Creative Scotland to make film and TV key focus

Sunshine On Leith and Filth and have fuelled a mini-film boom in Scotland. Picture: submitted
Sunshine On Leith and Filth and have fuelled a mini-film boom in Scotland. Picture: submitted
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FILM and television are set to win a much higher profile and a greater funding share under the new regime at the national arts agency Creative Scotland.

A managerial shake-up led by new chief executive Janet Archer will see a dedicated post of film and media director created.

Filth. Picture: submitted

Filth. Picture: submitted

The new figurehead, who is expected to have a track record of working in the film industry, will be charged with spearheading efforts to revive the sector in Scotland.

The key appointment is also expected to pave the way for film and television productions to be allocated more than the £4 million they currently get from Creative Scotland’s £97.5 million budget - and for more staff to work directly with the industry than the handful that do at present.

Although Scotland is set to bask in a mini-cinematic boom with the release of Sunshine on Leith and Filth, and three other films - The Railway Man, Under the Skin and Starred Up - due for release next year, Creative Scotland has a funding cap of £300,000 on the funding of film productions.

The Independent Producers Scotland group last week warned that the film industry in Scotland was facing an “extremely bleak” future, with the vast majority of producers and productions in “financial crisis.” Today’s news has emerged just days after it was revealed that 60 leading film industry figures had demanded better support for the sector from Creative Scotland and the Scottish Government to avoid the country slipping behind European competitors.

The lobbying campaign comes amid criticism that the film industry, in particular, had been neglected following the controversial merger of the Scottish Arts Council with Scottish Screen in 2010.

Ms Archer said she could not make any promises over increased funding at this stage and pointed out the organisation was expecting a slight funding cut from the Scottish Government for the next financial year.

But she told The Scotsman: “Clearly, what is coming through is a sense that budgets for film are not substantive enough and that the approach that has been put in place for film support in Scotland is not as effective as it needs to be.

“Our film sector is just coming to us in draft form and I know there is a frustration about the time it is taking to get out there. But we will be taking notice of it. “I’m only just beginning my fourth month but I very quickly made a decision that we would be focusing on film and media alongside the arts and creative industries.

“It is really important that we have specialist directors in place to hold specialist relationships as and when they are required.”

Glasgow-based film producer Gillian Berrie, whose CV includes Under the Skin, Perfect Sense and Young Adam, said: “This is a welcome development and strengthening the excellent, but under-resourced, screen department at Creative Scotland is the right decision.

“However, for Scotland to become globally competitive, time is of the essence, and it is essential that this new director understands the current crisis and responds accordingly. Direct government funding for the industry remains the immediate priority”.

Ms Archer’s wider shake-up - which will involve the appointment of new arts and creative industries directors - is also expected to help address wider concerns about a lack of relevant expertise among senior Creative Scotland staff and those who have direct contact with both artists and organisations.

Creative Scotland said the new film director would be responsible for the “strategic overview and leadership for film and cross-platform media and establishing partnerships to drive forward the development and growth of the film and media sectors.”

Key tasks for the new film director will be increasing the average number of feature films shot in Scotland above the current figure of 15-20 and increasing the value of location shooting to more than the £25 million it is worth at present. Recruitment for the new £55,000 film director’s post, along with a new director of arts and engagement, will get underway this month.

A temporary 12-month job of director of strategy is also to be recruited to help oversee the ongoing shake-up of the organisation, which was ordered by Creative Scotland’s board last December, following a full-scale rebellion by leading artists.

Ms Archer added: “It’s clear to me that Creative Scotland’s management and staff are highly skilled and experienced. However our current structure isn’t as effective as it should be because it doesn’t make best use of the skills, expertise and knowledge of our staff, or enable best access to these skills. We are also currently operating with four members of our senior team on fixed term contracts. This needs to be addressed.

“I want to build up a better knowledge bank of expertise within the areas we serve - the arts, screen and creative industries and make better use of the overview we hold, for the benefit of everyone working in these fields.”

Ms Archer will head up a 10-strong senior management team, who include creative industries director Caroline Parkinson, who was previously responsible for film and television, as one of three “directors of creative development.”