‘Crisis’ in Scottish film industry to be addressed

A BLUEPRINT aimed at reviving the fortunes of Scotland’s film industry is to be drawn up within months after a damning review warned the country was not producing enough films, suffering a growing talent drain and is being left behind major rivals.

High-profile films such as Filth starring James McAvoy were 'the exception, rather than rule.' Picture: Contributed
High-profile films such as Filth starring James McAvoy were 'the exception, rather than rule.' Picture: Contributed

National arts agency Creative Scotland has vowed to act quickly to address widespread claims of a mounting crisis and demands for much greater funding for the sector.

A detailed film strategy is expected to be the first step in a major overhaul of support for film-makers, production companies and industry workers.

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More than a year after it commissioned an independent audit of the film sector in Scotland, its findings have finally been published - and make grim reading with warnings that the current level of production is too low to sustain a “viable” industry.

The study reveals that although cinema-going was the most popular form of entertainment outwith the home in Scotland last year, many of those working in the filmmaking industry in Scotland believe it is at “something of a crisis point.”

Key recommendations for the future include the creation of a long-term strategy for the film industry, the setting up of a new screen agency - which would probably be run within Creative Scotland - and much greater funding for film productions. An average of only six per year are made in Scotland at present.

The study, findings of which were leaked to The Scotsman last year, warns it is “essential” that Scotland has a fully-developed screen policy in order to achieve sustainable success. Part of its remit was to inform future priorities for funding.

Chief executive Janet Archer said the body was now committed to producing a detailed policy by the end of June this year and insisted her organisation was “working hard to identify how we strengthen resources.”

The Scotsman understand industry demands for a better share of the funding cake from both Creative Scotland and the Scottish Government are expected to be addressed over the next few months.

The report, compiled by BOP Consulting after extensive consultation with the industry, said a recent flurry of high-profile films shot in Scotland, including Sunshine on Leith, Filth and World War Z tended to be “the exception, rather than the rule.”

It adds: “Scotland makes too few films to be able to produce a regular supply of box-office hits.

“As Scotland remains (for now at least) part of the UK, many of the factors shaping the level of production are determined at the UK level, such as policies on film tax relief, the allocation of National Lottery funding and the exchange rate.

“Film in the UK is a London-centric business and Scotland’s film sector is perceived to be remote from that centre.

“Looking at Northern Ireland and Denmark, places often mentioned during the consultation, it is clear that consistent and long-term support for screen at government level has played an important part in establishing a critical mass and attracting world players.

“If Scotland wishes to compete in a meaningful and sustainable way at that level, a long-term strategy supporting film development, production and distribution is needed.”

Dozens of film producers in Scotland formed their own lobby group last year amid mounting frustration at a lack of support from the national arts body since the old Scottish Screen organisation was merged with the Scottish Arts Council to form Creative Scotland.

The Independent Producers Scotland (IPS) group wants film to be treated on an equal footing as other art forms like theatre, dance, opera and classical music.

Sigma Films founder Gillian Berrie, one of the country’s leading producers, told The Scotsman that the report had “laid bare” the scale of the industry’s problems.

But she added: “I feel we are making progress with Creative Scotland now. We have had some very good meetings in the last couple of months and Janet Archer has been very sympathetic. I think she now realises the worth of film and the creative industries in Scotland.

“We have a meeting next month with the Scottish Government, including culture secretary Fiona Hyslop, and at that stage we are hopeful they will also get behind us.”

Ms Archer said: “Film is very important to us as one of our key areas of responsibility, alongside the arts and the creative industries, we are working very hard to identify how we strengthen resources for Film through partnership working with government and others.

The film sector review will help us develop an effective strategy for film in Scotland and we are committed to producing this strategy by the end of June 2014.

“We will work with Independent Producers Scotland (IPS) and others to develop this. This strategy will identify our short, medium and long-term priorities for developing the film sector and set out how we plan to deliver these priorities.”

Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “The Scottish Government is committed to developing a successful screen industry.

“I welcome publication of this review and look forward to continuing to work with the sector and agencies in order to promote and grow the screen industries in Scotland.”