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Scottish Screen a Review by the Scottish Executive

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SCOTTISH SCREEN - A Review by the Scottish Executive

ANNEX B - BACKGROUND: FILM IN SCOTLAND

INTRODUCTION

1. This annex presents a sketch of the current film industry and film culture in Scotland, and of the 5 years of Scottish Screen's existence. It is drawn from a review of currently available research and other information and incorporates the views of Scottish Screen customers and stakeholders and other support agencies consulted. It does not purport to be an exhaustive audit. That task is presently being addressed by the research study commissioned by the Scottish Executive in partnership with Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Screen, HIE, and PACT to produce comprehensive data and conclusions about the screen industries in Scotland.

2. Film is taken to mean productions that aspire to give a cinematic experience, i.e. delivering a narrative through the recorded moving image, and not the means of production - e.g. film, digital tape, computer. However; any consideration of film has to take into account the expanding area of other screen-based production. Converging technologies make it highly probable that the production boundaries between film, TV, interactive media, games, and new media arts will continue to blur. Emerging cross platform possibilities will inevitably trigger creative and/or commercial explorations at the margins of the new technologies. Mainstream production and audience expectation will continue to evolve, accommodating new genres of creative content. When this paper refers to the 'film industry' it is in the knowledge of those future possibilities.

3. There are some consequential definitional issues. Many of the statistics available for UK analysis of film production adhere to the BFI definitions of film. A feature film is:

  • made on celluloid

  • over 72 minutes long

  • made with the intention of theatrical release in at least one territory.

4. Short films, digital productions, television, and video features have to be additionally accounted for.

5. Scottish Screen define a Scottish film on the following criteria:

  • Scottish organisations played a significant role in the development of the film

  • Scottish organisations played a significant role in production funding

  • Scottish based film-makers played a significant role in its production.

THE BACKGROUND AND CONTEXT

6. 'Scotland on Screen - the Development of the Film and Television Industry in Scotland' was the report of a major study, commissioned in 1996 at the request of the Secretary of State for Scotland from Hydra Associates.

7. The report concluded that Scotland has many natural advantages as a production centre for film and television and concluded that there was clear scope for Scotland to claim a more prominent position. The report did not set out to integrate any examination of the cultural, social, or democratic significance of the Scottish screen industries into its findings.

8. The advantages included: Scottish writing talent, impressive natural and urban locations, access to the global English language market, and the desire to build on some notable successes of the previous two years, such as 'Braveheart', 'Rob Roy', 'Shallow Grave', 'Loch Ness', 'Trainspotting', 'Small Faces', 'Cardiac Arrest', 'Taggart' and Franz Kafka's 'It's a Wonderful Life'.

9. It suggested that with appropriate support to encourage production, the Scottish industry could provide sufficient direct experience to transform Scottish raw creative and technical talent into international reputations that would attract further production to Scotland. They also noted that box office revenue was, increasingly, not the most important measure of feature film economics although critical acclaim and/or popular success in this first theatrical 'window' strongly correlated to success in ancillary markets such as video and TV.

10. The report pointed to statistical indications that in those small countries that punch above their weight in film production success derived from the strength and level of public sector support.

11. Scotland's share of UK feature film production prior to 1996 oscillated between 7% and 19%. While in many years it was above its share of UK population or GDP the variations from year to year were a difficult context in which to build a stable production infrastructure.

12. The crucial factors affecting the growth potential are the dominance and huge resources of the US production/distribution majors compared to the limited size, share, and market power of the smaller independent distributors to which UK producers typically sell theatrical and video rights. The attitudes of the Scottish television industry to Scottish feature film production were also seen as crucial to its development.

13. A number of major constraints on potential were identified:

  • Fragmentation of public bodies in the sector and lack of co-ordinated strategy

  • Lack of capital

  • Insufficient resources committed to training

  • 'Metrocentricity'

  • Too narrow marketing

  • Insufficient facilities for production and post production.

The report made a series of recommendations to address these constraints. The principal one - for a unified Scottish Screen Agency - was seen as an essential pre-condition for effective organisation of public support for development, and for the other recommendations to be addressed.

GENERAL TRENDS SINCE 1996

14. Scottish Screen has annually collated information and statistics from relevant sources to monitor general trends in film production and consumption. There have also been a number of studies of the creative industries commissioned by Scottish Enterprise that have included analysis of the film and screen industries.

