Edinburgh film festival calls crisis summit

A SUMMIT has been called to address claims of a major crisis in Scotland’s film industry - on the day the industry’s biggest annual event kicks off.

Key issues are set to include what is needed for more home-grown films, like Filth starring James McAvoy, to be made
Key issues are set to include what is needed for more home-grown films, like Filth starring James McAvoy, to be made
Key issues are set to include what is needed for more home-grown films, like Filth starring James McAvoy, to be made

The Edinburgh International Film Festival has instigated the event, which will be held hours before its open night gala next week.

Key issues on the agenda are likely to include what needs to allow more home-grown films to be made, how to help the country attract more bid-budget films to shoot on location, and ways to reverse a talent drain of film-makers away from Scotland.

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The festival’s organisers have pledged to produce a list of key recommendations from the expected gathering of film-makers, writers, location experts, academics, distributors and festival organisers.

The event, which is planned to be annual fixture if there is enough demand from the industry, is likely to discuss the case for a new permanent film studio in Scotland to help the country compete with existing facilities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as the impact of the referendum on film-making in Scotland.

The summit, which will be held at Edinburgh College of Art, has been announced after more than nine months of intense lobbying from film-makers who warned the industry north of the border was on the brink of disaster because of a lack of support and financial backing from the Scottish Government and arts agency Creative Scotland.

The quango’s chief executive, Janet Archer, will be one of the keynote speakers at next week’s summit, along with Glasgow-born film producer Iain Smith, one of the leading figures involved in an independent group set up last year to campaign for a better deal for the industry.

Ken Hay, chief executive of the film festival, which is jointly organising the event with the art school, said: “It’s the first time there’s ever been an event like this, but we strongly believe the festival has a role in providing a platform for discussion and debate and the opening day seemed like the right time to have it.

“We want to make sure that we address all the issues that are of concern to the industry at a time of great change, but we are also keen that it is not just a talking shop and we will be hoping to come out with some firm conclusions that will inform and influence people in future.”

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A damning report into the industry for Creative Scotland found the country was lagging way behind behind major European rivals when it comes to studio facilities and support for film-makers. It warned that the country did not have enough infrastructure in place to support a successful industry, despite the success of hit films like The Filth and Sunshine on Leith.

Robin MacPherson, professor of screen media at Edinburgh Napier University, said: “Scottish film has come a long way in recent years but there is a great deal to be done if we are going to maximise the potential of our filmmaking talents, deliver to audiences range of film they deserve and realise the economic benefits of local and and incoming productions.

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“The Scottish Film Summit is an important opportunity in a very important year (and not just because of the referendum) for the whole film community to better understand itself as well as articulate to policy-makers, politicians and the public what its pressing concerns are.”

Creative Scotland has won some backing from the industry for appointing its first dedicated director of film, former entertainment lawyer Natalie Usher, and agreeing to up its maximum grant for film productions by 60 per per cent, to £500,000.

The Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise are studying a number options for the country’s first full-time film studio, with ministers ring-fencing £2 million for a loan fund to help get the venture off the ground.

Glasgow-based film producer Gillian Berrie, spokeswoman for the Independent Producers Scotland group, said: “We are making good progress with Creative Scotland, Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Government. They understand the need for a long-term strategy for growth, more funding and sector leadership. Together we are working towards creating a plan that will put Scotland back on the map in the near future.”

A spokeswoman for Creative Scotland, said: “The Scottish Film Summit is a great opportunity to engage all sectors of the Scottish film industry in continued discussions regarding the changes, challenges and opportunities presented around Scotland’s present and future film industry.

“As chief executive of Creative Scotland, the pubic body with responsibility for film in Scotland, Janet Archer welcomes the opportunity to participate as keynote speaker and discuss how Scotland’s film industry can successfully grow and develop in the future.”

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A spokesman for the Scottish Government, which will be organising a reception at Edinburgh Castle for key industry figures during the festival, said: “We have consistently championed Scotland as a location for international film and TV productions and we work hard to ensure Scotland is widely recognised for its world-class talent, crews, facilities and breathtaking locations.

“Scottish ministers are firmly committed to supporting a sustained increase in production. That is why we recently worked with Scottish Enterprise and Creative Scotland to produce a development brief inviting private sector investors to come forward with proposals to develop and operate a studio complex.

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“We are now working with our partners to assess rigorously the proposals that have been received. We anticipate that the process will be concluded this summer.”