Edinburgh film agency funds cut despite city value

Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess on Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh in the romance One Day ' one of several films shot in the city. Picture: Contributed
Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess on Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh in the romance One Day ' one of several films shot in the city. Picture: Contributed
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IT HAS helped lure major production starring Tom Hanks, Nicole Kidman, James McAvoy, Stephen Fry and Anne Hathaway to Edinburgh. But now funding for the city’s film and television agency has been cut in half by the capital’s controversial new marketing body, in a move that has dismayed industry experts.

Edinburgh Film Focus was responsible for generating about £5 million a year on average for Edinburgh’s economy from film and TV productions in and around the city.

The agency – which has helped find locations for films such as Cloud Atlas, Hallam Foe, One Day, New Town Killers and The Railway Man – was set up 23 years ago, but was merged into Marketing Edinburgh in 2011. However, one of the two dedicated staff working there is being made redundant, in a surprise cost-cutting move by the agency behind the ill-fated “Incredinburgh” festive campaign last year.

This is despite Marketing Edinburgh – which has a budget of about £2 million a year – having lost its chief executive and head of marketing in the past few months. It still has a workforce of more than 20.

The agency insists the budget cut will not affect efforts to lure film and TV productions to the city, with other staff being drafted in to carry out the work.

But Mark Cousins, a former director of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, derided the decision as a “false economy”. He wrote on Twitter: “They [Edinburgh Film Focus] have a great international reputation.”

Film critic Richard Mowe said: “It’s a very short-sighted decision to diminish the work of Edinburgh Film Focus.

“It has had an absolutely crucial role in attracting major productions to Edinburgh over the years and it seems a very bizarre time to do something like this when we’ve just see Brave win an Oscar.

“Edinburgh Film Focus was already run on a shoestring, but despite this had generated a huge amount for the city’s economy over the years.”

Marketing Edinburgh, which has defended the move as part of wider restructuring, has blamed a 10 per cent funding cut by the city council for the next financial year.

The council insists its funding was always due to drop in the next financial year under a pre-arranged business plan.

It is understood the halving of the budget for Edinburgh Film Focus had been proposed under previous chief executive Lucy Bird and marketing boss Alan Gibson, and was backed by an interim management group put in place following her resignation in December after months of behind-the-scenes turmoil.

The equivalent film agency in Glasgow has four staff and dedicated funding of £190,000. It revealed last year that an estimated £20m had been generated for Glasgow’s economy by filming for major productions such World War Z, Cloud Atlas and Under the Skin.

A Marketing Edinburgh spokeswoman said: “Over the last few weeks, Marketing Edinburgh has been restructured, integrating its departments more efficiently and improving its cost-effectiveness. With these wider changes in mind, it was a necessary decision to re-order our film unit.

“We expect the unit’s economic return to remain constant next year, with the ambition of increasing it thereafter.

“As one of the world’s most iconic and flexible locations, the city remains absolutely committed to film promotion.”