A MOVING new feature film about the impact of a fishing tragedy on a tight-knit community is leading the running for glory in a radically overhauled Scottish BAFTAs competition.
For Those in Peril, which won plaudits at the Cannes and Edinburgh film festivals earlier this year, was Fife-born director Paul Wright’s big-screen debut - but has now been shortlisted for four separate awards by the academy’s judges.
BAFTA Scotland chiefs revealed they had shaken up the awards criteria this year to include productions made south of the border for the first time - as long as they feature Scottish talent.
Organisers admitted it was proving more difficult for film productions to get made in Scotland, but insisted the changes were also about allowing Scots to recognised at home for work they have done at the highest level in England.
The change for this year’s awards has led to a nomination for Glasgow comedy actress Sharon Rooney for her breakthrough starring role in the E4 drama My Mad Fat Diary, based on a 16-year-old girl’s real-life diaries about her struggles with being overweight and her mental health problems.
The 24-year-old, up against household names Ford Kiernan and Peter Mullan for the prestigious TV acting award, has been shortlisted for the award just weeks after being named one of the first batch of “breakthrough Brits” by the main BAFTA organisation. She will also be in the new series of Sherlock.
Mullan has been shortlisted for his role in the Channel 4 gangster series The Fear, while Dalkeith-born writer Bryan Elsley has been shortlisted for his work on the E4 series Skins. He will be up against Paul Wright, who both wrote and directed For Those In Peril, as well as English writer Robert Jones, co-creator of the BBC Scotland-produced crime drama Murder.
Another change in this year’s awards means that non-Scots were also eligible for awards for the first time - as long as the production they starred in, wrote or directed was “Scottish” enough to meet the usual criteria.
This means London-born actor George Mackay, one of the stars of the hit “Proclaimers musical” Sunshine on Leith, is in the running for his lead role in For Those In Peril, which has just arrived in cinemas. The film - shot on location in north-east villages like Gourdon, St Cyrus, Johnshaven and Stonehaven - focuses on the losses felt by a north-east fishing village after five lives are lost at sea and how the sole survivor, played by Mackay, copes with the grim aftermath.
Alan de Pellette, the acting director of BAFTA Scotland, who described this year’s shortlists as “very strong”, said: “We decided to change our rules this year in the individual categories - for film and television actors, writer and directors - to allow Scottish practitioners to be eligible for competitive awards for work on British, and not just Scottish productions.
“The main reason we wanted to do that was to allow Scottish people working at a high level in network television and British film to compete in their home awards. We know that is important to them and I think it also helps with the credibility of our awards. There are three nominees that would not otherwise have been nominated.
“We wanted to reflect the fact a lot of Scots at a high level. For an individual, you have to go where the work is in some ways. We wanted them to have the opportunity to be celebrated in their own awards.”
Under the previous BAFTA Scotland rules, anyone entering the individual award categories had to be either born in Scotland, have at least one Scottish parent or have been living in Scotland for at least three years. However these rules have now been significantly relaxed.
He added: “The nitty gritty of the eligibility criteria for actors, writers and directors now is that if a film or TV programme is a Scottish production then anyone is eligible even if they are not Scottish. It is very clearly explained in our rules now.
“With all our production categories, they still have to tick the boxes that are required to be a legitimate Scottish production, which is a kind of safeguard for the industry in Scotland.”
Mr de Pellette said the nominations had been a particularly strong year for documentary film and TV programme-making, but admitted that it was a “struggle” for feature film-makers in Scotland at present.
“The single TV documentary category, and the one for TV actor and actress, in terms of the range of entries that came in, those were extremely competitive. The quality was really quite amazing and showed Scotland in a very good light.
“I think the industry is in pretty good health, but it is definitely a struggle to get films made, any film-maker will tell you that.
“There is increasingly more really low-budget films getting made and obviously they have more of a struggle to get seen.
“Getting things made under the proper model of decent-sized crews and paying everyone is as hard as it has ever been and some would say it is harder than ever, but more and more people are thinking of ways to get things made. That is a good thing and will shake up the industry.”
