FAT'S ALL FOLKS
You’ll be glad to hear I made it through another Christmas and New Year without stabbing my nearest and dearest - mainly by munching my way through Iceland party platters and downing a crate of Lidl cava with voddie chasers. Not to mention scoffing those Thornton Continentals and the two-for-a-fiver boxes of choccies nobody’s ever heard of that my cheapskate sister-in-law bought at Poundstretchers and foisted on everybody.
You can tell the party season’s over. In most public places the air reeks of Intimately Beckham and dazzling white trainers can now be spotted pounding the pavements. Meanwhile I console myself with Teletext holidays and the sales - at least until the credit card statement drops on the mat with a dull and threatening thud, which is okay by me since I don’t plan on eating again till March.
So what have we got to look forward to in 2008? If it’s film and telly, forget it. All that’s happening film-wise in Scotland is an imported horror, Clive Barker’s Book of Blood, currently shooting in Edinburgh and so keeping a handful of local crew off benefits. Elsewhere (ie. Glasgow) there’s the DIY feature, Running in Traffic, the reason why GMAC’s been shut since November. Maintenance and stocktaking, my arse. Do their backers – City of Glasgow, Scottish Screen, the BBC and the Film Council - know they’re dogging it? Still, if it's the only way to get a local film produced then good luck to them. Good luck too to Yasmin Fedda whose documentary, Breadmakers, is off to Sundance. Go girl.
Less enticing is Skillset Scotland’s ‘career makeover competition’. A week at the Berlinale Talent Campus? You’ll be beating off offers galore I’m sure, sadly none of them to do working with film or TV. Or a week working at games company, Sky, learning all about video production which chances are you know all about anyway since you can’t apply to Skillset unless you’ve got a HND in coffee-stirring. Or how about a week’s worth of office slavery at IWC? A must for anybody’s CV and yet another version of the sit-up-and-beg mentality that passes for unmissable opportunity. I’m sure somebody’s patting themselves on the back with this one.
Scouring the papers I notice another of those tiresome items in the Sunday Herald predicting what 2008 will look like. Second bottom of the heap is arts which for some reason (er, Creative Scotland?) now includes the entire Scottish screen sector. Quoted is Anne Bonnar, theatre fan and recently-appointed director of the transitional body for CS. If you can stay awake -
I'm optimistic. The development of Creative Scotland will challenge some of our thinking about how to create a leading cultural development agency. As a small country in confident times, we have the opportunity to create a support structure which will enable our artists and creative communities to deliver for Scotland and the world. That's a fantastic opportunity.
The challenge for the arts and artists in Scotland has never been about talent or creativity. Its been about recognition and appropriate support and advocacy, here and abroad. Many artists, and those involved in the broader creative industries, are looking for clear leadership and for a co-ordinated approach to investment, development and advocacy across the sector. Over recent years there has been uncertainty about future support structures.
The Scottish government has made a commitment to the formation of Creative Scotland, which will have a leadership role across the arts, screen and the creative sector. During 2008 the role, shape and style of Creative Scotland will become clear as will its relationships with other public agencies, local authorities and others. This will present opportunities and perhaps some challenges for the arts and creative community and has the potential to make a positive difference to the arts in and from Scotland.
Bonnar's statement, delivered in deadly corporate-speak, is utter tosh. I don’t know a single filmmaker, writer, artist or musician who’s looking for leadership. They’re looking for money, pure and simple, just like all those chair polishers in the arts worried whether they’ll still be in a job by the time CS kicks in. As far as film and TV is concerned, what kind of leadership from Anne Bonnar can persuade a London distributor or sales company to buy into a Scottish film or TV show? All the optimism in the world won’t get a film financed or on to our screens.
Yadda yadda, so it goes. If Anne Bonnar or anybody else thinks I’m too pessimistic then go ask my 18-year-old niece, J, who worked hard at school, passed her exams, held down not one but three part-time jobs and last year enrolled for a media course at a well-known university. I just heard J’s quit the course, as she says – ‘to get a life’. Waking up to the fact that four years of study and a five-figure debt guarantees nothing, J knows her chances of even an average-waged job in film or telly are practically zilch. She’s now signed up with Strathclyde Police.
Unlike Anne Bonnar, at least my niece won’t have to worry about the ‘uncertainty about future support structures’. Neither will I. After hearing about J's decision, I can’t convince myself that another year of naysaying on this blog is in any way life-affirming or even fun so after 158 posts I’m off to try something more profitable – and positive. I might even write a half-decent script.
Thanks to the many thousands of you who’ve read this blog, especially those who took the time to comment. Good luck to you all.