Scotland passes its screen test to land first film school

SCOTLAND is set to get its first film school in a joint venture between Edinburgh College of Art and the city's Napier University.

They submitted their bid to the UK Film Fund and SkillSet, the industry's skills council, in May. The Scotsman understands it has been approved, although university officials say only that they are "very hopeful" ahead of an official announcement early next month.

The new screen academy would be one of about seven established across the UK in a multi-million-pound training programme for film students.

The Edinburgh institutions would draw on the joint talents of their own film departments to give Scotland a vital leg-up in an industry worth 40 billion worldwide.

There is currently no film school in Scotland; England has the London Film School and the National Film and Television School in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire.

Joan Stringer, the principal of Napier University, said at the opening of the degree show at the school of design and media arts last week to "watch this space".

"In collaboration with Edinburgh College of Art, we have spent the past 12 months putting together a proposal for Screen Academy Scotland, an initiative that will provide high-quality postgraduate film education within the UK for a national and international market," she said. "This means that students would be able to progress on to advance-level film training without having to leave Scotland."

SkillSet, which is jointly funded by the government and the film and television industry, laid down guidelines last September for screen academies to become "centres of excellence" in all areas of film-making. It invited further education colleges, universities and film schools across the UK to bid for a share of 4.4 million in funding, though they will also seek industry sponsorship.

The academies will be part of a UK-wide network; graduates could go on to study at the National Film and Television School or focus on management training at a new Film Business Academy.

"The chosen institutions have to cover certain skills areas," Kate O'Connor, the executive director for policy and development at SkillSet, said.

"Having a terrific directing course, for example, isn't enough. They would have to have a good track record of students entering the film industry, and a good working relationship with companies, such as masterclasses from established film-makers."

Mark Cousins, the Scottish film-maker and critic who has been acting as industry adviser to officials at the screen academy projects, said:

"In general if you look at any other country, once they have established a film school, you get an uplift in the quality of film production. Famously, that happened in Poland, but also in small countries such as Senegal where the industry has blossomed.

"Scotland has had various previous attempts at this, but this is the first really focused attempt and it should lead to better producers, directors and writers. I think it is wonderful.

"Scotland has always punched slightly below its weight [in film production] when compared to writing and music. Something has needed to be done ... this seems to be very well targeted."

A spokeswoman for Scottish Screen said: "A screen academy would be fantastic and mean we could have the best possible training for the screen professionals of the future."