A DEAL which saw millions of pounds of public funding ploughed into the Disney-Pixar fantasy Brave was a “painful” blow for the ailing film industry in Scotland, the Scottish Parliament was told yesterday.
MSPs heard how the £7 million earmarked for the blockbuster would have been much better spent supporting film infrastructure and film-makers in Scotland rather than on a campaign to capitalise on the animated film because the country lags so far behind European rivals.
Gillian Berrie, one of the country’s leading film producers, said the Brave funding was a “red rag” for the industry because of the huge sum of money involved compared to what was currently available for the industry in Scotland.
She later told The Scotsman that Scotland would be boasting its own film studio by now had the money put into Brave been invested in much-needed permanent production facilities.
VisitScotland launched its biggest ever global marketing campaign to help promote Brave, which was set in the Highlands and featured a host of big-name Scottish actors, like Billy Connolly, Kelly Macdonald, Kevin McKidd and Craig Ferguson.
Under a deal brokered between First Minister Alex Salmond and VisitScotland chairman Mike Cantlay, the government provided £5 million in extra funding for the tourism agency provided it ring-fenced £2 million from its own budget.
In comparison, just £3 million in total is set aside for film productions in Scotland at present, with producers only able to secure a maximum grant of £300,000 per film. Both Northern Ireland and the Republic Ireland spend more than three times as much on film productions each year.
Ms Berrie said: “Sadly, there is no film policy for Scotland at the moment and there is such limited funding that the amount of projects and talent that can be developed is extremely limited as well.
“The Brave money was spent by VisitScotland promoting a cartoon version of our wee bit hill and glen. If it had been more wisely spent and put directly into the industry it would have had a far greater impact on the indigenous sector. The long-term tourism impact would have been far greater.
“It just seems very hard sitting as a film-maker seeing that money getting poured into a film that wasn’t made here. It was painful.”
When the funding deal was confirmed in June 2012, as Brave was being launched in the United States, VisitScotland predicted that the £7 million campaign would generate an extra £140 million for the tourism industry.
However the agency admitted in September of this year that it could take a decade before that figure is achieved.
A spokesman for VisitScotland said: “The £7m funding was used to market Scotland around the world and convert cinema goers into visitors to Scotland.
“There are very few tourism destinations that get to work so closely with the world’s largest entertainment companies - this gave us an unprecedented opportunity to put Scotland on the worldwide stage with a whole new audience.”
Meanwhile Janet Archer, Creative Scotland’s chief executive, has admitted it will be difficult for the agency to find millions of pounds of additional support for the film sector from its existing funding.
The agency has a budget of £97 million for the next financial year, but announced last week that it was scrapping all of its different funding schemes for other art forms, with individual artists likely to win long-term deals for the first time.
However she said: “We have put some initial funding (£20,000) into the Independent Producers Scotland group to help set them up as an organisation and are looking at a number of different avenues in terms of film investment.
“We need to listen hard to what is being said about the amount of investment that goes into film. We are not in a position to move a lot of money that we currently put into the arts into film instead within the frame of our budget.
“What we can do is work with film to increase investment into the whole arena. We’re appointing a new director of film and media who we hope will have a commercial background, and have the contacts and networks globally to be able to generate new investment into the film sector in Scotland and work with film companies.”