THE makers of the multi-award-winning film The Angels’ Share have mounted an outspoken attack on Scotland’s national tourism agency for refusing to help promote it in any way.
Producer Rebecca O’Brien has accused VisitScotland of “evasion, prevarication and a cop-out” by shunning the whisky heist caper while ploughing £7 million into Disney-Pixar film Brave.
She said she felt “real fury” when she heard about the Brave deal after being turned down for help because The Angels’ Share had portrayed a “genuine” view of Scotland.
In the comedy drama, a group of troubled young Glaswegians treated to a day out at a distillery by their community service leader get the idea for a raid to steal a barrel of rare malt.
Correspondence released to The Scotsman shows VisitScotland were worried that they would be seen to be promoting crime in Scotland and felt that any initiatives “were not worth the risk”.
But Ms O’Brien said The Angels’ Share, which had turned out to be the most successful home-grown film for years, would have been picked up by any other tourism body for a fraction of the amount spent on Brave. Ms O’Brien said the agency had missed a huge opportunity to sell the film to whisky territories around the world and help attract visitors to distilleries around Scotland. Three were actually featured during the shoot.
Despite production company Sixteen Films and director Ken Loach not receiving any public funding, the film was feted by arts agency Creative Scotland at the Cannes Film Festival. It went on to win the prestigious jury prize at Cannes, two Scottish Baftas and two Creative Scotland awards last week. Actor Paul Brannigan was also nominated for a major honour at the British Independent Film Awards earlier this month.
VisitScotland has come under fire this year for failing to capitalise on the large number of films that have been shot and set in Scotland, including Bond film Skyfall, the finale of which was set in the Highlands.
Brad Pitt, Halle Berry, Scarlet Johannson, James McAvoy and Tom Hanks are among the stars to have shot films in Scotland over the last 18 months, but they are yet to feature in VisitScotland campaigns.
Ms O’Brien wrote to Visit-Scotland in April of last year, well before her film’s release, enclosing a copy of the script, which she described as being “pro-Scotland”. However, one official told her that the agency was worried about adverse media reaction to any possible tie-up with The Angels’ Share.
Ms O’Brien, whose suggestions of link-ups with promotions with the three distilleries featured in the film were rebuffed despite gaining their approval, told VisitScotland: “It’s not often that you get one of the country’s best directors doing a promo for the whisky industry!”
Ms O’Brien said: “Although the film is not, of course, clean family entertainment, it is a genuine view of Scotland with warts and all and, in its grown-up way, appeals to the very healthy whisky world. Since whisky is for grown-ups and the film is for grown-ups, I can’t see what the problem is.
“I imagine that a good tourist organisation would embrace the film and work out a good tour of The Angels’ Share distilleries for visitors. I was hoping just a fraction of the money spent on Brave could be put to this use.”
Malcolm Roughead, VisitScotland chief executive, said: “For VisitScotland to invest in any campaign we consider the audience, the reach, and potential to influence existing and new markets, and that means making hard choices about which films and television programmes we support. Brave was a phenomenal opportunity to reach an audience of millions but also to work with other divisions of Disney which will produce long term benefits. The Angels’ Share was a fantastic film and I’m delighted with its success.”
Brave deal long in the pipeline
VISITSCOTLAND was harbouring hopes of a huge boost for the tourism industry from Brave long before the film opened in Hollywood this summer. The agency spent years in talks with Disney and Pixar after it emerged the animated fantasy was in production and a string of big-name actors like Billy Connolly, Robbie Coltrane, Kevin McKidd and Craig Ferguson were involved.
The £7 million deal, bankrolled by VisitScotland and the Scottish Government, was unveiled in March. First Minister Alex Salmond flew out to Los Angeles for the world premiere in June.