Major inquiry into state of Scottish film industry

Gillian Berrie ' campaigning for support for the industry. Picture: Andrew Cowan

Gillian Berrie ' campaigning for support for the industry. Picture: Andrew Cowan

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A MAJOR investigation has been ordered into the health of Scotland’s troubled film and TV industry following warnings that the country is lagging behind major European rivals because of a lack of funding, a shortage of suitable facilities and a talent drain.

The Scottish Parliament has instigated an inquiry that will look at how the industry is performing, current levels of support, how to retain key skills in Scotland and what may be hindering potential growth.

It has been inspired by demands for Scotland to have a proper studio facility for the first time to compete with those in Belfast and Cardiff, where Game of Thrones and Doctor Who are filmed respectively.

The inquiry – confirmed just months after a damning report on the state of the sector was published – is also expected to investigate how support for the film and TV productions in Scotland compares with other countries across Europe.

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Holyrood’s economy and tourism committee will hear evidence from key players in the industry early next year following an 18-month campaign to persuade national arts agency Creative Scotland and the Scottish Government to provide better backing.

The probe will also look at the strength of Scotland’s computer and video games sector, which is largely concentrated in Dundee, and explore how developers and designers can compete better internationally and expand into new markets.

Murdo Fraser, the committee’s convenor, told The Scotsman: “The major issues for the film and TV sectors seem to be whether they get the right level of support compared to other countries, as there is definitely a sense that Scotland is losing out a bit at the moment, and that is obviously tied in with the discussion on whether Scotland should have its own film studio, which has been doing the rounds for many years.

“We want to understand why it is we are seeing other parts of the British Isles and indeed other parts of Europe being preferred for major productions.”

The state-of-the-industry report, published in January by Creative Scotland, laid bare the scale of problems, saying that many in the industry felt it was at “something of a crisis point”.

Consultants found just six feature films were being made in an average year, with recent box office hits like Filth and Sunshine on Leith the exception rather than the rule, and only around £5 million a year is being made available to support productions.

The study also warned: “The lack of large-scale studio space has a detrimental effect on the country’s ability to attract big-budget productions, other than for location shooting.”

Glasgow-based film producer Gillian Berrie, one of the leading campaigners for better support for the industry, said: “While the creative industries contribute £8m to the UK economy per hour, every hour, Scotland hasn’t yet reached its full potential, so an inquiry is welcomed, especially if it helps to encourage some smart, strategic, long-term planning.

“The cultural and economic impacts of a healthy, growing sector will be phenomenal.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We want to see our creative industries making an even greater contribution to employment and economic output in Scotland, whilst being a key part of our drive for regeneration, renewal and change.”

A spokesman for Creative Scotland added: “This inquiry recognises the importance of the creative industries not just to Scotland’s economy, but to our culture and our identity at home and abroad.”

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