Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Christmas is round the corner, like we need reminding. Still, it’s good to know that in some quarters there are people who just can’t stop giving. Earlier this year I wrote a piece on Easterhouse and how the National Theatre of Scotland didn’t want to live there, there being a flashy £10 million arts centre, The Bridge, because it was deemed ‘too small’. For what? Their egos?

Today’s Herald runs a piece about the soon-to-be homeless NTS, and how fairy godmother and Scottish culture minister, Linda Fabiani, has answered Vicky Featherstone’s letter to Santa by giving her a whole new building – The Shed, a former shipbuilding site in Govan. Not that the NTS is handing back the Bridge. They’re keeping that for their youth arm. But with the lease running out at their other branch in Hope Street, a deal’s been struck with the owner of The Shed, Angus McMillan who, so the article claims, has been waiting 17 years to flog it to an arts organisation.

I guess in Mr McMillan’s opinion film doesn’t qualify as art which is why Film City Glasgow is slumming it in the old Govan Town Hall. And I’m sure Mr McMillan’s altruism when it comes to arts patronage has nothing to do with the undisclosed amount he’ll earn when he flogs his empty shed to the Scottish Government to house the NTS.

For a company that claims they’re not interested in buildings, the NTS sure has an interest in buildings. While film companies stump up for production offices, storage and rehearsal space, the NTS gets handouts galore, presumably because it has the words ‘National’ and ‘Scotland’ in the title. Maybe it’s time some enterprising film producer started the ‘National Film Company of Scotland’, though there's a better chance of the ugly sister shagging Prince Charming than Cinderella filmmakers getting a similar deal.

The one question not being asked here is how much is this going to cost the taxpayer. Buying an empty shed is one thing, but refitting it to suit the NTS is another. One thing’s for sure – it’ll cost a lot more than its neighbour, Film City, just as I’m sure the good folk of Govan won’t benefit one iota from having a private theatre club on its doorstep. And pity the poor actor having to rehearse in a big cold shed, though judging by the way the NTS spends our money I wouldn’t be surprised if Vicky’s round the back burning shedloads of twenty quid notes.

As long as they don’t stage a revival of The Ship.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Film Flam is one of the best things about the Scottish film industry at the moment, which is a sad state of affairs but a credit to our Leanne, who could perhaps be making a handsome living as a freelance features writer (not feature films, that is) if she isn't already.

In Angus McMillan's defence, he owns a valuable bit of real estate and could easily just sell it to the highest bidder but has chosen to hold out for an arts organisation. He has also made it available for filming in the past. It's far from ideal for shooting - it's next to a road and recording sync sound is a real problem, especially if it rains. Admittedly it is big, and it does have a large roller door, which is more than can be said for Film City's "studio" area, which is at least unique in making us the only country in the world to operate a studio without a scene dock.

I don't know what the NTS has in mind for the shed, or The Shed as it seems now to be called, but as far as I know it has been dismissed by location managers as a viable build-space for larger shoots. Govan Town Hall's not ideal - actually what am I saying: it's ludicrous - but The Shed would have been worse.

On the broader point, that the NTS and other arts seem to get a good deal compared to film, you're spot on as usual. I do think that the industry needs to pull its finger out in general, but it doesn't help when a whole layer of money and bureaucracy (I'm talking about you, Scottish Screen et al) is trying to force it back in up to the knuckle...

Looking forward to the next one

1/03/2008 11:22 PM  
Blogger Leanne Smith said...

Thanks for the glowing mention though it should be said that if I'm one of the best things about the Scottish Film industry, then no wonder it's in a bad way. If anybody out there wants to hire me as a writer - of films or otherwise - be my guest. I'm open to any reasonably paid offers. Much as I enjoy writing this blog, it's not paying the rent and to be honest right now I'm in two minds about scrapping it in favour of putting my talent to more profitable use.

You're absolutely right about the owner of the shed - the guy could have flogged it to the Pacific Quay folk and cashed in a long time ago. And you're right about the pitfalls of Film City - I wasn't aware that it has no proper access as a studio you might want to stand sets in.

Of course the shed's not ideal but I would rather see it used by the NTS than have some new luxury duplex development or retail park. As for Film City, I don't hold much hope for it, not unless it can attract films, but judging by the site, I doubt producers are beating a path to the door, if they can find it.

