Edinburgh Film Festival closes with funding plea

Karen Gillan and co-star Stanley Weber at tonight's closing gala. Picture: Jon Savage (www.jonsavagephotography.com)
Karen Gillan and co-star Stanley Weber at tonight's closing gala. Picture: Jon Savage (www.jonsavagephotography.com)
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As Karen Gillan headed up the red carpet for the finale of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, its organisers have issued a plea for more funding to help attract more high-profile films and stars to the city.

As the event drew to a close with the world premiere of Glasgow-set romantic comedy Not Another Happy Ending, artistic director Chris Fujiwara told The Scotsman that the festival could do “a lot more” once it is on a “stable financial footing.”

Not Another Happy Ending. Picture: complimentary

Not Another Happy Ending. Picture: complimentary

At just £1.6 million, the festival’s budget is £300,00 less than it was three years ago and Mr Fujiwara admitted the event was unable to meet the costs of people it wanted to bring to the event.

He also said that the audience response to this year’s event was “very positive” but said final ticket sales were not yet available.

Last year’s event saw just over 40,000 people attend screenings, which although an improvement on the previous year’s much criticised “rethink” of the festival, was still almost 5000 less than the 2010 event.

The festival was dealt a major blow in 2010 when it lost regular funding from the UK Film Council, with the subsequent funding gap never bridged by other funders like the Scottish Government, the city council and Creative Scotland.

Mr Fujiwara said: “It’s gone really well this year. We don’t have the final audience figures through yet, but the early signs are very positive, I can say that. We’ve had quite a few sell-outs over the course of the festival.

“All the main indicators have been very good this year, not just in terms of ticket sales, but from the audience reaction on social media to the response from film-makers.

“People have been coming up to me and telling me they have had some of their best ever experiences at a film festival here.

“It’s been really interesting to compare it to last year, which was obviously my first year.

“We certainly could do a lot more were we on a stable financial footing. I hope that we will be very soon. We would be able to do a lot more in terms of attracting films and also guests to the festival.

“Bringing in people from other countries, in particular, is a huge part of our budget and is very expensive.

“My message to people out there would be to look at what we have been able to achieve this year in terms of the films we’ve been able to screen and the audience response and the testimonials we’ve had from people within the film industry.

“Things cost a lot more than they did a few years ago. It’s a very simple equation. The more money you have the more you can do.”

Former Dr Who star Karen Gillan and French actor Stanley Weber, the two leads in Not Another Happy Ending, were in Edinburgh for the screening along with several co-stars including Gary Lewis and Kate Dickie.

Karen Gillan told The Scotsman: “The film was so much fun to work on, especially as it was all made in Glasgow and it’s the first film I’ve done where I’ve not had to really suppress my personality.

“There was probably more of me in this role than anything else I’ve done.

“I don’t really know why we’ve not made more comedies when the people are so funny.

“I suppose people don’t really perceive it as being that funny, they think of it more about things like drugs and crime.”

Gillan also spoke about her next major role, about to start shooting in London. She will play a villain in the new Marvel comics blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy.

She added: “I can’t really say anything about it other than my character is really bad. My hands are more tied on this than they were on Dr Who!”

The screening rounded off a bumper year for Scottish films at the event, with Blackbird, For Those In Peril, Dummy Jim and Fire in the Night, a documentary about the Piper Alpha disaster, among the home-grown productions showcased over the last 12 days.

Mr Fujiwara added: “It’s been a really strong year for Scottish films. We don’t have any kind of quota system or treat Scottish films any differently. We will show them if we think they are good enough.”

John McKay, director of Not Another Happy Ending, which was shot entirely in Glasgow, threw his weight behind calls for a new film studio to be built in the city. Although £1 million was set aside by Creative Scotland for the project last year, it is yet to be formally adopted by the Scottish Government or Scottish Enterprise.

He told The Scotsman: “It’s absolutely clear to me, it’s a no-brainer. It really needs to happen now.

“You only have to look at what is happening in Northern Ireland with their studio and Game of Thrones. There is a shortage of capacity for studio space all over Europe at the moment.

“We only had a budget of around £1 million for the film and had to shoot the entire production on location around the city in the space of just three weeks. It was like guerrilla film-making at times.”

Films like Annie Hall and When Harry Met Sally are said to have inspired Not Another Happy Ending, in which Gillan, from Inverness, plays a novelist with writer’s block. Despite Glasgow’s long history of producing comedians, it is one of the few light-hearted films to emerge from the city in the last few decades.

McKay added: “I don’t really know why nobody really makes comedies in Glasgow.

“We are a ****-taking nation and have produced all these comedic talents. I think it’s down to a failure of imagination.

”The film is very much a Glasgow film and could only have been made there.”

For actress Kate Dickie the film was a complete change of tack from her usual darker roles - and her other role in the festival, For Those In Peril, about the aftermath of a fishing tragedy.

She revealed that her next film would be alongside Homeland star Damian Lewis in The Silent Storm, which has started filming on the Isle of Mull.

She said: “A lot of my friends are always asking me why I never do comedy.

“It was great fun to work on and there was a lovely atmosphere on set. I’d actually met Karen before as we were in the horror film Outcast together, although she met a bit of a nasty end in that one.

“I was really clueless about the film industry before I was in Red Road as that was my first film work. I had no idea about the Cannes Film Festival until I went there with that film. I was skint at the time.”

Gary Lewis said he had come film circle with director John McKay after their first encounter more than 30 years ago.

“I was working in a homeless hostel in Glasgow at the time, when Mayfest was still on, and we tried to get a few acts to come down. John was in a comedy group called the Merry Mac Fun Show and he was one of them.

“It was great to make a film like this one in the middle of Glasgow where you were almost able to walk from location to location.”

Lewis revealed that his forthcoming roles included a “South American Braveheart” film about the Venezuelan military leader Simon Bolivar and a radio adaptation of a new biography on legendary football manager Bill Shankly.

Alistair Harkness on the highs and low of the Edinburgh Film Festival