SCOTLAND’S film industry has been handed a major boost after it emerged that the maximum funds available for major productions is to soar by 60 per cent.
National arts agency Creative Scotland has unveiled the move following months of campaigning from leading film-makers for better support for the industry.
They launched their campaign ahead of the publication of a report on the state of industry in Scotland, which warned of a dire lack of facilities and funding, and a growing trend for film-makers and crew to head overseas in a bid to make a living.
The arts agency’s move, confirmed ahead of a major shake-up of its funding priorities, will see the maximum award for a feature film or TV series rise from £300,000 to £500,000 from next month.
It is understood the maximum level of support has been pegged at the same figure for around five years, since a controversial decision to merge Scotland’s dedicated film agency with the Scottish Arts Council to form Creative Scotland.
Chief executive Janet Archer, who has vowed to make the film sector more of a priority for the organisation under her regime, said the decision to raise the threshold had been taken to recognise the quality of film-making in Scotland.
The announcement is the latest boost for the film industry in a matter of weeks, after Creative Scotland unveiled its first director of film, entertainment lawyer Natalie Usher, and the Scottish Government threw its weight behind the idea of the country’s first proper film studio. The arts agency is also due to publish a long-term blueprint for the future of the industry in the summer.
It is hoped the prospect of extra development and production funding will both help Scottish film companies secure finance to get home-grown projects off the ground as well as attract more big-money films from overseas to film here.
Hit “Proclaimers musical” Sunshine on Leith, Under the Skin, which saw Scarlett Johansson play an alien femme fatale, and POW drama The Railway Man, which brought Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman to Scotland, are among the recent films to benefit from the maximum award from Creative Scotland.
It has agreed to lift the long-time cap ahead of setting its budget for the next financial year, which is expected to see film and television win a greater share of the quango’s funding cake.
Around £4 million is available for film and TV productions at present and an independent group of producers formed last year to try to win better backing for the film industry want to see that at least doubled in the next financial year, to bring the country closer to rivals like Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Six months ago more than 60 members of a new Independent Producers Scotland (IPS) group joined forces to warn of a deepening crisis due to a lack of available finance and government support compared to rival locations around Europe.
In January, Creative Scotland finally published a major review into the country’s film sector, which called for action to double the number of feature films made in Scotland, from six to 12 on average, including allocating more funding for productions and ensuring a 10-year strategy in place for the industry.
Ms Archer said: “We have had some extremely positive, constructive and collaborative discussions over recent months with representatives of the IPS and, acting on their advice, we have agreed to increase the threshold for individual film productions.
“This recognises the strength of filmmaking in Scotland and will offer producers and film makers a stronger platform for attractive additional financing for their films.
“Film is very important to us as one of our key areas of responsibility, alongside the arts and the creative industries, we are working very hard to identify how we strengthen resources for film through partnership working with government and other partners.”
Glasgow-based film producer Gillian Berrie, one of the leading figures in the IPS, said: “This is something we’ve been asking for for some time and I’m glad it is now is in place for the next financial year, although it is worth pointing out that the maximum award is now back at the level we had under Scottish Screen, when they cut it because they said they had run out of money.
“It will make a big difference in the bargaining power of production companies knowing that they have £500,000 in place before they go out and try to raise the rest of the finance for their film.
“We don’t know how much more is going to be available in the next financial year, but doubling the total figure would certainly be a start, when we know that other countries like Northern Ireland have more than £12 million available at the moment. We’d love to see that happen this summer.”