Gillies Mackinnon ‘may never’ make another film in Scotland

Scenes from Whisky Galore. Picture: Graeme Hunter
Scenes from Whisky Galore. Picture: Graeme Hunter
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One of the nation’s leading filmmakers fears he may never make another movie north of the border after problems raising the funding for his remake of Whisky Galore.

Gillies Mackinnon, who has worked with Steve Martin, Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley and Judi Dench, said he had “no idea” how to make future films north of the border due to a lack of available finance.

The Glasgow-born director said he was dismayed that Whisky Galore, which has just had its world premiere, was the first film he has made in Scotland without the backing of either BBC or Scottish film agency funding.

Mackinnon said the new version of the Hebridean comedy, which closed the 70th Edinburgh International Film Festival, would not have been made at all had producer Iain Maclean not secured the backing of a private investor.

Mackinnon revealed that plans to shoot the remake of the classic Ealing Studios classic in the Outer Hebrides had to be abandoned because the budget for the production did not stretch that far.

Mackinnon said there was a serious doubt over whether his planned next picture - which would see a “very famous Scottish actor” depict a former Glasgow gangland figure - would ever get off the ground.

Mackinnon, whose best-known films include A Simple Twist of Fate, Small Faces, Regeneration and The Escapist, said he had spent eight years attached to the new version of Whisky Galore before it got off the ground.

The director said he was able to make a film roughly every year two decades ago but warned that Scotland now no longer even had a “cottage industry” of filmmaking.

• READ MORE: Eddie Izzard unaware Whisky Galore was a true story

And he claimed Scottish filmmakers were in danger of “disappearing off the map” completely due to the difficulties of finding work in their home country.

He told The Scotsman: “There’s no question that it is incredibly difficult to make a film in Scotland now compared to 10 or 20 years ago.

“There was always a clear way ahead as to how you would make the applications. Producers seem terribly daunted now. There’s not much encouragement anymore. You can count the number of mid-budget films that are being made in Scotland. People are disappearing off the map.

“In the past, every single film I made in Scotland had BBC Scotland money in it and Scottish Screen or Scottish Film Council money in it. Whisky Galore had to be completely privately financed. This is what is going on.

“We did a recce of Lewis, Harris and Barra, but financially it was just not possible. It became obvious we didn’t have the budget to do it. Obviously we would love to have had made the film on Barra, but you can only cut your cloth according to what you have.

“I’m just finishing for a contemporary film set in Glasgow, about an old gangster who ran away from Glasgow in his early twenties, but returns from Australia in his sixties to take revenge for the death of his brother.

“I’ve actually no idea how I begin to finance it, but I really want to make it. I can’t mention their name, but I’ve had interest from a very famous Scottish actor to play the lead role. Even so, it is going to be very hard to get it made.”

Lewis-born Maclean, who spent almost 15 years trying to get the Whisky Galore remake off the ground, said: “My goal was to film in the Western Isles. I spent many a year concentrating very heavily on filming there. But when push came to shove and we had to put the numbers together it was going to cost a lot of money to take everyone over there and find accommodation over there. We had to keep our budget under control.

• READ MORE: Film review: Whisky Galore!

“Obviously I’m not the only person that’s after funding from Creative Scotland or the BBC. To what extent you get prioritised I’m not sure. For one reason or another we weren’t picked out of the bunch.

“I was surprised, as I almost look upon Whisky Galore as Scotland’s national movie. I thought it would definitely have a ‘yes’ behind it. I think it really says something about the state of the industry more than anything else.

“It’s not an easy prospect when you have to raise more than £5 million for a project that you then have to beg, borrow and steal to try to make.”

A spokesman for BBC Scotland said: “We have helped to fund a number of films produced in Scotland in recent years, including Sunshine on Leith, Not Another Happy Ending, Castles in the Sky and Sunset Song.

“Giving occasional financial support to film-making in Scotland remains part of our broader role in helping to develop the creative industries in Scotland.

“Applications for funding are always given due consideration, however we have to balance such requests with our primary requirement to produce content for our audiences on television, radio and online.”

A spokeswoman for Creative Scotland added: “Our funding routes were simplified in 2015/16 and the screen budget was a total of more than £11 million, including £5 million available for screen production. This compares with £7.5 million invested by Scottish Screen in 2009/10 (the organisation’s last year of operation).

“Overall, this shows that we spend less on administration and invest more into the sector.”

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