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Glasgow becomes Gotham for Batgirl as Scottish film industry booms

Icicles were glued on to vintage streetlamps as Glasgow was transformed into a wintry Gotham City over the weekend, as Batgirl became the latest blockbuster to take advantage of Scotland’s versatile urban locations and glorious scenery.

Last summer the city was draped in US flags and bunting to simulate a New York parade for the latest Indiana Jones movie, while the stars of the Amazon Prime series Good Omens 2 have been spotted recently in Edinburgh.

For Screw, the flagship new-year drama by STV Studios for Channel 4, the inside of Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall – now host to a £11.9m television studio jointly funded by the Scottish government and Glasgow city council – was transformed into a prison wing.

“Scotland is now at a critical mass of screen production, both for television and cinema,” says the Scottish government’s culture minister, Angus Robertson, who declares he is the first in his role to be able to say to a younger generation interested in screen careers “that they will be able to work throughout their lives in film and TV production in Scotland”.

Industry figures acknowledge a significant change from the previous decade, when there was deep frustration at a lack of funding and infrastructure, institutional neglect and a talent drain when compared with competitors in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

The funding body Screen Scotland, formed in 2018 and helmed by the much-admired Isabel Davis, is credited with leading the change. As a result, Scotland is now far better placed to participate in the global post-pandemic content boom. But how does this frenetic activity affect homegrown Scottish film, and the development of talent and skills over the coming generation?

“My optimistic take is that this influx of bigger international productions will have a positive effect”, says Ben Sharrock, the writer and director of the award-winning Limbo, a comedy-drama about a group a asylum seekers waiting out their claims on a remote Scottish island, and one of the most successful independent Scottish films of recent years.

“It could lead to more skills training and more studio space, and will allow the Scottish industry to grow in a sustainable way. But it is important that smaller independent productions don’t end up being bottom-feeders.”

It’s a concern shared by the film-maker Hope Dickson Leach, whose stage-and-screen hybrid of Jekyll and Hyde will be livestreamed from Leith theatre in Edinburgh next month. She says the local industry is “at a crunch point”.

“There’s masses going on, which is great, but these massive productions which are staying in the country longer do cause a resource issue for crew, cast and even equipment for smaller budget and independent films,” she says.

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