Scottish filmmaker warns nation ‘punching below its weight’

Andrew Macdonald suggests profile of Scottish screen has declined since the days of films such as Shallow Grave. Picture: Getty

Andrew Macdonald suggests profile of Scottish screen has declined since the days of films such as Shallow Grave. Picture: Getty

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A LEADING Scottish filmmaker has warned the country’s screen industry is “punching below its weight”, having lost any sense of identity and is shunned by politicians.

Andrew Macdonald – who produced The Last King of Scotland, The Beach, Sunshine on Leith, 28 Days Later and Trainspotting – said Scotland was now lagging way behind Northern Ireland and Denmark.

He also mourned the decline of the Edinburgh International Film Festival and the scrapping of a dedicated Scottish screen agency.

The Glasgow-born filmmaker claimed Britain was “not even in the premier league” of cinema-making countries, adding that his homeland had still not managed to get “much of an industry” off the ground.

Speaking to communications company Charlotte Street Partners, Macdonald said: “I don’t know whether it’s a patriotic duty, but I like making films in Scotland because I understand Scotland.

“I was born and spent all of my formative years here. I find working here highly satisfying.

“There has never really been much of an industry at all in this country. I would like to see more Scottish stories that have a chance of communicating with the rest of the world.

“And I think with the political situation, it’s a shame that there’s not a film which can present Scotland in a cultural light which people might not expect. Particularly in the rest of the UK and the world.”

Macdonald is the latest high-profile figure to enter the debate over the screen sector in Scotland, which has slipped behind other parts of the UK and Ireland due to a lack of permanent studio facilities.

Macdonald added: “On the screen, both in terms of film and TV, I think it [Scotland] is punching below its weight. If you look at other small countries , Denmark or even Northern Ireland, for example ,  I think they’re doing a lot better.

“I think it probably has to start at the top in some ways with some very big cultural things like the Film Festival for example; that was once very important in Edinburgh. At one point there was even a separate Scottish screen agency.

“I remember a time when making something that was Scottish gave it an incredible identity around the world. Having any artistic identity is very important. And, despite the rise of nationalism in this country, I think that has been lost.

“Another very telling thing is that in France you always have politicians turning up at premieres. American politicians too, from Bush to Obama, to JFK, they’ve all done that.”

But he added: “Trying to get the Scottish Government to come to Sunshine on Leith was impossible. It’s just something we don’t have.”

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