Glasgow on screen

Nicola Balkind on her new book about the cinema-loving city.

by Jennie Kermode

The World Cinema Locations series has taken in a host of cities with fascinating cinematic histories. Through essays by critics who know them well, it seeks to explore key aspects of their relationships with film, from notable productions to engagement with the public. Nicola Balkind is launching her volume on Glasgow at this year's Glasgow Film Festival, so we caught up with her to ask how it developed.

Book editor Nicola Balkind.
Book editor Nicola Balkind.

"I was writing for The Big Picture magazine then," says Nicola of the point at which her work attracted the attention of series editor Gabriel Solomons. Neil Mitchell, who was working on World Film Locations: London, invited her to get involved and she went on to do bits for several books in the series, including Dublin and Los Angeles. Having grown up in Glasgow, she felt the city deserved a volume of its own, and when she pitched the idea to Solomons it was warmly received.

"For Glasgow you think lots of social realism but it's acually lots more varied," she notes. Despite her long residence, she kept making new discoveries as she worked on the book. Death Watch, for instance, was unfamiliar to her to begin with, but she soon saw how pivotal Glasgow was in this acclaimed science fiction story of a man asked to film a dying woman's last days. A personal favourite was NEDS, and she was happy to be able to include Monty Python's The Meaning Of Life, even if that meant stretching boundaries a bit. Trainspotting is also there because, whilst it may be thought of as an Edinburgh film, Glasgow locations played a key role, especially when it came to interiors.

Nicola initially took on the book two years ago, when Glaswegians were first beginning to hear about the Hollywood blockbusters heading their way, including Cloud Atlas which screened at the festival. "There are older films too though, like Gregory's Girl, and lots of films that many people won't have heard of."

World Film Locations: Glasgow
World Film Locations: Glasgow

Taking on a book like this can be a challenge even for an experienced editor but Nicola approached it with confidence. "I knew lots of Glasgow based writers so I already had an idea about who might be able to contribute, and everybody was really helpful. The book has 38 scene reviews and seven essays. I wanted to include as many voices as I could and it has more people in it than most of the other books do."

A few months have passed now from the point at which she submited the work to the publisher, but so far it has been getting a really good reception and she's looking forward to the launch at five o'clock this Saturday, in Glasgow's Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA). The following day she'll be talking about the book again as she introduces Glasgow-set film Living Apart Together in partnership with Park Circus.

In the meantime, she's had the chance to enjoy the festival. Her favourites so far? Robot And Frank, Love, Marilyn and Village At The End Of The World. As the latter has just 59 inhabitants, we doubt there'll be a volume set there any time soon.

You can see World Film Locations: Glasgow reviewed in full in our Eye For Books column here.

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