Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Outlander Author Says Show Could Continue for Years

By Brian Ferguson, The Scotsman


    

Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan playing Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser in Outlander.

     OUTLANDER author Diana Gabaldon has revealed that the size of the studio complex created for the hit time-travel show filmed in Scotland has doubled. The American writer, who is in Scotland to help make an episode of the historical fantasy series based on her books, said there had been a remarkable transformation of the production base since her last visit during the filming of the first season.


                                
Diana Gabaldon

Speaking to The Scotsman before an appearance at Stirling Castle, she said four sound stages were now up and running in the converted warehouse in Cumbernauld where the Sony-Starz show is based.

And she said there was no reason why Outlander, the second season of which will go on air in the spring, could not continue to be made there for years to come due to the “rabid” demand for new episodes of the TV show from its global fanbase.

The show follows the adventures of married nurse Claire Randall, played by Irish actress Caitriona Balfe, and warrior Jamie Fraser, portrayed by Dumfriesshire-born Sam Heughan, after she is mysteriously propelled through time from the Second World War to the time of the Jacobite rebellion.

Outlander is the biggest single inward investment in Scotland’s film and television industry and is widely credited with boosting the value of productions shot in Scotland last year to a record £45 million.

Tourism leaders have also reported huge surges in visitor numbers at locations used for the show, including Doune Castle, in Perthshire, which stands in for Castle Leoch, the fictional main setting for the first novel.

Other sites including Blackness Castle, in West Lothian, the villages of Falkirk and Culross in Fife, and a doocot at Preston Mill, in East Lothian, have all been deployed.

However much of the filming is done behind closed doors inside a converted warehouse complex in Cumbernauld. Its base at Wardpark Industrial Estate, next to the M80 motorway, is thought to be a front-runner to become to a permanent national film studio for Scotland.

Ms Gabaldon, whose appearance was part of the annual Book Week Scotland celebration, has spent several weeks in Scotland working on an episode of Outlander after being asked to write the script for an episode.

She told The Scotsman: “The studio for Outlander is huge, it’s actually doubled in size since I was last there.

“They’ve now got four sound stages, rather than two, so they can actually film four completely different locations in there at the one time.

“I think they will keep making it as long as people keep watching it. People are extremely rabid about it. They complain bitterly about what they see as the delay in putting on the next series as they have no idea how long it takes to make an episode.

“It literally takes four weeks of filming and another four weeks of post-production. That’s a lot of moving pieces.

“The studio is just immense. It has these vast cavernous spaces where they do things like carpentry and plastering and make the actual pieces of the show, and another huge barn-like space for making props, which has thousands of shelves full of quasi-18th century things.”

The TV series of Outlander, which Gabaldon has been acting as a consultant on since former Star Trek producer Ron Moore snapped up the rights to the show, has been a huge international success since it was launched in the United States in August of last year

The show follows the adventures of married nurse Claire Randall, played by Irish actress Caitriona Balfe, and warrior Jamie Fraser, portrayed by Dumfriesshire-born Sam Heughan, after she is mysteriously propelled through time from the Second World War to the time of the Jacobite rebellion.

More than 27 million copies of Gabaldon’s books have been sold since the first was published in 1991 after she drew inspiration for a story set around the time of the Jacobite Rebellion from a kilted Doctor Who character in the 1960s.

Ms Gabaldon said she had been asked to pen the script for an episode by Moore and his team when the show was in the early stages of development, even although she had never worked on a television show before, but initially turned down the opportunity.

She told The Scotsman: “Even before the show was signed Ron and his production partner, Maril Davis, came to my house and spent two days talking to me about the characters and the back story and so forth. We were very much on the same wavelength and gradually began to trust each other.

“From from that very first time Ron asked if I would be interested in writing a script. I said no because it was the first season and it was vital to the success of the show.

“I’d never written a script and didn’t want to mess it up. I said I’d consider it if it the first season was season was successful.

“I was also in the final frenzy leading up the publication of the eighth book when I honestly do nothing except eat and sleep.”

A second season of Outlander was commissioned after just one episode was shown in the US to huge acclaim from the fans of the book and Ms Gabaldon was approached again by one of the writers.

Ms Gabaldon, who has written the 11th episode of the second season, added: “It’s quite different working on a script, but it’s not been too difficult at all. It’s much more of a collective operation than writing a novel, which is all me and no-one else gets to read it.

“With a script, you have an entire writers room where everyone gets together, take the various pieces of the book and juggles them around. It’s like playing jigsaw puzzles with a lot of friends.

“The main criticism that the studio and network had with the script was that it sounded too much like me. They thought they could hear my voice very clearly and were afraid that it would be totally different from the rest of the scripts. They wanted it to sound less like me.”

The author, who has spent several almost a month in Scotland during the current shoot, has been sworn to secrecy over the extensive outdoor locations the production has visited, or even the plot details, although she has been posted regular mysterious pictures from the set to keep her half a million Facebook followers up to date.

She said: “It’s been pretty bad weather for about three quarters of the time I’ve been on set. It’s been quite difficult for them because of the problems with moving equipment through mud, rain, snow and everything, but on the other hand they are rather used to it.

“It’s be en tremendously interesting being on set, but also very tiring because they are filming for between 11 and 13 hours a day and you’re on your feet for a great deal of that time because the writers needs to be where they are doing things.

“For this particular block of film at the moment they are actually only in the studio for five days, the rest of the time they are out on location.

“The lack of daylight is a large issue for the production team at the moment, as it is essentially night-time in the afternoon.

“They have to be very careful planning scenes, which isn’t so much of a problem if they are doing night-time scenes, but if they want to do day-time scenes everyone has to get up really early in the morning to get the first hint of daylight.”

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