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State of the Arts: loss of Game of Thrones is a hard lesson for Scotland

The Herald report highlighting how Scotland lost out on becoming the stage for one of TV's most popular dramas, Game of Thrones, will strengthen the hand of those lobbying for a high-end film studio to be built somewhere here, probably in Glasgow.

Hit TV show Game of Thrones, starring Sean Bean, was made in Northern Ireland
Hit TV show Game of Thrones, starring Sean Bean, was made in Northern Ireland

The cold fact of losing perhaps £160m of investment from HBO's show, over many years, has also focussed minds in the Scottish political and enterprise arenas who will see the success of Belfast's Titanic studios and wonder how it can be done in Northern Ireland and not this side of the Irish Sea.

Fiona Hyslop, the culture secretary, is taking the studio issue very seriously. There has long been a fear of building a 'white elephant' which cannot wash its face financially, but several well-connected and knowledgeable film and TV executives believe new tax breaks for 'high end' television, as well as film, will have production teams opting for Scotland, if a facility is available.

But it's more more than just studios and bricks and mortar bothering those in the film and creative industries right now. There is a degree of discomfort within Scotland's own indigenous filmmaking and creative industry community. Since Scottish Screen was merged into Creative Scotland in 2010, there have been those working in the film business and creative industries in Scotland who wonder what exactly Creative Scotland, the national cultural funding body, means to them.

Read the Herald report on the loss of Game of Thrones here

Yes, the body supports film with grants, with development schemes and other initiatives, and it has set aside £1m to build that studio, if that particular enterprise ever happens. Its personnel, in my experience, are informed and engaged. In the grand scheme of worldwide film production, though, their budgets are small. This year, money available for film and television production is just under £4m - enough to fund two or three small UK movies. And anyway, it cannot spend all its money in that way - there is a cap on how much one movie can receive (£300,000) or a documentary (£90,000).

In the film world, not all the answers are in Scotland - people often look south, to the BFI, Film4 or companies based in London for support. The building of a big studio in Glasgow, especially given the new tax breaks for "high end" television, would bring money and jobs to and through the screen sector and fully exploit both resident artistic and technical talent and Scotland's landscape. But this building would not solve all of the problems of Scotland's small film industry. The end of last week was the deadline for submissions to the Film Sector Review.

It will be interesting to see what conclusions the review comes to, especially as many in the film and creative industries see the need for change. They were less noisy last year, but many people outside the old Scottish Arts Council remits were not exactly overjoyed with Creative Scotland's performance last year either.

And there is the bigger, lingering question of how Creative Scotland can equally cater for the traditional art forms as well as screen and endeavours such as design and the digital world. Pat Kane, in his summation of the Open Sessions, touched on this. He wrote: "The absurdity that CS, in exercising its responsibility for 'arts, screen and creative industries', might be responsible for every one of the activities in that third term, was regularly and widely noted." He goes on to note that the 1997 definition of creative industry includes activities such as advertising, art and antiques, design, designer fashion, software/electronic publishing, digital/entertainment media and architecture, "areas hardly or ever touched by CS."

He adds: "How could the classic DCMS definition of creative industries... ever happily sit within the same decision-process that deals with 'non-public-facing', 'experimental' or tradition-based artists in fine arts, literature, film or music?" But right now they have to 'happily sit': these creative industries are currently in Creative Scotland's remit.

Janet Archer, who begins her term as chief executive of Creative Scotland in the first week of July, and who comes from a dance background, will have to grasp this issue when she gets her feet under the desk. And it seems far fetched, at this stage, that Creative Scotland could somehow divest itself of responsibility for the creative industries, as some have repeatedly whispered.

Ms Archer has a lot of issues on her plate: the challenge of Creative Scotland's myriad responsibilities is one of the biggest.

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