The lack of a proper film studio in Scotland is “shameful” and “a disgrace”, according to John Gordon Sinclair, star of iconic 1981 film Gregory’s Girl.
Speaking at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, while promoting his third crime novel Walk in Silence, the actor and author was asked by an audience member for his perspective on why a much-anticipated renaissance in Scottish filmmaking, following the international success of Bill Forsyth’s That Sinking Feeling and Gregory’s Girl, had failed to materialise.
“At the time they were made, I think there were four or five independent films in the whole of the UK,” Sinclair added. “Every year now, probably for the last 10 years, there’s about 85 films made a year. So I don’t know if it sparked off a renaissance in Scottish filmmaking, but it was part of a resurgence of filmmaking in the UK.”
Sinclair admitted he had “absolutely no idea” why, 36 years later, Scotland still lacked an established film studio, despite the idea having been discussed since the early 1980s. “The list of productions that come to Scotland that would’ve used the facilities is endless. I don’t know if its [a lack of] political will; there seems to be enough people wanting to put money into it, but it’s beyond me why it hasn’t happened.
“I keep hoping we haven’t missed our opportunity, because we’ve got the technicians, the technology, the scenery—we’ve got everything,” he said. “I’ve no idea why there hasn’t been a studio built. I think it’s a disgrace, actually, being honest, that it hasn’t happened.”
After being brought up to speed by another audience member about “likely” studio proposals, including the massive complex proposed at Straiton, south of Edinburgh, the now-London-based actor was asked if he would consider making use of such facilities.
“Absolutely. A lot of people ask why I tend not to work up in Scotland very much,” he said. “The answer is because nobody ever asks me! It’s not that I don’t want to, but I just hardly ever get asked.”
Regarding the Straiton studio proposal, however, he remained cautious. “I’ve heard the ‘likely’ story quite a few times about that,” he said. “I do think it’s shameful that we don’t have a proper studio.”
The actor went on to explain that, when he’s writing, he doesn’t actually miss being on a film set. “I quite like being on my own. I’m happy with my own company, though when I’m filming, it’s a great counterpoint sometimes; it’s a great relief just to be among people again, because you do tend to go a bit nutty. The two disciplines are so different from each other, though, that when I’m in the ‘writing zone’ I just like being on my own, getting on with it.
“I’ve never really had ambitions in acting, whereas with writing I have ambitions,” he said. “There are things I want to do, books that I want to write.”
PAUL F COCKBURN