ARTS agency Creative Scotland is to make an experienced entertainment lawyer the new figurehead for the nation’s film and TV industries.
Natalie Usher, who will become the organisation’s first director of film in May, will be expected to spearhead a revival for the country’s cash-strapped film-makers and help deliver a major film studio
Ms Usher, 44, is currently a partner with one of the UK’s leading media and entertainment law firms, London-based Lee & Thompson.
Her new post, created by the quango’s chief executive Janet Archer after she pledged to raise the profile of the industries, comes with a £55,000 salary.
She will have less than two months to complete a long-term strategy for the film sector in Scotland, which the quango has been developing over the past few months following a lengthy review which found it was in a fragile state and making “too few films to be a potential engine for success”.
It warned a lack of studio facilities meant the country was unable to sustain a big-budget film production, while fears were expressed about a talent drain to countries with better facilities, including Northern Ireland.
Ms Usher’s appointment was revealed just days after a long-awaited report recommended that public agencies join forces with the private sector to pursue a £15 million film studio and create much better incentives for film-makers.
Ms Usher, who is English, is the latest appointment to be made across the Border by Creative Scotland, which was singled out for criticism by writer and artist Alasdair Gray in a diatribe against the appointment of English administrators to senior arts jobs in Scotland.
However, Ms Usher already lives in Edinburgh and is said to have divided her time between the city and London in recent years.
She said: “Scotland has a huge wealth of creative talent, both in terms of established talent that needs to feel supported and new talent that should be nurtured.
“I am looking forward to working to realise a confident Scottish film industry with the potential to compete on the international stage.”
Gillian Berrie, one of Scotland’s leading film producers, whose latest features include Under the Skin, Swung and Starred Up, is among those to have worked with Ms Usher in the past, on films like Red Road and Hallam Foe.
Ms Berrie said: “This is one of the best moves Creative Scotland has made. She will be popular with the industry and will use her financing and legal expertise to help us reposition and realign the sector.”
Ms Usher currently specialises in advising on the financing, production and distribution of feature films and TV programmes, representing producers, financiers and industry talent.
Creative Scotland, which had to re-advertise the post after the first batch of candidates did not come up to scratch, said Ms Usher had “extensive experience of working with the film and TV sector in Scotland, the UK and internationally, and has worked with a large number of Scottish producers”.