Why Does Hollywood Suddenly Love Scotland?

What do Skyfall, The Dark Knight Rises, Harry Potter, Never Let Me Go, Game of Thrones, The Da Vinci Code….as well as the upcoming releases World War Z, Under The Skin, Cloud Atlas and Fast And Furious 6 all have in common?  Well, they all feature Scotland as a backdrop.    I’ve been seeing my home country on film a remarkable amount recently.

Scotland has been the scene for iconic films in the past.  The Wicker Man, Chariots of Fire and Monty Python’s Holy Grail all filmed extensively here, but in the last few years there seems to have been an explosion in the number of major films shooting here, and it has not been limited to live action.  There was also Pixar’s ‘Brave’ .

Hollywood’s jaunts into Scotland have boosted local economies during filming and ‘there is also the spin-off benefit of visitors coming to see film locations, which according to Creative Scotland now accounts for 10% of the total value of tourism to the British economy’.  The Glenfinnan Viaduct (left) is now a popular stop for fans of Harry Potter. So what is drawing Hollywood to this small country?  I’d like to think it’s the beautiful scenery, the mountains, lochs, beaches and glens.  ‘One French director (Bernard Tavernier) once remarked that the light in the West of Scotland, combined with the clarity of the unpolluted air, made for an effect which no amount of studio manipulation could re-create.’  In reality it’s more likely to be the tax breaks introduced in 2006.  Under the new legislation projects that spend a certain percentage of their production budget in the UK are eligible for tax relief on expenses.  To date this relief has totalled approximately £500m.  Money talks, and there are good savings to be had here.

With that in mind I’d like to give a special mention to Sylvain Chomet and ‘The Illusionist’.  After Chomet released ‘Belleville Rendez-Vous’ to great acclaim he had Hollywood studios crawling over each other to attach themselves to his next project.  Instead he chose Edinburgh. Here is the one example of a project and a director choosing Scotland for more appealing reasons.  On a visit to Edinburgh Chomet fell in love with the city, and moved to a small town nearby where he lived for several years.  He also changed the location of his next project ‘The Illusionist’ from Prague and set about creating a beautiful love letter to the city he had fallen in love with…my city.

Edinburgh in ‘The Illusionist’

Finally, as a riposte to this article, here are 5 reasons why Scotland is in fact awesome.

  • Scottish minds invented or created; the Telephone, Television, Grand Theft Auto, Penicillin, The US Navy, Radar, Electromagnetics, the computer game Lemmings, the Fridge, The Bank Of England, Bicycles, Ultrasound, the rubberised tyre, Golf, Harry Potter and the best sport in the world, Rugby
  • James Bond is Scottish
  • Scotland is the only country in the world where Coca-Cola doesn’t lead the market in soft drink sales…IRN-BRU!
  • Scotland repelled the Roman Empire
  • Scotland is home to the largest Arts festival in the world, The Edinburgh Festival

Scraping The Barrel: The largest glitterball in Europe, The world’s only rotating boat lift (Falkirk wheel, it’s actually amazing), our sausages are square, the longest dry ski slope in Europe….

The Falkirk Wheel rotates two sections of canal to lower or raise boats



    • Glad you enjoyed Edinburgh! What did you do when you were here? I’m a bit biased but I think it’s amazing. The distilleries are great to visit, I love seeing that they’re mostly still quite small, these iconic brands known all over the world making their product in a tiny village somewhere. Love it.

  1. Great post man. I’ve been wondering the same thing. I actually managed to see them film some of World War Z in George Square. I loved your use of Tavernier’s quote there also but you’ve hit the nail on the head… It’s definitely the tax breaks. Still, I for one am happy about it and I do love our national soft drink and square sausages 😉

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