INVESTMENT NEEDED IN SCOTTISH FILM

 

Glasgow-based producer Gillian Berrie is urging Scotland's Holyrood Parliament to invest in studios and other facilities to help the country match the output of foreign rivals. Berrie, of Sigma Films the company behind Hallam Foe which opens the Edinburgh International Film Festival this week, said given the right level of investment and strategy, Scotland could develop a film industry to rival Denmark or France.

 

Her remarks follow the decision to bring forward the film festival from August to June from next year. Hannah McGill, artistic director of the EIFF hopes distributors can be persuaded to launch their films in Scotland, rather than at more famous festivals such as Venice and Cannes.

According to Berrie, due to the similarities in climate and population, Scotland could emulate the growth of the Danish film business. Denmark has produced a number of high profile motion pictures, including Lars von Trier's 2000 Palme d'Or winner at Cannes, Dancer In The Dark, starring Icelandic singer Bjork.

The Scottish producer points out that films made in Denmark return between £1.50 and £2 for every pound invested by the Danish government. "The effect on the economy of their film industry is dramatic," Berrie said. "Scotland already has the raw materials to expand in the same way but it would take at least £10m more investment from the Scottish Executive in order to improve infrastructure, as well as a serious long-term strategy for film production," she argued.

"Our filmmakers are helping to sustain Hollywood. It's easy to grow a film industry; all of these other countries in Europe have done it. What Scotland really needs is a lot more money and a long-term strategy."

Currently, all screen industries come under the umbrella of Scottish Screen, due soon soon to merge with other arts and creative industries into a new agency, Creative Scotland.  One of the first moves, according to Berrie, would be to create a separate agency for film. "The film industry gets the crumbs from the table, she says. "The focus is on TV because TV is thriving at the moment." The move to an all-in-one Creative Scotland was agreed by the previous Scottish Executive, but opposed by most of Scotland's leading film producers, who preferred to have film supported by a specialised agency.

Scotland's tourist economy could also benefit from the film industry, she says. Berrie believes films like The Da Vinci Code, some of which was filmed at Rosslyn Chapel near Edinburgh, have attracted visitors to Scotland and sparked spin-off tours.

At around £30m a year, Denmark contributes between three and 10 times as much to its industry as Scotland does, but despite the relatively low level of investment - Scottish filmmakers have done well in recent years.

Edinburgh-premiered Hallam Foe, starring Jamie Bell, goes on general release after the festival and is expected to make at least £2.4m.  Red Road, a film about a female CCTV operator starring Tony Curran, gained the Jury Prize at Cannes last year and is doing good business in America.

The current Scottish film investment picture is not entirely bleak. Scottish Enterprise and Glasgow City Council, along with the European Regional Development Fund, have contributed investment to Film City Glasgow, a £3.5m film studio in Glasgow's former Govan Town Hall. It allows visiting film companies all equipment and space they need to film and post-produce, supported by a studio, state of the art post facilities, an art workshop and office space, all managed by Berrie.

At the moment Film City Glasgow is hosting the filming Stone Of Destiny, starring Robert Carlyle. The film tells the story of the Scottish students who removed the Scottish coronation stone from Westminster Abbey in the 1950s.

Berrie feels confident the facility will attract film crews from around the world when the conversion project is fully completed early in 2008.

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