UK FEATURE FILM PRODUCTION

15. Between 1996 and 2000, UK share of feature film production has dropped to 15% of European production but the UK is still a major European producer. Only France and Italy have consistently produced more feature films over the 5-year period. European 15 nations production rose from three-quarters of US production to four-fifths between 1996 and 1998 (but this figure does not indicate combined budgets or returns through world-wide box office) Source: European Audiovisual Observatory.

FEATURE FILM PRODUCTION IN SCOTLAND

16. There has been a continued gradual but steady rise in production in Scotland over the last decade although Scotland's proportion of the UK market has remained constant.

Scottish Film production figures 1991 - 2000

1991

1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

Films shot partly/ wholly in Scotland

5

6

4

12

9

12

13

10

14

15

Indigenous Scots Production

0

3

2

1

3

4

1

1

3

2

Scots Co-Produced

1

2

0

2

0

2

5

0

2

0

Other UK Production

1

0

1

3

2

2

4

6

7

2

Foreign Prod.

3

1

1

6

4

4

3

3

2

11

Scottish Films as percentage of UK films

Scottish Films: UK total

1999

2000

Shot partly/ wholly in Scotland

16.3%

19.5%

Scottish Production Co.

3.5%

2.6%

Scottish Co-Production

2.3%

0

22.1%

22.1%

SHORT FILMS

17. There was a marked increase in the amount of short films supported by Scottish Screen in 2000, rising to 26 from only 10 in 1999. This corresponds to an increase in the amount of independent short film productions (from three in 1999 to 12 in 2000) as well as to the introduction of major new short film schemes such as Cineworks and New Found Land.

SHORT FILMS DISTRIBUTED BY SCOTTISH SCREEN 1999-2000

Prior to this the Scottish Arts Council Lottery-funded shorts and figures are not available on the same basis for comparison.

Scheme

1999

2000

Independent

3

12

Tartan Shorts

3

3

10 x 10

2

-

Short and Curlies

1

-

Edinburgh College of Art

1

-

Cineworks

-

5

New Found Land

-

6

TOTAL

10

26

Location spend in Scotland

1997

1998

1999

2000

Spend

14.6m

14.5m

14.0m

20.0m

Source: Scottish Screen Locations

18. Although the number of productions shot in Scotland increased in 1999 compared to the previous two years the estimated local spend did not and the average local spend per production fell. This reflects the fact that smaller budget productions were filming in Scotland in comparison to previous years. However, in 2000 the local spend rose by 42.9% to an all time high of 20m. This is partly explained by the increase in the number of large budget features being shot in Scotland by Indian and US production companies.

19. Early indications are that 2001/2 will have seen significant further growth in production of Scottish films, and that a number of Scottish films will have been shown internationally to critical acclaim.

LOCATIONS

20. There would appear to be have been a shift in the preferred locations of film makers choosing to shoot feature productions in Scotland over the past decade. In the early 1990s there was a concentration on the Highlands. Towards the end of the decade, the trend shifted to more urban locales and the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh experienced the greatest activity in relation to film production. By 2000 therefore a more even distribution of locations is seen with six movies being shot in Glasgow and/or Edinburgh, six in the Highlands and a further three locations in other areas of the central belt being used.

SCOTTISH PRODUCTION COMPANIES

21. There is a widely-shared view that Scotland does not, as yet, have a film industry. There is a film-making community in Scotland within which there are undoubtedly talented and potentially or actually successful film makers, but there are not yet enough competent viable businesses of sufficient size to comprise an industrial context for development.

22. Scotland is estimated to have around 165 businesses in film and approximately 5500 jobs. Source: Industry Survey 2000 - Scottish Screen Training, with support from ESF Objective 4, Skillset, PACT, and Glasgow Film Office.

23. There are a very small number of highly successful production companies whose reputations and capacity have been largely built through production for television, and who have subsequently extended into feature film and other cross platform activities such as interactive media content. However, a survey in 2000 identified that the majority (63%) of 119 independent production companies in Scotland responding consisted of one or two employees. 57% of those identifying that film as their main area of activity had a turnover of less than 10,000. Only 46% of all the companies surveyed had business plans and a significant number of independent production companies that have not been able to get any of their projects through development and into production.

Source: Industry Survey 2000 - Scottish Screen Training, with support from ESF Objective 4, Skillset, PACT, and Glasgow Film Office.

24. This survey suggested that companies concentrating on television output could be divided into two groups.

(a) those that are expanding quickly by branching out into other genres, working across different types of media, or forming partnerships with other companies; and

(b) those that have a feature film arm that is supported financially through investment from television production, or through other activities.

