A Provost was appointed and it became Scotland's fifth-largest burgh.

Govan Town Hall was built between 1897-1901 to provide rooms for the Govan Provost, Govan Town Council and administrative departments for the Burgh of Govan. Its sumptuous design is one of the best examples of Beaux-Arts architecture in the city and it reflects Govan's prosperity, self-confidence and optimism of the time.

Govan was annexed to Glasgow in 1912.

Reproduced with the permission of the Herald & Times Group.

  • Film City in the former Govan Town Hall

Film City