Former whisky distillery brings taste of Hollywood to Scotland

One of Scotland's largest film studios is thriving in North Lanarkshire village.

Hidden away within the North Lanarkshire village of Stepps is a new film studio, that – at 1.2 million square feet – is one of Scotland’s largest.

Pioneer Studios has only been open a matter of months, but already has the capacity to house some of the biggest productions in the world.

“Glasgow didn’t have a studio of this scale,” said co-director Jamie McCoy.

“All of the big productions that came over and filmed in Glasgow would do the location shooting here and then go back to London or LA, so we were missing out.

Jamie McCoy is the co-director of Pioneer Film Studios.

“We’re 15 minutes outside of the city centre and that’s a real attraction. Speaking to international productions now, they love that we’re here and they really support that.”

There’s still work to do on some of the units – but if you look closely you’ll find props left over from filming, including some from Irvine Welsh and Dougray Scott’s gritty ITVx drama Crime.

Pioneer sits on the site of a former Black and White whisky distillery that was shut down in 1987.

“It’s actually a really good history,” said Jamie. “We play on that a lot because the whisky is a great angle for us. The site is built to host heavy industrial stuff, so loads of power, loads of access, which is great for us.

 Dougray Scott in Irvine Welsh's ITVx drama Crime<em>.</em>”/><cite class=cite></cite></div><figcaption aria-hidden=true> Dougray Scott in Irvine Welsh’s ITVx drama Crime<em>.</em> <cite class=hidden></cite></figcaption></figure><p>It was that space that attracted the team to the site in the first place. And uniquely, the directors don’t have film industry backgrounds. For instance, co-director Michael Parker is a builder by trade.</p><p>“When we originally came to see it for the first time just last year, certain areas were derelict, run down, the roofs were leaking badly,” he said.</p><p>“There was a lot of work required cosmetically, but once we built up a remedial list and a programme, it became apparent that we could make a business out of this, and that’s what we’ve been doing since.”</p><p>The studio is one of many in and around Glasgow; Outlander is filmed at Wardpark Studios in Cumbernauld, and there’s the new Kelvin Hall studio too.</p><p>More studios means more jobs, giving people a foot in the door in an industry that’s notoriously difficult to get into.</p><figure class=wp-block-image><div class=relative><img loading=lazy decoding=async src= width=1920 height=1080 srcset=

“Just working somewhere and having the opportunity to learn, it’s like a ‘pinch me’ moment every day,” said studio coordinator Nadine Walsh, who landed her job through a networking event.

“Every day, meeting so many different people, trying so many different jobs, networking, going to events. It’s just really good.”

Latest figures from the Glasgow Film Office show that the industry is recording record profits. In 2021, it brought in £42.4m and the figures from last year are due out in April.

“When you bring these productions, it’s like a circus coming to town,” said Pioneer Studios financial director Faye Clark.

“They stop in the local shops, go to the local delis and there’s just a lot of spending power, so I think that’s really good.”

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