Marketing Edinburgh criticised over filming arm

Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman filmed 'The Railway Man' on location in Edinburgh and North Berwick. Picture: Jane Barlow
Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman filmed 'The Railway Man' on location in Edinburgh and North Berwick. Picture: Jane Barlow
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MARKETING Edinburgh is facing fresh criticism from the local authority which funds it over plans to halve the number of people dedicated to bringing major film and TV productions to the city.

Politicians at Edinburgh City Council - which gives the organisation more than £1m every year - have attacked senior management for cutting one of two full time posts at its subsidiary, Edinburgh Film Focus.

It followed criticism at the move from leading industry figures, writing in The Scotsman last week, at a time when Glasgow is hosting major Hollywood productions such as Brad Pitt’s World War Z.

This included several former Edinburgh International Film Festival directors, including Mark Cousins, Last King of Scotland producer Andrea Calderwood, and Chris Young, producer of The Inbetweeners film.

David Key, an SNP councillor - a member of the ruling Labour-SNP administration - told Thursday’s monthly full council meeting that Edinburgh Film Focus was a “kernel of creativity” in the otherwise troubled and “monochrome” marketing agency.

He also described the website of Marketing Edinburgh - whose chief executive quit following the ‘Incredinburgh’ winter campaign debacle - as “appalling”.

In response, Andrew Burns, the Labour council leader, sought to appease his colleagues by insisting that the decision would be reviewed.

“Clearly big name stars are filming in Edinburgh and I’m under no illusion about the important in terms of finance to the Edinburgh economy of supporting the film, industry” he told councillors and the public gallery at the City Chambers.

“You’re not the only person who has raised the reduction in staff at Film Focus with me.

“Indeed we had a round table discussion directly with the [council] chief executive about these very issues. There is no question that this decision may be reviewed. It will be reviewed.”

Marketing Edinburgh has insisted 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.

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, although Glasgow brings in about £26m from the same industry.

It has run for 23 years and helped to find locations for films including Cloud Atlas, Hallam Foe, and One Day, but was merged into Marketing Edinburgh in 2011.

Earlier, Cllr Key, a former commander in the Royal Navy, raised concerns at the that publicly-funded role Marketing Edinburgh is playing for the city.

He said: “I’m sure you’ve all read last week in The Scotsman a letter signed by 60 luminaries in the film and television productions on the proposed cut to the unit within Marketing Edinburgh, called Edinburgh Film Focus.

“I don’t know if any of you have ever seen the Marketing Edinburgh website, and I do encourage you to do so, because it’s the dullest website I’ve seen this year. It’s appalling actually, this is the shop front of Edinburgh. Half the page is a disclaimer about privacy.

“Eventually when you look hard you find the link and you go through a cinematic transition to this vibrant, colourful, Oz-like world.

“That sums up the wider situation completely. [Marketing Edinburgh] is a monochromatic, corporate body and inside there’s this kernel of creativity which we are about to chop in half - and I think now is the wrong time to do that.

“Given that we fund Marketing Edinburgh substantially, what can we do to make them change their mind on this one?”

Paul Edie, a former Film Focus board member of ten years, and leader of the Edinburgh Liberal Democrat group, also told council leader Cllr Burns: “I am seriously concerned about what I was reading [in The Scotsman]. I hear what you are saying about it being reviewed after six months, but that is like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.

“I have not seen anything in any our committees which agreed to anything like the watering down of Edinburgh Film Focus.”

A spokeswoman for Marketing Edinburgh said today: “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.”