Local filmmakers ‘may desert Scotland’ over funding

Even a success like Sunshine On Leith is no funding panacea. Picture: Hemedia
Even a success like Sunshine On Leith is no funding panacea. Picture: Hemedia
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THE Scottish Government has been warned the country faces being left without any of its own filmmakers unless they are given greater financial backing and a proper screen agency.

One of the nation’s leading film producers said other parts of the UK had left Scotland looking “incompetent” with levels of investment and studio facilities.

Arabella Page Croft, the producer of Sunshine on Leith, told a creative industries summit in Edinburgh that filmmaking in Scotland had been turned into “a mug’s game” because of a lack of industry support.

She was speaking the day after it emerged that the value of TV and film productions to Scotland was worth a record £45.2 million to the country. Almost half that figure is believed to be attributable to the American fantasy series Outlander.

The founder of Glasgow’s Black Camel Pictures insisted Scotland was “nowhere near” taking part in the current moviemaking “goldrush,” pointing out that up to six films are being made each year, compared to an average of 26 in Ireland.

Ms Page Croft said award-winning films like Under The Skin, Filth, Sunshine on Leith and Starred Up had all been a “triumph of determination” to make in the face of non-existent industry infrastructure.

The filmmaker said Scotland’s home-grown film and TV drama industry had been reduced to “a handful” of full-time producers with “backbones of steel”. She warned there would soon be none at all because it was proving too tough to make a living.

Ms Page Croft is a founder of Independent Producers Scotland, which was set up two years ago to tackle the “genuine neglect” of the industry. It has argued for Creative Scotland and Scottish Enterprise to be stripped of joint responsibility.

She said: “Film production is at a dismayingly low level. Our production community is terribly fragile and uncertain.

“Even after the terrific success of Sunshine on Leith, I don’t have an office, I don’t have any staff, I can’t even afford a development executive or even an assistant. My company’s existence is constantly on the breadline.

“If it’s too tough for the best of us to survive what chance do the rest have? Soon there will be no producers left in Scotland. There is little dignity in producing here. Clearly we do it for the love of it, but filmmaking in Scotland has become a mug’s game. We’ve had no infrastructure support for seven years. That’s why there’s only a handful of us left.”

Ms Page Croft said it was shocking that during a “golden age of television drama” there had not been an English language drama series made by a Scottish company since Taggart, which was cancelled in 2011.

She added: “Governments in other similar-sized countries have committed tens of millions of pounds to stimulate drama development and production. Film and drama in Scotland is hugely under-supported compared with the other UK nations.

“Twenty years ago Scotland was the biggest production cluster outside London. Now we’re sixth, with Wales, Northern Ireland, Manchester and Yorkshire also light years ahead of us. The West Midlands has also managed to secure millions - even they are managing to make us look incompetent.”