Scottish Government rule out film industry funding

Film producer Gillian Berrie says that "the buck stops" with the Scottish Government on film funding. Picture: Robert Perry
Film producer Gillian Berrie says that "the buck stops" with the Scottish Government on film funding. Picture: Robert Perry
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THE Scottish Government has ruled out a financial bailout to head off a rebellion from film-makers who claim the industry is in the grip of a deepening crisis.

A group of independent producers demanding an “immediate” cash injection for film productions have been warned there is no prospect of direct funding.

Leading industry figures want the film sector to be treated on an equal footing with other art forms like opera, classical music, theatre and visual art.

They claim it is clear Creative Scotland has its funding hands for film “tied” under the current cultural hierarchy.

But the government has insisted Creative Scotland - which was formed out of a merger of the Scottish Arts Council with the independent film agency Scottish Screen - must remain in charge of funding for the film and TV industries.

Creative Scotland, which has pledged to give the film industry greater priority under a new management regime, has been asked to help set up a task force to identify extra finance for the industry.

Despite film producers insisting that “the buck stops” with the government for refusing to treat the film industry on an equal footing with national performance companies like Scottish Opera, Scottish Ballet and the National Theatre of Scotland, the government has now tried to shift the blame onto Westminster.

Film producers claim Scotland is losing out to major European rivals because just £3 million is available for major productions each year.

The Scottish Government, which has ring-fenced £2 million after agreeing to support the principle of a major film studio, has insisted there is no room for manoeuvre in its own budget.

It has cut £2.5 million from its culture budget for the next financial year, including an £800,000 reduction for Creative Scotland, to £51.9 million.

A spokesman said: “In the face of deep cuts in public spending imposed by the UK Government, the recent budget has already been prioritised to minimise impact on the cultural and heritage sector, including screen production, as far as possible.

“We’ve made clear our commitment to facilitating the creation of a film and TV studio for Scotland.”

However Gillian Berrie, one of Scotland’s leading film producers, said: “Ultimately, it was the Scottish Government that took away Scottish Screen and its 35 staff who worked with the industry. The buck stops at their door.

“We have suggested to Creative Scotland that film is taken out of its remit. We don’t think it has the resources, funding or personnel that the film industry needs.

“The Scottish Government needs to put immediate funding into the film industry, which is in bits at the moment. If there’s £2 million sitting in its budget for a film studio, let’s get that into the industry now.”

Creative Scotland’s chief executive Janet Archer, who met film industry representatives on Tuesday, said: “I had a positive and constructive discussion with the producers’ group and this afforded me the opportunity to listen to their concerns and their ideas.

“We agreed to work together, collaboratively with the Scottish Government and other partners, to find a positive way forward.

“We are limited in terms of what we can do immediately, but finding the right level of support for film production in Scotland will be a key part in the development of our plans into 2014 and beyond.

“We were interested to hear about the task force idea and look forward to discussing this further with them.”

A statement from the Independent Producers Scotland said the formation of a task force was the “only positive move” it could make at the moment until the government agreed to free up additional funding.

It added: “We need immediate government intervention. We have a window of opportunity to create our studio, and bolt it solidly onto an infrastructure that can sustain it, while providing a platform for our cultural identity while creating phenomenal economic impact.”

Feature film producers based or shooting in Scotland are only able to secure a maximum of £300,000 from Creative Scotland under its current funding regime.