As The Scotsman revealed earlier this month, box office smashes Sunshine on Leith and Filth - both of which were released earlier than For Those in Peril - have completely missed out as they were not screened at a festival during the strict eligibility period.
Mr de Pellette said there was no question of “bending the rules” this year to allow Filth and Sunshine on Leith to be in with a chance of recognition.
But he added that it “could help” the BAFTA Scotland awards in future if the Edinburgh International Film Festival was held in August, rather than June, after shifting its dates several years ago.
He added: “It’s really a question for them. There’s been a lot of speculation about the film festival, as it used to be on in August when the other festivals are on, but they made such an effort to move it into June that I can’t see them changing again.”
Two highly acclaimed documentaries from this year’s EIFF programme - Fire in the Night, the Piper Alpha documentary based on The Scotsman journalist Stephen McGinty’s book of the same name and I Am Breathing, about one man’s battle against motor-neurone disease - have been nominated twice each.
Still Game favourite Kiernan’s role as a hard-boiled Glasgow journalist in the BBC’s adaptation of crime writer Denise Mina’s Field of Blood and Dundee-born Hannibal Lecter star Brian Cox’s comedic turn as dubious Broughty Ferry businessman Bob Servant are in with a chance of an award.
Martin Compston is in the running for the best film actor award for his portrayal of Glasgow gangster Paul Ferris in controversial film The Wee Man, up against George Mackay and Iain de Caestecker, one of Karen Gillan’s co-stars in Glasgow-set romantic comedy Not Another Happy Ending. The Wee Man is also up for best feature film, along with Fire in the Night and I Am Breathing.
Channel 4’s ground-breaking documentary shot at the Nat Fraser murder trial, the BBC Scotland investigation of the abuse scandal at Fort Augustus Abbey boarding school, in the Highlands, and STV’s “Road to Referendum” series are all nominated.
Mr de Pellette singled For Those In Peril out for praise, particularly as it was director Wright’s first ever feature film.
He said: “It was one of only two British films in competition at Cannes this year and was made by a guy who is only 32 and was directing his first feature.
“He went to college to study photography, then went to the RSAMD in Glasgow and then the National Film and Television School, so he had various levels to perfect what he was doing.
“By the time he came to do a first feature he was quite accomplished and confident. It’s so hard to get any films made in Scotland so for someone to get their first film away at that age is a great thing.
“It’s good to have a new Scottish filmmaker on the scene in what is still a very small British film industry. The fact a first film like that got into Cannes is quite incredible.”
The winners of the three prestigious “lifetime achievement awards” - for film and television, broadcasting and “craft” within the industry, will be revealed over the next few weeks, along with the recipient of a new excellence award for the computer gaming industry.
The BAFTA Scotland awards ceremony will be held in Glasgow on 17 November.
The nominations are ...
Iain De Caestecker Not Another Happy Ending
Martin Compston The Wee Man
George MacKay For Those in Peril
Ford Kiernan The Field of Blood: The Dead Hour
Peter Mullan The Fear
Sharon Rooney My Mad Fat Diary
Hart’s Desire Gavin C Robinson
The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat Ross Hogg
Seams and Embers Claire Lamond
Comic Relief Does Glee Club Live Final
My Story, RNLI
Bob Servant Independent
Mrs Brown’s Boys
Current Affairs Programme
Panorama: The Truth About Pills and Pregnancy
Road to Referendum
Sins of Our Fathers
Fire in the Night
For Those in Peril
The Wee Man
I Am Breathing
Fire in the Night
The Murder Trial
Kenny Glenaan Case Histories
Emma Davie & Morag McKinnon I Am Breathing
Paul Wright For Those in Peri
Factual Tv Series
A Culture Show Special: Sincerely, F Scott Fitzgerald
Features/Factual Entertainment Programme
Bank Of Dave - Fighting the Fat Cats
Kirstie’s Fill Your House For Free
Victoria Wood’s Nice Cup of Tea
Coolson’s Artisanal Chocolate Alphabet
Mr Shingu’s Paper Zoo
Murder Film/Tv Writer
Bryan Elsley Skins
Robert Jones Murder
Paul Wright For Those in Peril