Former EIFF directors in film and TV job cut protest

Mark Cousins has joined Jim Hickey and Murray Grigor in calling for Edinburgh Film Focus to be protected from cutbacks at Marketing Edinburgh. Picture: Jane Barlow
Mark Cousins has joined Jim Hickey and Murray Grigor in calling for Edinburgh Film Focus to be protected from cutbacks at Marketing Edinburgh. Picture: Jane Barlow
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THREE former directors of the Edinburgh International Film Festival have joined a campaign against the halving of the number of people dedicated to bringing major film and TV productions to the city.

Mark Cousins, Jim Hickey and Murray Grigor have joined a host of leading names from the industry in calling for Edinburgh Film Focus to be protected from cutbacks at Marketing Edinburgh.

Last King of Scotland producer Andrea Calderwood, Chris Young, producer of The Inbetweeners film, Andrea Gibb, the award-winning screenwriter of Dear Frankie, and Book Group director Annie Griffin have signed the second open letter on the issue in the space of a few days.

Signed by more than 60 individuals, it shoots down claims by Marketing Edinburgh that services for film-makers - worth around £5 million a year to the city - will be unaffected by the scrapping of the dedicated team.

The letter, published in The Scotsman today, demands an urgent meeting with Marketing Edinburgh to discuss the “shortsighted” decision to make one of the two staff at the film unit redundant - the only compulsory redundancy confirmed by the body.

Concerns have been raised about the need to keep Edinburgh Film Focus independent from Marketing Edinburgh, which was formed two years ago, and the prospect of non-specialist staff handling inquiries from major production companies.

It is the latest blow to the credibility of the body, which was widely criticised last year after launching its first marketing campaign, after senior councillors tried to have it scrapped.

The latest letter states: “We are writing to protest in the strongest terms the plans to reduce Edinburgh’s Film Focus office to a single film officer.

“We are leading members of the film and television community and it is vital to the work we do. The two current officers have detailed and specialist knowledge of what producers need when choosing to work in and around Edinburgh.

“These dedicated staff members have personal industry relationships that they have built up over years and cutting the film office budget will send a signal to the industry in the UK and worldwide that Edinburgh is no longer committed to having a film and television industry.

“Film and television projects come here because there’s a good film office. Edinburgh attracts international productions that use the city’s spectacular locations. But producers want a film office that will protect and support their work, not a marketing team.

“We strongly object to key decisions about our industry being made without the industry’s participation. With all due respect, this decision is short sighted, and does not serve our industry.”

Ms Griffin, who also made the film Festival and the TV drama New Town, told The Scotsman: “Everyone working in the industry that I have spoken to is united against this decision. There just appears to be a basic lack of understanding about what what Edinburgh Film Focus has done over the years.

“Their work just appears to have been completely under-valued when this decision has been taken, when it is a hugely valuable asset to the city.”

A spokeswoman for Marketing Edinburgh, which has a budget of around £2 million a year, said: “We have had to make some difficult decisions in order to make sure Marketing Edinburgh has the breadth of skills and resources it requires to meet the numerous opportunities to promote Scotland’s capital.

“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.

“We will continue with this structure and of course review and measure performance as we go to make sure that the organisation as a whole thrives, whilst delivering significant economic return to the city of Edinburgh.

“We look forward to working with the film community to ensure that Edinburgh continues to be promoted and chosen as a cinematic filming location.”

Edinburgh Film Focus was formed 23 years ago, but was merged into Marketing Edinburgh two years ago, along with the Edinburgh Convention Bureau, the city’s business tourism unit.

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.

However a spokesman for the council told The Scotsman: “This is a matter for Marketing Edinburgh.”

Signatories of the previous letter included 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.