It concluded that companies focusing solely on film are struggling to survive and relying solely on development funds to sustain their existence.

25. The survey also noted that notwithstanding the fragile nature of the production community, annual turnover of SMEs in both television and film had increased slightly over the five years to 2000, and larger companies seemed to be re-investing in production. It was predicted that 25% of the companies responding would have an annual turnover of over 1m by 2001, but this prediction has not yet been verified by further research. A comprehensive audit of the screen industries commissioned by the Scottish Executive, Scottish Enterprise, HIE, Scottish Screen, and PACT, due to report in autumn 2002 will produce current data about production companies in Scotland.

DISTRIBUTION AND EXHIBITION

26. Hydra Associates estimated that US-made films account for only 40% of releases but 90% of box office in the UK. Within the 10% of UK box office taken by UK films, Scottish films enjoy a very small share although there are occasional landmark successes. Scotland has no major film distributors, other than video outlets. There are 27 Scottish cinema operators, none of which is UK-wide.

27. Despite the notable artistic and commercial successes of Scottish films no progress has been made into the difficulties faced by Scottish film companies in accessing distribution.

Cinema Admissions

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

Increase in cinema admissions (1996 - 2000)

Scotland

11.7m

13.3m

13.0m

12.8m

13.3m

13.7%

Total UK

123.5m

138.9m

135.2m

139.0m

142.5m

15.4%

Total EU

708m

764m

820m

809m

844m

19.2%

Scotland as % of total UK admissions

9.5%

9.6%

9.6%

9.2%

9.3%

28. Over the period 1996 - 2000 cinema admissions in Scotland rose by 13.7%. During this time however, cinema admissions in the UK as a whole have risen by 15.4% and in Europe by almost 20%. Furthermore, the Scottish increase in cinema admissions took place within the first year of this period and admissions have remained fairly constant at around 13 million per annum since 1997. This contrasts with admission figures for both the UK and Europe where admissions have grown steadily since 1996 (excepting slight dips in 1998 and 1999 respectively).

The admissions figures for regional film theatres, which generally screen less mainstream films, have remained relatively steady over the UK as a whole in the period 1995-2000. However, in contrast to the figures for cinema admissions as a whole, in Scotland, attendance figures for this type of theatre have grown steadily over the past few years.

RFT admissions in 000s

1995/96

1996/97

1997/98

1998/99

1999/2000

UK

1405

1455

1482

1253

1408

Scotland

369

395

416

387

441

Scottish RFT admissions as % of UK RFT total

26.3%

27.1%

28%

30.8%

31.3%

29. By 1999/2000 almost a third of all paid admissions to Regional Film Theatres in the UK were in Scotland compared to less than 10% of cinema admissions as a whole. There are more RFTs per head of population in Scotland than in the UK as a whole, but there are disparities between the definitions of RFTs used in Scotland and England so the differences are not entirely clear. The Film Council and Scottish Screen are also of the opinion that Scottish RFTs are better examples of cultural businesses and have developed audiences effectively and re-invested in facilities in a way that has not happened South of the border. There may therefore be a stronger market for less mainstream and commercial films in Scotland than in other parts of the UK and a climate favourable to smaller-budget, independent films.

30. The success of the Regional Film Theatres and other publicly-supported cinema outlets in Scotland has not so far been fully exploited to strategically promote Scottish films.
Their programme policies are independent with a strong international and diverse cultural outlook - this is generally inclusive of Scottish film without any emphasis or priority given to it.

31. Regional Film Theatres and supported outlets for film contribute significantly to the delivery of film education (and the use of film in education) to schools, colleges, through INSET, and to individuals. They also address social inclusion issues through educational and other projects targeting specific minority groups and give support to community initiatives to extend access to film through 'film clubs' and a wide variety of informal venues.

32. There is concern within the sector that they have no pay scales or career structure. The RFTs are financially supported by Scottish Screen, as well as a number of other sources including some support from some local authorities. The funding pattern of each is different reflecting the historical factors associated with the development of the venue. The Scottish Screen subsidy to the RFTs works out at 67 pence per seat sold. This compares very favourably with public subsidies for live theatre and other cultural activity.

33. Scottish Screen's grants to RFT's have not increased over the last two years, and there is concern among them that they will not be able to maintain their present level of programming if this is not addressed. Access to capital funding to improve facilities would increase income generation in some cases and provide for wider access without large increases in revenue support. Some of the exhibition sector consulted expressed concern that there appears to be little lobbying for the artform outside of a concentration on production.

EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL (EIFF)

34. Scottish Screen supports the Edinburgh International Film Festival with 71,000 core funding in 2001/02. Edinburgh City Council provide 76,000, and further funding of 55,000 comes from BFI, Film Council, and British Council. This public support of 202,000 accounts for just 24% of EIFF income, while sponsorship and sponsorship in kind accounts for 50% of income. The rest is box office.

35. The EIFF has grown in stature, reputation and profile over the last five years. It is acknowledged as a focus for British film. Recent research positioned it in the top 10 of international film festivals at which to do business and this side of its work is growing. The board is giving consideration to plans to expand the Festivals activity further.

TRAINING

36. Skillset, previously an NTO, is the UK Trailblazer Sector Skills Council for the broadcast, film, video and interactive media industries.

37. Sector Skills Councils are high-profile strategic bodies led by influential employers to drive up skills and productivity in industry and business sectors throughout the UK. SSCs will be licensed by Government throughout the UK as the lead bodies on industry and business sector skills and productivity.

38. Employers will form a Sector Skills Council to:

  • Ensure that the skills and productivity needs of the sector are properly addressed by Government, public agencies and the education and training system across the UK.

  • Develop the competitiveness and effectiveness of their sector by securing effective Government policy and identifying best practice in the UK and abroad for application by employers.

  • Ensure the availability of a skilled workforce to meet the current and future needs of their sector, including support for inward investment opportunities.

  • Secure the effective operation of the education and training system throughout the UK to meet their sector's needs.

39. Skillset is currently engaged in producing a Sector Workforce Development Plan for Scotland with and on behalf of employers and other stakeholders for the 'audio-visual' industry in Scotland. They aim to complete this by summer 2002. A Steering Group for it involves stakeholders, Scottish Enterprise and HIE, Scottish Screen, (and membership from Scottish Screen Education Committee).

40. The Skillset/DCMS AudioVisual Industries Training Group report 'Skills for Tomorrow's Media' September 2001 recommends a rolling programme of research to be initiated by Skillset and linked to Future Skills Scotland.

41. Another proposal is to link the website skillsformedia Scotland to the Scottish University for Industry (SUfI) Learndirect site to provide a Scottish portal for comprehensive careers information for pre-entrants, new entrants, freelancers, staff, and companies in Scotland.

HIGHER AND FURTHER EDUCATION

42. There are Film/Television and Media Studies Courses at Further and Higher Education establishments in Scotland.

43. Views of these are mixed. A recent study for Scottish Enterprise 'Scottish Creative Industry Skills 2' New Media Partners Ltd. and Parker Associates, January 2002, indicated that the industry, while acknowledging the value of degree and other tertiary courses to personal development, does not see current formal education courses or qualifications as specifically useful entry requirements to employment in the sector. Personal contacts, levering of opportunities to demonstrate talent, persistence, confidence and skills learned through relevant experience are as important as formal education and training.

44. The Skillset/DCMS report proposes the development of a broad industry advisory panel that brings higher and further education together with industry to find improved mechanisms for linking skills demand and supply in Scotland. It is also concerned with the development of a programme to promote professional recruitment practices in the sector.

SHORT COURSES - SCOTTISH SCREEN

45. Scottish Screen provides a range of short courses on craft, technical, creative, and business skills. It also works with external agencies to deliver training, and integrates training and assessment into production schemes to add value to funding support. Supported by Skillset, Scottish Screen is the Scottish assessment centre for national qualifications (SVQs) for those working in the industry. These are well regarded and valued within the industry.

NEW ENTRANTS TRAINING

46. Supported by Skillset, Scottish Screen offers eight places on an 18-month full-time course in technical, craft, design and production areas, approved by the Broadcast Film and Video industry. Mainly vocational training through work placements with industry practitioners in addition to specialised workshops and formal short courses. Trainees gather evidence throughout their training towards Skillset Professional Qualifications at level 2. Entry is highly competitive.

FILM AND VIDEO ACCESS CENTRES/DIGITAL MEDIA ACCESS CENTRES

47. There has been no definitive mapping of informal provision through public access media centres and workshops so no authoritative figure can be given for the number of these in Scotland. The Scottish Community Video Lobby has represented 20 such Scottish groups and there are undoubtedly other non-member organisations providing access to film, video, and digital media facilities.

