Screen unit aims to double the value of film production in Scotland

T2, the criticially acclaimed sequel to Trainspotting, was among the biggest film productions in Scotland in recent years. Picture: Contributed
T2, the criticially acclaimed sequel to Trainspotting, was among the biggest film productions in Scotland in recent years. Picture: Contributed
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An ambitious plan to kick-start a revival in film and TV production in Scotland aims to double the value of the sector in five years.

Industry spending in 2016 reached a record £69.4m but a consultation commissioned by Creative Scotland found a new collaborative approach could increase this by 100 per cent.

The figures were revealed in a detailed proposal to establish a screen unit within the Scottish Government-funded arts agency, which would offer “leadership, co-ordination and accountability” across the sector.

Ministers announced in 2016 an ambition to open such a unit to offer more support for the country’s TV and film industry and to better coordinate public sector investment.

It is hoped the screen unit will be operational by April 2018.

READ MORE: New Scottish film and TV fund delivers £17.5m boost for economy

But a report published today also revealed several challenges the new organisation will face, including “continuing absence of credible and current evidence on the demographics and skills levels” of the industry workforce north of the Border. Authors called for a “big data” approach by investing in technology to better understand screen production in the country.

To meet the sector’s growth target, “a major transition” was also required in business capacity. Scotland currently has just two of 53 production companies across the UK with an annual turnover of more than £10m.

Firms of this size currently secure more than 80 per cent of primary industry commissions.

“I welcome the single plan which details how each agency will contribute to achieving a shared vision for the sector which is ‘more vibrant, strong and resilient, supports sustainable creative enterprises, and grows its contribution to Scotland’s social, cultural and economic success,” said culture secretary Fiona Hyslop.

“The Scottish Government recognises the importance of strengthening our film and TV sector. That is why we reaffirmed our commitment to screen by providing an additional £10 million of funding in 2018-19 to bring screen development, production and growth funding to £20 million next year.”

John McCormick, chairman of the screen sector leadership group, said: “This is a significant development, strongly supported by those working across the screen industry. The new screen unit will provide the leadership, co-ordination and accountability that is essential to ensure that there is sustained economic and cultural development across the sector.”

Ministers and industry leaders hope the screen unit will follow the success of a new incentive fund to help bring films and TV productions to Scotland.

It was revealed in June the fund generated a £17.5m return on investment in its first 18 months - 10 times more than was put in.

Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting sequel T2 and a big-screen biopic of Winston Churchill were among the first beneficiaries of a scheme set up to persuade producers to set up base in Scotland.

In Plain Sight, a drama about the Scottish serial killer Peter Manuel, and The Loch, a new ITV murder mystery set on the banks of Loch Ness, were also supported after the fund was launched in September 2015.

Last month the main lobby group for the screen industry north of the Border warned the Scottish Parliament of growing anger and frustration over a “failure” to build any permanent studio facilities.

The Association of Film and Television Practitioners Scotland has bemoaned the track record of a task force created by the Scottish Government to get the long-awaited project off the ground.

The only major studio facility in the country is in a converted warehouse in Cumbernauld which is fully deployed as the main production base for the American TV show Outlander.

READ MORE: Crisis in Scotland’s film and TV sector revealed in dossier