Jenni at work at VisitScotland film guide launch with actor James Cosmo.
Jenni at work at VisitScotland film guide launch with actor James Cosmo.

Life With VisitScotland: ‘Scotland looks stunning on screen, we want to capitalise on that’

Jenni Steele, film and creative industries manager at VisitScotland, has worked on some of the biggest movies filmed in Scotland.

From The Da Vinci Code, Outlaw King, Mary Queen of Scots and Macbeth to Brave and T2 Trainspotting, she talks to us about the rise of screen tourism and how the Outlander effect has impacted Scotland. 


I start work around 9am, checking emails and seeing what needs to be done that day. No two days are the same. I’ve had days where I am writing a film strategy, taking part in a radio interview about Outlander and planning a campaign around Scotland’s connections to Dracula. There’s a good balance of home working and getting out and about around Scotland.

My involvement in film and TV productions is mostly at the time when they are ready to be launched to the public rather than when they are filming. I work with film distributors and TV broadcasters, such as Netflix and StudioCanal, publicists, tourism businesses and national heritage and cultural agencies. It’s my job to make sure the productions and projects we work on promote Scotland in the best light.

The first project I worked on was The Da Vinci Code, which was great fun. I have also done campaigns on Outlaw King, Mary Queen of Scots and Macbeth, all of which had some great leads in Chris Pine, Saoirse Ronan and Michael Fassbender. These types of movies tend to do well for us as they are linked to real people and places that visitors can explore, as well as the film locations used. 

‘Landscapes and history are two of the main things that inspire people to visit Scotland’

Disney Pixar’s Brave was another highlight –  it was slightly different in that the production team used real locations as inspiration for the magical kingdoms they created on screen. Our job was to take the ‘animated’ Scotland and turn that into actual experiences for fans to discover. We recently published a film guide which features a whole range of movies shot here, and were lucky to have the legendary Scots actor, James Cosmo at the launch with us.

It was an interesting experience working on T2 Trainspotting. When the first Trainspotting movie came out, it wasn’t perhaps the kind of thing a tourism board would have got involved in, due to the way it portrayed the slightly darker side of Edinburgh. As times and attitudes have since changed, the new movie provided an opportunity to be creative and promote Edinburgh in a quirky and upbeat way. We invited media and influencers on a trip to the city and out of all the great places we showed them, their highlight was recreating the famous poses of the cast in the night club loos.

Filming for The Road Dance. Credit: Parkland Entertainment

Scotland looks stunning on screen, even in bad weather. It’s full of drama and intrigue which film makers love. Seeing Scotland on the big screen really is an advert budgets couldn’t buy. Our research continually shows that landscapes and history are two of the main things that inspire people to visit Scotland – so when they see the likes of Outlander, The Crown or Indiana Jones on screen along with great actors and a powerful soundtrack, it really has an impact on a viewer, who we then hope will be inspired to become a visitor.  

While some parts of the country will always be popular with filmmakers, when it comes to our promotional campaigns, we try to ensure activity is spread around the country as much as possible, by tying in certain themes or topics to the actual locations. This provides a wider range of places for visitors to see, and it can also help avoid bottlenecks in certain areas at peak season.  

‘Outlander has given Scotland’s tourism economy a boost’

The Outlander TV series has certainly had a positive impact on tourism in Scotland. With fans around the world captivated by clans, romance and history, they are inspired to visit the locations they see on screen – and also explore the real Scotland, beyond the storylines. Several heritage attractions featured in the series have seen a huge increase in visitor numbers since the series started, which is a fantastic boost for Scotland’s tourism economy. 

But we also have to be mindful of the places we promote to fans, as some sites can have limited access or facilities, or the structure and conservation of a building may not be suitable for too many visitors – so we work with location owners to ensure they are keen to be promoted before we share locations publicly. We also take responsible tourism very seriously and encourage visitors to any site in Scotland (not just film & TV locations) to do their bit in preserving it and keeping it special. 

‘Switching off is hard’

I love seeing an opportunity and bringing great people together to develop it into something that will help promote Scotland. I feel like I’m learning something all the time, whether that’s about Scotland or about film or literature. 

The nature of my job can mean varying hours  – perhaps I’ll have a call with a film studio in a different time zone or be at an event in the evening – but it adds to the variety. I have to admit, I’m not very good at switching off completely. Working in the creative sector, work and life interests can often overlap, but that’s fine as it’s all things I enjoy. When I do get a chance, I love heading out on long walks and can often be found foraging about on a beach or in a highland glen with my husband and our gorgeous border collie.

Read more from the Life With series here.

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