Is Scotland’s Film Industry In Jeopardy?

by Alex Watson

Creative Scotland received further criticism in Parliament yesterday from artists who have previously worked with the organisation.

The comments arose during a meeting of Scotland’s Education and Culture Committee, intended to shed further light on the health of the country’s arts and culture sector.  Despite the appointment of new Creative Scotland Chief Executive, Janet Archer, in July this year, some are still unsatisfied with the organisation’s actions.  Film producer at Sigma Films, Gillian Berrie, highlighted Creative Scotland’s lack of support and funding for Scotland’s film industry, in particular.  Berrie said: “It’s embarrassing being Scottish.  We [filmmakers] can’t stay here if something isn’t done.”

Other artists in different fields were initially positive about the new Chief Executive’s progress.  Producer, Chief Executive and Co-Artistic Director of Grid Iron Theatre Co., Judith Doherty, said: “In the last three or four months I have had really good dialogue.  I have had understanding and support.”  Playwright, David Greig, agreed that Creative Scotland were improving, but that there was still much more to be accomplished.  Greig said: “The direction of travel is great [but] young and emerging artists are really suffering.”

Credit: Creative Scotland

The meeting centred on the state and reported decline of Scotland’s film industry.  Berrie admitted that under Archer’s leadership, Creative Scotland are now focussing on film more.  However, Berrie still does not feel that film is being taken seriously enough by the organisation.  Berrie said: “I think very small steps have been taken.”  Janet Archer was present to defend Creative Scotland and her decisions during the meeting.  Archer said: “I think we are doing well [and] we are having an open conversation.”  The Chief Executive implied that she would spend sufficient time devising a longterm plan for the new structure of Creative Scotland, as opposed to a quick fix.  Archer said: “I’m not interested in a sticking plaster approach.”

According to Archer, a plan for the future of Creative Scotland will be available online in January 2014.  Confirmed plans and funding methods will be announced on April 1st 2014.  Archer stressed that the funding application process would become significantly less complicated, something which had deterred and excluded many artists under former Chief Executive, Andrew Dixon.  Archer said: “Funding schemes at the moment are quite confusing.  We are on a track to simplifying our funding programs.”

The reported £6 million spent by Visit Scotland to promote the 2012 Disney Pixar film Brave is clearly a bone of contention for Berrie.  MSP Stewart Maxwell argued that the endorsement was intended to advertise Scotland as a tourist destination, rather than sell cinema tickets.  Nonetheless, Berrie maintains that this money could have been put into several Scottish films, rather than one large international project.  Berrie also compared the worth of Scotland’s film sector (£32 million per annum in total) to that of Ireland (around £400 million).  According to Berrie’s figures, Ireland’s tourist industry reaps around £250 million of this every year.

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