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Last Updated:  Friday, 28 March, 2003, 10:13 GMT
Putting Scotland in the picture
By Pauline McLean
BBC Scotland arts correspondent

It is exciting film news that the English director Ken Loach intends to make his next production here in Scotland.

Ken Loach
Loach will complete his Scottish trilogy
Ae Fond Kiss will complete his trilogy of films set in Scotland, tackling contemporary Scottish issues.

For fans of his work, this modern reinvention of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, has raised a bit of interest.

But more importantly, when shooting begins in Glasgow this summer, it will mean work for actors, technicians, caterers, electricians and a whole army of film production staff.

For make no mistakes, Scotland's film industry while increasingly vibrant is still a fledgling one.


On average, Scottish film-making attracts about 20m for the economy.

But that is nothing compared to the 60m brought in during 1995, when both Braveheart and Rob Roy were in production.

Morvern Callar
Morvern Callar was shot in Scotland recently
And it is a small drop in the ocean compared to other countries, particularly America which continues to dominate the agenda in terms of what is made and whether you get to see it.

Gaps between one film production ending and another beginning can be lengthy, making it a nail-biting process for those who want to work in the industry in Scotland.

Between the completion of Late Night Shopping in the summer of 2000 and the start of Morvern Callar in spring 2001, not a single feature film went into production in Scotland.

Glasgow houses the headquarters of BBC Scotland and Scottish Television, a raft of independent production companies, the film quango Scottish Screen and some of our best known writers, actors and directors.

But even Scottish Enterprise had to admit in a recent feasibility study that it was not enough to justify a large scale film studio.

Instead, it recommended the Scottish Executive invest its spare 1m for film in a studio designed for television and commercial projects.


Other private projects - including the 25m Inverness studio and a 250m studio complex in Gleneagles - say the only way to balance the books is to spread the cost across hotels, theme parks, golf courses and housing.

Studio space for most film-makers is a secondary concern.

Highlands of Scotland
Many film makers come to Scotland for the scenery
It is the scenery which is uniquely Scottish, whether it is the glowering view of Glencoe on a rainy day or the rain-lashed tenements of Glasgow.

As a location, Scotland has never been more popular. Edinburgh in particular with a mixture of urban grime, Victorian grandeur and unspoilt medieval views has seen a huge increase in film-making in the last 12 months.

Last year filming brought an extra 1.4m into the city, according to Edinburgh Film Focus.

But the biggest problem is competition from other countries, who can provide the look at a fraction of the cost.

Indeed, they can even throw in some extras - human ones like the Irish Army volunteers who made Saving Private Ryan possible or extra cash incentives of the sort offered in tax breaks by the Irish Government.

What the Scottish industry needs is support and nurturing
Pauline McLean
Glaswegian director Peter Mullan managed to persuade Scottish sources to match the incentive he was being offered by Ireland.

His film Magdalene was then made in Dumfries, although set in Ireland.

But what it highlights is just how easily it can work the other way.

Directors like Peter Mullan and Lynne Ramsay are the toast of the Cannes Film Festival.


Television programmes like 2,000 Acres of Skye and The Book Group are seen UK wide.

Our actors can pick and choose projects which allow them to work at home and abroad.

What the Scottish industry needs is support and nurturing.

It also needs more training schemes and workshops to produce better writers, directors and producers as well as actors.

It should have the encouragement to try something new and ambitious, with the implicit right to fail.

And there should be encouragement too for film-makers like Ken Loach to use Scotland not just as a backdrop but as a resource for talent.

Loach urges young to defy censors
04 Oct 02 |  Entertainment
Loach defends town's portrayal
02 Oct 02 |  Scotland
Film studio plans unveiled
05 Feb 03 |  Scotland

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