Fiona McCade: Scotland can cash in on silver screen

Braveheart earned Scotland around �15 million in tourist revenue. Picture: Complimentary
Braveheart earned Scotland around �15 million in tourist revenue. Picture: Complimentary
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All my life I’ve loved film, so the first chance I got, I went to Los Angeles to see where Hollywood happens. It was a pilgrimage, rather than a holiday.

I visited studios, touched golden stars on the sidewalks, put my hands in the concrete palm prints at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and tried to immerse myself in the magic. Then, one day, I went to the pictures – as you do – and during the film, there was a panoramic panning shot of LA. And there, on the screen in front of me, was the very movie theatre I was sitting in, watching that film. I never quite recovered.

I understand the need to go in search of something you have only ever imagined, so I appreciate a new survey of avid bookworms, which claims that the novella Breakfast At Tiffany’s is the reason many women visit New York.

Some 37 per cent of readers polled – all of them women – said that Truman Capote’s story had inspired them to go and see the Big Apple for themselves.

The next highest score was for Lord of the Rings, which turns out to be the reason that 15 per cent of men questioned had visited New Zealand.

But hang on – LOTR isn’t set in New Zealand. It’s set in Middle Earth, which is even more difficult to get to. So, may I suggest, ever so delicately, that this survey isn’t really about books at all, but rather about the films made of them?

In which case, even if the men going in search of Middle Earth have got their worlds a little mixed up, at least they won’t be disappointed when they see South Island. It really is as beautiful as it appears, whether or not you like Tolkien. The ladies, on the other hand, will certainly struggle to find the New York of Holly Golightly.

I know because I tried looking for it, too, but, sadly, it simply isn’t there any more. It’s tougher to find Capote’s New York than it is to eat 30 boxes of Crackerjack just trying to find a plastic ring. No small wonder, of course. The book is 55 years old and the film is 52, so New York now belongs to the Sex and the City girls, rather than Holly. You might as well go looking for the city as it appears in Gangs of New York.

Harsh reality can be such a problem when you try to make your dreams come to life. For example, I’ve never visited America’s Deep South, despite adoring both the book and the film Gone with the Wind. I may be wrong, but I’m assuming that there is a clue to my inevitable disappointment in the title.

However, with the help of good marketing and sympathetic treatment, many film and book locations can make a real impact. According to the survey, readers of Alex Garland’s The Beach have been perfectly satisfied with what they have found in Thailand, and Salzburg still makes a mint from The Sound of Music. It doesn’t take a lot to convince the public that they are being transported into a place where fact and fiction merge.

Governments and tourist boards could do so much more to feed our imaginations. Given how many opportunities we have in Scotland to make people’s literary and filmic fantasies come true, I also hope our film development agency, Creative Scotland, will take note of this seemingly innocuous little survey. Film and book tourism are hugely important and are rarely given full credit for the value they add. They paid for the much-needed roof repairs at Rosslyn Chapel, so you might say it was saved for the nation – and the world – by The Da Vinci Code.

By the same token, maybe we should be advertising diving holidays where you can salvage bottles of whisky, summer camps for children at Hogwarts, or setting up photo opportunities for film-loving holidaymakers to be chased down Princes Street by security guards – even if they think, as so many do, that Trainspotting was set in Glasgow.

Love it or loathe it, Braveheart earned Scotland around £15 million in tourist revenue. It’s just a shame that if you want to see where Mel Gibson fought the Battle of Stirling Bridge, you have to go to Ireland.