It's sad to think that we're facing another year where Scottish Film continues its long and painful decline to zero production and with the rubber-stamping of Creative Scotland that replaces Scottish Screen, it's unlikely we've got much to look forward to. Not unless the powers-that-be start to fight the corner for film, which they - and filmmakers generally - haven't done so far. How many staff from SS will be part of the new CS, I wonder?

Anyway, Happy New Year and keep the comments coming.


1/04/2008 12:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"long and painful decline to zero production"

I actually think TV drama is in direr straits than film in Scotland just now. There are a few things happening filmwise in '08 to keep crews in work, but proper telly drama - our staple a lot of the time - is thin on the ground. A lot of finger pointing can be done about this, mainly at BBC Scotland (recent drama credits: Waterloo Road and Sea of Souls, both shot in, er, England) and SMG; and indeed there has been (cf Michael Grade and Bobby Hain; cf also Stuart Cosgrove and Bobby Hain).

So, with the institutions we're meant to look to for leadership (the state/SS and the broadcasters) all making a royal fuckstick of things, what are we to do? Flap around in despair at how rubbish and unfair it is? Troop down to GMAC to make a self indulgent and pointless short?

No. Scottish filmmakers have relied on someone else to sort it out for too long. There are entire production companies that subsist on making short after short, waiting for the crumbs from SS, and yet no-one seems mindful of the fact that THERE IS NO MARKET FOR SHORT FILMS. I know it's awfy vulgar to give the market a menshy, buy it's out there and in case nobody's noticed, it's in all aspects of public life - even the fecking health service - these days. Fortunately we're more immune in Scotland, and let's hope the SNP heralds better times, but I digress.

What we, as filmmakers, cannot directly affect is the attitude of the state to our work. If we live in France or Canada, we're in luck. If we live in the UK or the US, we're not, and what's noticeable among all but the top rank of Scottish filmmakers is a real lack of knowledge about sales and distribution. It's crude, but once someone (government or business) can see a way of making a buck out of Scottish films - that's when we'll see some investment, infrastructure, political will - all the things we're crying out for.

Sorry for the ramble - and please don't give up the blog! I know a lot of folk who read and don't post (including me until a few days ago...)

1/06/2008 11:17 PM  
Blogger Leanne Smith said...

Thanks for the comment. This is what I'm here for. So much needs to be said about the dire state of film and TV production in Scotland, so if this blog does nothing more than provide a platform then we're winning. I've sent links to certain people in the Scottish Government and unlike the dead-in-the-water film lobby of a year or so ago I got replies so I know they read it too.

I've also got a large-ish readership - and over 50% of you come back - more to the point. Which is ironic because I'm seriously thinking of shutting down Filmflam after two years and three months of justified moaning.

Anyway, back to your point about TV. A few months ago I wrote a blog about the very thing you mention - how come Anne Mensah commissions so much BBC Scotland drama from down south indies? It's a good question but sadly the media here have overlooked the fact, instead they treated her with a bunch of kowtowing queries about what her favourite telly programmes are, just like they did when Linda Fabiani took up her role as Culture Minister - as in 'What kind of books do you read?' - like we give a fuck. Tell us what's going to happen to our screen industries when CS kicks in?

You're right about Stuart Cosgrove too. From what I can tell for too long he's been our man in the regions, our ur-supplicant, turning up at every so-called cultural talking shop but whose agenda is to look after Stuart Cosgrove, not the indies he claims to champion. Maybe if he spent less time being a paid pundit and more of an advocate for what goes on here we might have a bit more respect for him.

Back to film, I agree with you - to a point - the more able of our producers (God, thin on the ground or what?) know all about sales and distribution. The trouble is they can't persuade anybody down in London to take a punt on a Scottish film. Then again, the same could be said of anyone north of Watford. And I doubt the picture is any rosier in France or Canada. We only think it is. I bet if you went there, you'd find someone with a grudge about how they didn't get the funding.

Totally agree about shorts. Totally agree about GMac - which if I had my way, would be shut down. Oh, but they've been shut since November, according to their website 'for stocktaking' until 7th January. Absolutely nothing to do with the current production of 'Running in Traffic' directed by their top banana, Dale Corlett. I mean, how long and how many people does it take to count three camcorders and an outdated FCP suite?

I wouldn't look to the government to save film. They don't care about profit the same way private business does. And that is what's been lacking here for like, forever - no private investment in film. The most the SG could do is create the climate for tax breaks for cultural production - writing, painting, filmmaking, music, whatever - an easy solution you might think, with proven precedents like in Ireland, but will they?

Will they fuck.

Happy N'Year an' at...


1/07/2008 12:13 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home