Oscars signal boom (except for Scots)

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THE Oscar nominations have been hailed as a sign of an upturn in the British film industry as a host of UK stars and directors prepare to take to the red carpet in Hollywood next month.

But while film-makers spent 840 million in Britain in 2006, up almost 50 per cent on 2005 - fears have been voiced that Scotland is missing out.

Just 15 million was spent in Scotland - little changed from 2005. The figures have been deemed "unacceptable" by those at the forefront of the Scottish industry.

And in another warning for Scotland's screen sector, Stuart Cosgrove, head of nations and regions for Channel 4, told a committee of MSPs that Scotland had "lost its principal and premier place" in television production and new media.

In Manchester, the BBC's moves to the city and the relocation packages offered by regional development agencies had attracted some 20 media companies. Northern Ireland had lured internet companies such as Google, he said. Dr Who and Torchwood had gone to Wales.

He said: "I would seriously welcome the concept of Celebrity Big Brother being made in Scotland, out of Scotland, because it has been a significant national global success and Scotland doesn't have enough of those."

While Edinburgh saw a 30 per cent increase in film spending to about 6.5 million last year - with movies including Hallam Foe, with Billy Elliot star Jamie Bell, and Death Defying Acts, with Catherine Zeta-Jones, set in the city - the rest of the country has not done so well.

The Waterhorse, with its story of two children who find a mysterious egg in Scotland during the Second World War, underlines the problems. It was filmed partly in Scotland but largely in New Zealand, using the flourishing studios there, and mimicking the Scottish landscape. The makers may have spent little more than 150,000 here.

Scotland cannot compete with the half-dozen London-area studios, with special-effects departments and underwater stages, tempting film-makers to snatch a few scenic shots in Scotland and leave. The latest Harry Potter film, with its $150 million (75 million) budget, shows up the difference between north and south. It was made in Hertfordshire's Leavesden Studios, with several English locations, but producers spent as little as 50,000 in Scotland. Filming was mostly limited to Glencoe and Glenfinnan.

The chief executive of Scottish Screen, Ken Hay, said Scotland got 3.6 per cent of the UK's networked television production and only 2.5 per cent of employment in the screen industries.

"That is unacceptable for a country supposed to be at the forefront. We should have 8.9 per cent as our fair share."

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