Q&A with Jennifer Reynolds – Glasgow Film Office

September 23, 2014

The Glasgow Film Office (GFO) offers a free service to all productions wanting to film in the city. Here, we catch up with Jennifer Reynolds, Film Commissioner to see why Glasgow has the largest concentration of TV, film and broadcast activity in Scotland…

Glasgow film office

Why do you think Glasgow has become a hub for TV/film production in Scotland?

Through BBC Scotland and STV, Glasgow has a long history of producing high quality drama for the small screen. From examples such as Peter McDougal’s ‘Just Another Saturday’ in the 70’s, through the 80’s with ‘Taggart’ and the fondly remembered (and critically acclaimed) ‘Tutti Frutti’ and into the 90’s with ‘Hamish Macbeth’, ‘The Crow Road’ and ‘Monarch of the Glen’ there’s been a regular turnover of network-wide output.

Concurrent with this was the emergence of a new generation of feature film producers, directors and writers, and, with funding opportunities offered by Scottish Film Production Fund, Glasgow Film Fund, Scottish Screen etc, ‘Gregory’s Girl’, ‘Shallow Grave’, ‘Orphans’, ‘My Name Is Joe’, ‘The House of Mirth’, ‘Morvern Callar’ and ‘Red Road’ are just a handful of the award winning features that provided a steady flow of employment and training across all freelance crew grades over the past 30 years.

The new millennium saw Glasgow City Council and Scottish Enterprise successfully bid for European Regional Development to support significant developments in infrastructure such as Film City Glasgow in the former Govan Burgh Hall.

I suppose the above are just a few of the factors that combined, to some extent or another, to create a highly skilled crew and talent base and recognition of the potential of Scotland’s biggest city as an able match for other UK and European production centres.

What can Glasgow offer filmmakers that other locations can’t?

Glasgow’s distinctive Victorian architecture and grid system has proved attractive to many location managers over the years, with World War Z and Cloud Atlas following other films such as House of Mirth.

The layout of the streets, particularly in the city centre of Glasgow, does, in essence, mimic the grid system in a lot of the major US cities. Glasgow has shown incredible versatility in its ability to double as a location. Philadelphia in WWZ, San Francisco in Cloud Atlas and more recently Glasgow featured as London in the Fast and Furious 6.

It’s not just $100+m US productions that benefit from the variety of locations to be found in a relatively compact city; lower budget films can easily schedule urban grime in the morning and leafy suburbs in the afternoon without moving their unit base. You’re never too far from seemingly remote country side or coastal locations either.

What would your top tips be for low budget filmmakers?

A lot is possible when shooting with low budgets. However, in terms of locations, producers need to think carefully, and creatively, about what can and cannot be achieved with limited funds.

For instance, due to obvious statutory and other factors, certain things are always going to cost, so it’s probably best not to think about staging car chases or large action scenes!

Firearms and weapons of any sort in public generally need police presence so maybe consider whether the scene can be shot out of sight, behind closed doors? The police are very happy to provide free advice on such matters but if you require cops on set it’s going to cost.

Finally, appoint a location manager or, at very least, a crew member whose sole responsibility it is to deal with the nuts and bolts of location shooting.

What are Glasgow Film Office’s greatest challenges?

Glasgow faces stiff competition from other UK cities when attracting incoming film and TV productions.  Having the desired locations is just a part of a successful offer; we have to be able to show that the city wants production to take place and that it also has the infrastructure to support it.  We think Glasgow has proven itself on both of these counts in the past few years but we can never become complacent.

Another challenge is working with productions that are facing tight demands on their budget and prep time.  Location managers, in particular, are expected to make their budget do twice as much as the same amount did 5 years ago.  Our work often becomes a balance of assisting productions in their search for locations and managing expectations of what is actually achievable.

To a lesser extent, we are kept on our toes with keeping the online location database up to date.  The city’s streets are constantly changing and require updating on a frequent basis.  Also, we are always on the hunt for new properties to showcase – if anybody is interested in having their property featured as a potential filming location, please get in touch!

What has been the biggest project filmed in Glasgow so far?

Undoubtedly, the project which attracted the widest interest, from both the press and general public, was World War Z, which shot here in August 2011.  This was the largest logistical operation on which Glasgow Film Office had ever worked and its impact on the city centre for 17 days was huge.  However, STV’s Taggart ran for 109 episodes over 27 years and remains the longest running police drama in the UK.  It provided a steady stream of work for Glasgow based crew, technicians and actors across 3 decades.

Although based just outside of Glasgow, the multi-million dollar US TV production Outlander is currently providing work for a vast amount of Glasgow based crew.   The production filmed a couple of scenes in Glasgow during the past year and we eagerly look forward to working with them again when the second series starts shooting.

Any exciting productions in the pipeline you can tell us about?

Most productions like to keep their activities under the radar and, more often than not, we have to respect their demand for discretion.  We are proud of the fact that Glasgow has the reputation as Scotland’s premier location for film and television production and we take every opportunity to maximise coverage of what is filming in the city.  However, this generally takes place either during or after production so I’m afraid you’ll have to wait to hear about the next exciting production in due course.

If you’re in TV/film production and are interested in shooting your next project in Glasgow, or would just like to find out more information about the Glasgow Film Office, give Jennifer a call on 0141 287 0424 or drop a line to info@glasgowfilm.com

Image source