Culture / Film

Glasgow On Screen: Why Movie Production Companies Are Choosing Our City

Under The Skin, starring Scarlett Johansson as an alien sent to Earth to abduct hitchhikers, received its Scottish premiere on Sunday,  2 March at the closing gala of the Glasgow Film Festival.

It is just one of a series of movies that have come to Scotland in recent years to use our landscape and architecture as a cinematic background.  While the reason for Under The Skin to be filmed in Scotland may be an obvious, “it’s set in Scotland”, there is still the question of why other movies use Glasgow as a stand in for other cities.

The simple, and probably most persuasive answer to this, comes from Helen Sim at Creative Scotland who told The Wee G that: “the change to UK tax breaks [April 2013] to include high end television drama highlights a significant opportunity for Scotland’s film and television industry.”

Finances are but one reason though.  Jennifer Reynolds of the Glasgow Film Office, who have aided many of the recent international productions, discussed the layout of Glasgow in terms of attracting location managers.

2013′s zombie blockbuster, World War Z, saw Glasgow playing the part of Philadelphia.  Local residents will remember everything from US street signs through to Yellow Cabs around George Square (along with a small horde of the undead).

Reynolds informed The Wee G that with the location managers knowledge of: “Glasgow’s grid system [he] knew it was a viable option to recreate Philadelphia in the UK.”

George Square featured in the trailer’s opening minute

Along with an appropriate appearance, it was also the cooperation of the city that helped:  ”Initial searches in London had proved fruitless due to a lack of cooperation from the local authority” Reynolds continued. She would later mention the “council’s road department [being] able to respond to the production’s requests swiftly and efficiently” in regards to Fast and Furious 6, which came here “on the basis of what was achieved with WWZ.”

Along with praising the city council, Jeremy Kleiner (Producer, World War Z), also acknowledged the response from the public saying: “the people of Glasgow were incredibly welcoming.”

Cloud Atlas (2013) also visited Glasgow briefly, taking a break from Edinburgh where filming was taking place due to it being a script location.  Reynolds explained this was down to finances as it made: “the Scotland leg of the shoot more cost effective.”  Once again though, it was the landscape of Glasgow that came through as “Glasgow was able to recreate the hills of San Francisco.”

Overall, “Glasgow’s reputation as a production centre is enhanced” when the city hosts these productions Reynolds tells us.

Financially and geographically, Glasgow and the rest of Scotland seem to be presenting a good alternative for productions and with Sim describing a: “healthy crew base of over 2,000 here in Scotland,” the Scottish film industry can only stand to benefit.

Scotland is also the setting for an upcoming US television series

How have the productions impacted Glasgow though?  According to the Glasgow Film Office, the city attracts approximately half of what the industry spends in the country. Crew who worked on World War Z were able to find work on Fast and Furious 6 so there has been a definite job boost, and with Sim finding no: “rise in costs, either location or production based” along with benefits to local trade and businesses, the positive impacts are unquestionable.

Though unable to comment on upcoming features as: “big budget films often seek locations confidentially and can turn around in a matter of months”, Reynolds painted a positive picture of Glasgow’s 2014 film career, mentioning “a number of British film and TV productions looking to film in Glasgow.”

Follow Chris on Twitter:@Chris_Morton89

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