Netflix in talks on funding new Skye film and TV talent school

The filming of Bannan on Skye
The filming of Bannan on Skye
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Entertainment giant Netflix is in talks about helping to pay for Europe’s feature film, comedy and drama screenwriters of the future to hone their skills on the Isle of Skye in the wake of Brexit.

The streaming service is expected to throw its weight behind a new talent school based at the island’s Gaelic college after talks with a leading film and TV producer based on the island

Chris Young said the link with Netflix was aimed at ensuring rising talent from across Europe would be able to travel to Skye for mentoring from some of the biggest names in the UK screen industry.

His new talent foundation, which is based at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, in Sleat, has launched a new search for “Scottish screenwriters with big ideas” for feature films, TV dramas and comedy series.

Young has secured the backing of Film 4, the BBC, the BFI, MG Alba and Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the island’s new whisky distillery, Torabhaig, for his foundation over the last two years. The first participants have already been mentored by actors, writers, directors and producers involved in Killing Eve, Trainspotting, Girl With a Pearl Earring, The Inbetweeners and Dracula. He has now set his sights set on bringing Netflix and other leading film companies like StudioCanal and Pathé on board with the foundation, which costs around £100,000 a year to run, with almost a third coming from the new Screen Scotland agency.

He said: “I think we’ve got all the British partners that we can on board to support the foundation. I’m now trying to find a European funding partner so that we have one if not two places for European writers coming here.

“There is definitely a need for something like the foundation in Scotland. But we also want to create something people will talk about outside Scotland if we can get sponsorship for places on the programme. I was talking to Netflix about these ambitions last week. They’re very keen to get involved.

“I’m very pro-Europe and the business is very pro-Europe. It would be great to get a couple of writers sponsored to come to Skye. These writers wouldn’t have to have any kind of Scottish connection, but they’ve obviously have to take part in the residency.

“Maintaining links with Europe are so important for our industry as we rely on European sales and investment possibilities.

“With the support that is now in place from the various funders, I think we’ve arrived at a place with the foundation where it could have quite a long life. It would be good if we could widen its horizons.”

Young has had his own film and TV production company since 1986 , with previous credits including The Inbetweeners, Venus Peter, Prague, Festival, Gregory’s 2 Girls and Seach: The Inaccessible Pinnacle, the Gaelic feature film.

He relocated the company from London to Skye, where he has had a home since the 1990s, in 2014, and started production on a new murder-mystery Gaelic drama series, Bannan, with the aim of creating a Hebridean equivalent of “Nordic Noir” series like The Killing and The Bridge. Filming will start next year on an eighth series.

When the Young Films Foundation was launched two years ago it was billed as Skye’s answer to the Sundance Institute, which Hollywood star Robert Redford set up in Utah in 1981.

The Skye initiative has been overhauled for 2020 to focus on new screenwriters who have no more than one producing, directing or writing credit on a broadcast TV project or distributed film.

Young added: “We’re so lucky to be based at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig where, with our unique access to all the studio facilities on campus, we’re able to build into the programme an extremely valuable practical aspect to the week’s activities. We find that screenwriters gain enormously from first-hand experience in directing, filming and editing scenes from their work.”

Sean Greenhorn, screen officer with Screen Scotland, said: “The Young Films Foundation residency is an incredibly exciting opportunity for Scottish screenwriters working in film and television. Following on from successful editions in 2018 and 2019, it is extremely encouraging that the residency is responding to global trends and focusing on the importance of multi-platform content.”