Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Dumbarton - The New Hollywood - from today's Daily Record

IT'S a burgh on the north bank of the Clyde, moderately famous for its castle rock, whisky, football team and as the birthplace of racing legend Sir Jackie Stewart.
On the face of it, there's no reason why Dumbarton should be mentioned in the same breath as Los Angeles, New York and London.
But when Oscar nominees and cast members from one of America's most successful TV series consider the A82 as the road to work, then the former shipbuilding and distillery town has more in common with Hollywood than you might think.
Eight years ago, BBC Scotland first rolled cameras on a new series reflecting contemporary Scotland.
River City, the Scottish soap, started filming on the site of the former Strathleven whisky bond.
Within a decade, the site would become one of the most important in the country, boosting tourism and delivering a timely shot in the arm to the local and national economies.
Now BBC Dumbarton Studios have become one of the busiest in the UK, with executive producers from independent film companies putting it on a par with famous industry hubs such as Pinewood and Shepperton in London.
Three former warehouses have been converted into studios, providing 70,000 sq ft of space capable of sustaining massive sets replicating everything from a London skyscraper and the Old Bailey in the 1800s to the bottom of the ocean and a mini-submarine docking pool.
Stars such as Minnie Driver, Oscar-nominated for her part in Good Will Hunting, along with glamour names like ER's Alex Kingston and Goran Visnjic and movie actor Stellan Skarsgard (The Hunt for Red October, Pirates of the Carribean) now have something in common with the towns's former shipbuilders - they've all earned a living in the shadow of the Kilpatrick Hills.
Others who have turned up for work round the back of the Shieldinch Subway include Sir Anthony Sher, Jimmy Nesbitt, Alun Armstrong, Eddie Marsan, Rupert Graves and Andrew Buchan.
Between them, they've acted in projects such as current 18th-century legal drama Garrow's Law, submarine thriller The Deep, harrowing Auschwitz film God On Trial and girlie crime caper Hope Springs.
BBC3 comedies Personal Affairs, with Mark Benton, and current hit How Not To Live Your Life, starring comic Dan Clark, were also shot there.
BBC Scotland's chief operating officer Bruce Malcolm is hopeful of more large-scale work coming to the sprawling site and is optimistic about the resultant boost for the economy.
He said: "BBC Scotland is a £160million business all in. Obviously, we have had big savings targets and drama is a small but significant proportion of that.
"On average, we spend £7million on River City and about £15-20million on network drama. We hope to grow that business and Dumbarton is part of our ongoing plan.
"A drama will be between £3-5million to make. Some of the independent production companies are English - we'd love to have indigenous companies working all the time, but it's a very competitive market.
"But according to Ofcom rules, they have to spend 70 per cent of their budget in Scotland. That money will, largely, be spent on local workers. And the multiplier effect means more money for taxis, restaurants and hotels. That effect can be twice as much for the economy as the actual programme costs."
All this doesn't mean Dumbarton is preparing to morph into Beverly Hills just yet but the local impact is welcome, with the BBC lease running for another 18 years.
Bruce added: "The BBC have committed to making 8.5 per cent of network spend in Scotland which will mean tens of millions of pounds worth of productions.
"And there's a debate ongoing at the moment as to whether we need to develop our drama facilities further.
"Scottish Enterprise commissioned a study, which we have contributed to as to where additional facilities should be, from the point of view of film as well as TV.
"The main argument is one of the economic benefit to Scotland."
Currently, independent production companies can take advantage of the on-site editing facilities, dressing rooms and make-up department in Dumbarton.
However, some River City cast feel their schedules have been squeezed to suit the big network dramas.
Original cast member Libby McArthur, who plays Gina Rossi in the soap, said: "We try to make the show in the ridiculously short time we have (two 14-week blocks) because there's revenue to be made from renting this place out.
"There are people here all the time and we're maxed out in terms of what we can do in a short period. But it happens - just. I think one of the reasons we're on that timetable is because there's revenue to be had in bringing other things in."
But she added: "It would be nice to be a fly on the wall to know what happens when we're not around. I'm tempted to write in lipstick on my dressing room mirror 'these wee lamps were only three quid from Asda, so don't nick them, go and buy them yourself'.
"The security staff and cleaners all say they miss us when we come back in February. But even when we're all filming at the same time, our River City schedule is so mental we hardly see bits of our own set let alone anyone else's. But it's great for the industry here."
Dominic Barlow is executive producer with Twenty Twenty/Shed Media Scotland who make Garrow's Law, which finishes this Sunday on BBC1. He has also worked on Spooks, Casualty and Mistresses and insists the Dumbarton studio facilities are among the best he has seen.
He said: "A lot of places say they're studios when they're really just warehouses. Much of it is down to the investment in River City, which has one of the best sets I've seen and I include EastEnders in that, but that benefits us hugely.
"It even has a grid system much like that at Pinewood.
"It really is a viable alternative to being based around London."

1 comment:

Fr Kenny said...

Libby McArthur worked with me with heroin abusers in Possil many years ago.