Experts call for Scots TV & film industry support

Annie Griffin said developing Scottish projects was 'impossible'. Picture: TSPL
Annie Griffin said developing Scottish projects was 'impossible'. Picture: TSPL
Share this article
Have your say

EXPERTS have delivered a damning verdict on Scotland’s film and TV industry to a parliamentary probe into its troubled state.

A Holyrood inquiry has been told how film-makers, companies, writers and producers are all struggling to make a living and get work made due to a lack of finance, industry support, facilities and backing from broadcasters.

They are warning that the country is being held back by the lack of a proper long-term strategy for the industry, just months after arts agency Creative Scotland - which is responsible for the film and TV sectors - published its own blueprint for the industry.

MSPS have been warned that is in a far worst state than previous decades after failing to building on the success of productions like Monarch of the Glen, Taggart and The Illusionist.

Scotland is now said to lag way behind the likes of Wales and Northern Ireland where Doctor Who and Game of Thrones are made in Cardiff and Belfast respectively.

The Holyrood committee will hear evidence from key players in person over the next few weeks, including Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop and Janet Archer, chief executive of Creative Scotland.

Award-winning writer and director Annie Griffin, film-maker Alan de Pellette, Belle Doyle, one of Scotland’s leading location experts, and leading animator Cameron Fraser are among those to give evidence to the parliament’s economy and tourism committee.

The Scotsman told last month how the inquiry had been ordered in the wake of the row over the failure to build a permanent film and TV studio complex in Scotland.

Within days a petition demanding the Scottish Government, Creative Scotland and Scottish Enterprise endorse the idea of a complex in Glasgow had been launched and has backed by 1600 industry figures, including actors Ewen Bremner, Gary Lewis, Greg Hemphill, Jack O’Connell, Kate Dickie, Martin Compston and Peter Mullan.

Ms Doyle, a former head of locations for Creative Scotland and its predecessor Scottish Screen, said: “For 15 years I’ve worked closely with colleagues from countries around the world, and become very aware of the global nature of the film and television industry.

“This is a truly international marketplace and one that is extremely competitive. Scotland is competing against countries and regions with far more developed infrastructure and far bigger public support.

“Creative Scotland and Scottish Enterprise have to work together to develop both the cultural and the business sides of the industry. The lack of a joined-up strategy has been a major stumbling block in developing meaningful support for an industry that spans both creativity and business.

“The amount of money that has been spent over the years in housing productions in unstable buildings with no facilities would have paid for a large studio complex by now. Talk to any line producer about the costs of this lack of long-term support for production facilities.”

Ms Griffin, a writer, director and producer from New York now based in Edinburgh, made the feature film Festival and the TV drama The Book Group in Scotland.

She has told the inquiry that she has found it a “real disadvantage” to be based in the country because of the difficulties of getting projects approved.

She said: “I have no trouble finding work - I directed two seasons of Fresh Meat in Manchester and have been offered two series for the BBC, both shooting in London, one after the other, this year. But what seems near impossible is to develop projects in Scotland.

“The BBC and Channel 4’s strategy to spend more money in the regions has merely meant transplanting projects from London and shooting them in Scotland. This means we’re not getting Scottish talent on screen.”

Mr de Pellette, a former director of BAFTA Scotland, called for lottery funding to be ring-fenced by Creative Scotland for a new development fund to “give writers, creators, producers and directors some income and space to take risks and get projects off the ground.”

Claiming it would be “the easiest thing in the world” to commission a dozen new dramas, he added: “Not all will work, but some will grow into bigger entities that can sell internationally and raise the quality bar in Scotland.”

Mr Fraser. founder of Edinburgh-based Ko Lik Films, won a Scottish BAFTA last year for his latest short, Monkey Love Experiments, which will also be in the running at the main BAFTA ceremony in London next month.

He said: “From my personal perspective, the animation industry in Scotland probably peaked with the production of the Academy Award-nominated feature The Illusionist here in Edinburgh.

“This was a production that attracted some of the best animators in the world to come and work here, putting Scotland on the international animation map. It should have been the catalyst for building something substantial, capitalising on the massive potential for further inward investment and highly-skilled employment opportunities for the Scottish animation talent pool.

“However through a combination of systemic neglect and a complete absence of vision from public funders, that opportunity was squandered. I strongly believe that there are few, if any, countries in Europe with less support for animation than is the case here today in Scotland.”