Film-makers attack cuts to Scottish film agency

Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman filmed The Railway Man in Edinburgh and the Lothians last year. Picture: Jane Barlow
Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman filmed The Railway Man in Edinburgh and the Lothians last year. Picture: Jane Barlow
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A MARKETING body has come under attack from 30 leading figures from the film and tele­vision industry in Scotland over plans to axe one of the two dedicated members of staff working to bring productions to Edinburgh.

Producers and location managers who worked on films including The Angel’s Share, The Railway Man, Cloud Atlas, Sunshine on Leith, Filth and The Da Vinci Code are among those who have warned that the move by Marketing Edinburgh will see the city lose out on securing lucrative work.

In a letter to The Scotsman, they have called for the decision to be overturned, saying it will send a message to the industry that attracting productions to Edinburgh is “no longer a priority for the city”.

In a further blow for Marketing Edinburgh, its decision to halve the dedicated locations team has been attacked by the national arts agency, Creative Scotland.

It is believed the decision was put forward during the pre­vious regime at the marketing organisation, when Lucy Bird was chief executive. She resigned in December after criticism of her running of the company.

Among those to voice their protest are producer Rebecca O’Brien, Ken Loach’s long-time collaborator; Peter Gallagher, producer of The Flying Scotsman; Alex Boden, UK producer of Cloud Atlas: and long-time Rebus and Taggart producer Eric Coulter.

They have said it is “vital” the first port of call for location scouts must be experienced and dedicated staff used to dealing with major production companies.

Edinburgh City Council, which funds the marketing body to the tune of more than £1 million a year, is being urged to intervene by allowing film staff to be employed by an independent organisation.

Edinburgh Film Focus was formed 23 years ago, but was merged into Marketing Edinburgh two years ago, along with the Edinburgh Convention Bureau.

It was supposed to have a budget of about £5 million by now, but is still struggling on with its original £2m budget, after failing to raise enough backing from the private sector.

Other signatories of the letter include Suzanne Reid, Scottish production manager on One Day, which saw Anne Hathaway filming in Edinburgh, Miglet Crichton, location manager for The Railway Man, which brought Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman last year, and David Brown, who was co-producer of The Waterhorse.

They write: “Edinburgh has built a reputation as one of the most film-friendly cities in the world. In our opinion this is due to the cumulative work of the film office.

“It is because of their professionalism and expertise that we can, without hesitation, assure a production company that no matter how ambitious the project, everything is possible in Edinburgh.”

The letter also casts doubt on claims by Marketing Edinburgh that there will not be a reduction in the service offered to film and TV production companies.

Ms O’Brien told The Scotsman: “There is a lot of competition to attract film productions out there now and if you don’t have your own film commission or are properly promoting locations, you will simply lose out to somewhere else.”

A spokeswoman for Creative Scotland: “At a positive time for film in Scotland, it is disappointing that Marketing Edinburgh have decided to cut their locations team by half. In the coming year, we will be putting more resource into promoting Scotland as a place to make films.”

Film critic Richard Mowe said: “There is clearly a growing groundswell of opinion against this decision.”

A spokeswoman for Marketing Edinburgh said: “We believe that we’ve made the right decisions in balancing all aspects of our remit from the film unit to supporting the council and other businesses across the city.”