48. These also provide a wide range of short-skills training courses. They are the grass roots response to a demand for access to facilities, and they provide for equipment hire, training, post-production facilities, screening opportunities for new work, and professional support at introductory, intermediate and advanced levels of activity. They operate across Scotland, some providing services to a large geographic area because of absence of other facilities.

49. A significant number of highly-regarded Scottish film makers have developed their work from initial explorations to professional practice through the access centre/workshop sector route in recent years. The informality, flexibility, and affordability are of apparent high value to professional and emerging film makers and screen artists, as well as community groups and individuals with an interest.

50. The resources the centres can provide vary but there is a general move to acquisition of latest digital technology and industry standard equipment. They are rapidly broadening their facilities to incorporate access to new media and cross platform working in line with industry developments.

51. The centres are variously and precariously funded from a mix of sources. As well as local funding some have benefited from SAC lottery funds, European money, and Enterprise support. Some report that funding for equipment and/or short-term projects is not a problem, but almost all are struggling to achieve adequate revenue to sustain and develop staff and core services to meet demand. Some others are anxious to re-locate to provide for expanded facilities and acceptable standards of access for people with disabilities.

52. There is currently no Scotland-wide mapping or promotion of resources available or support for workshop sector network development. Nor is there any formal link into other skills training or progression routes to more mainstream education provision or careers guidance. The Scotland-wide contribution made to ground level access to screen culture/industry by the workshop sector is largely unacknowledged at national level. This is due in part to the wide fragmentation of funding sources they have to rely on, and the consequent concentration of energy that has to go into local survival rather than national networking.

DIGITAL PRODUCTION

53. Film is becoming a digital medium with methods of post-production set to be revolutionised by the Internet. The near future may see the delivery of television quality images over the Internet, although there are technological barriers to be overcome.

54. Digital production can greatly reduce costs of film making without loss of exhibition quality. Transfer to film is still important for public acceptance in the cinema, particularly as digital projection is not yet fully available, but the public's priority is for quality not technology.
The technology for affordable high quality digital projection will bring opportunities for exhibition quality in line with new production techniques.

55. Digital technology has the potential greatly to reduce costs of individual films. This should allow more films to be made.

56. 'One Life Stand', May Miles Thomas's first feature film, was completed in January 2000.
The cast and crew screening in Glasgow, supported by Digital Projection, was the first-ever digital feature presentation in the UK. Following the world premiere at the Rotterdam International Film Festival, the film has been screened at over twenty international festivals and events. In May 2000, the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) awarded May Miles Thomas a Fellowship in recognition of her role as a pioneer of digital cinema. This was followed by an Outstanding Achievements Award by Scottish Screen at the BAFTA New Talent Awards in November.

E-CINEMA

57. KPMG define e-cinema as 'the use of digital technology to produce, post-produce, distribute and exhibit a wide range of moving image material to groups of people in a wide range of venues'. At present, digital delivery is usually through DVD i.e. physical means. It is anticipated, however, that electronic transmission through broadband technology will become widely available within a 10-year period.

58. The application of e-cinema should have advantages for the specialist film market in the following areas:

Distribution: When a film is digitised there is no need to strike prints, enabling significant savings on releases. This should provide a more secure operating environment for distributors handling specialised films, with a relatively modest P & A budget, since margins will be increased on profitable films, and losses reduced on unprofitable ones.

Flexibility: Digital film distribution will mean that extra copies of a film can be put into the marketplace at short notice meaning that distributors can respond to audience demand.

Marketing: the Internet is an ideal medium for targeted marketing to niche groups. Marketing to cinema audiences through the establishment of virtual communities organised around particular topics could offer a means for distributors and exhibitors to market to consumers. Some specialised cinemas are already using e-mails as a means of targeting their potential audience.

Greater Variety of Venues: Digital screening equipment will be far more portable than existing 35mm projectors so that a far wider variety of venues can be adapted for screening films and other material, for example, arts and community centres, village halls, schools, colleges, hospitals and prisons. Furthermore, in such venues a wider variety of material can be exhibited including that of particular local interest of made by local people. These developments can also be harnessed to increase film availability in deprived urban and rural areas where current cinema provision is poor.

59. There is wide variation in the range of opinions about the speed of uptake of digital production technology with some experts believing that significant penetration into cinemas is at least five and maybe 10 or even 20 years away. It should also be noted that the installation of broadband technology in the UK is already falling behind that of other countries.