Independent filmmaker Ryan Hendrick explains why he thinks entertainment flicks could be the key to saving the Scottish film industry.
Pondering the future of the Scottish Film Industry, my thoughts are drawn back to the golden era of Scottish cinema.
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During the 1940s and 1950s Scotland was seen as a backdrop for light family entertainment with classics such as Whisky Galore (1941), I Know Where I'm Going! (1945) and The Maggie (1954).
In the 1970s and 1980s cinema discovered the effortless charm of Bill Forsyth with memorable light family films such as That Sinking Feeling (1979), Gregory's Girl (1981) and Local Hero (1983) to name but a few.
What these titles have in common is a genre of film that seems to have been forgotten almost as much as the existence of the Scottish film industry itself.
In recent times the era of social realism and psychology has entered into the hands of the filmmaker with more films delving deeper into the dark and horrific corners of the human psyche. These films, for the most part, do not appeal to the general Scottish audience. They have their place but not in the quantity that exists today.
Having produced a film of this ilk I understand the importance they have both as a social statement and in advancing your career in the film industry because, the bottom line is, these artistic bleak pictures win the awards and the respect of your peers. I do not begrudge this for a single moment, it was such a film that earned me my first BAFTA nomination.
However, in today's climate, funding is more limited and in the filmmakers chase for advancement and recognition, the desires and tastes of the general cinema audience are being massively overlooked to the point where audiences turn their noses up at Scottish Films because they have a stigma for being bleak and depressing.
We are starting to see light hearted films trying to break back through into the limelight (Sunshine on Leith & Not Another Happy Ending). However, the damage has been done.
Along with the majority of independent filmmakers, I do feel let down and slightly unsupported by the industry that became known for being incredibly cliquey during the reign of Scottish Screen.
People are very quick to blame Creative Scotland for the desolate state of the Scottish Film Industry, I include myself in that crowd, but having looked more closely into it, the assumption that Creative Scotland are solely to blame is a little harsh.
Creative Scotland was born after Scottish Screen to make changes to Scotland's film industry and following its development I decided to be less the pessimistic begrudged filmmaker and try and play the game.
Over the last few years I have been trying to focus my efforts on producing light family films that show Scotland, its people and culture in a bright, honest and entertaining light. This has taken the form of a romcom road movie set in the Highlands which taps into everything that made Scottish cinema attractive and appealing to a commercial audience looking for escapism and fun.
Reaching out to Creative Scotland I found myself being greeted with advice and information on how best to proceed with my new feature film project Journey Bound. I have hit some stumbling blocks but what I've found with Creative Scotland is that, although they have a few stumbling blocks of their own to shift, they are looking for ways to exact change.
It is a difficult industry to traverse as everyone wants that big break, but the reality is that filmmakers start out very naive and over ambitious with their aims and how they think the industry can and should be able to help them. Being utterly guilty of these failing myself, the biggest lesson I have picked up is that, although this is a creative industry, it is also a business that needs to be considered in a serious and logical fashion.
So, with that in mind, here are five things that I think need to happen to create a thriving Scottish Film Industry:
1. Support early on for independent and aspiring filmmakers. They are the industry's future.
2. An active requirement to focus on a decent number of projects aimed at a commercial market whether it's comedy, horror, thriller, etc. We need to see home grown projects being developed that have an understanding of audience tastes and current popular cinema trends.
3. The introduction of a small pocket of funds that could be used to attract experienced producers to new projects.
4. We have the potential to really get this industry up and running. Yes it's great that people like Brad Pitt and Scarlett Johansen want to come and make Hollywood flicks here, but the sustainability in our industry's future rests with homegrown films. We need to make these films a priority and ensure that for every Hollywood flick that visits we produce at least one commercially viable film from the monies earned from these overseas projects. Our budgets are very different to those of Hollywood, with the average Brit Flick costing around £1,000,000.
5. Communication is key. We need to be more open minded and have a clear understanding of viable processes at the start of our careers. We need the support, realistic advice, and access to this service. Creative Scotland needs be more clear about criteria and communicate to us fledgling filmmakers what exactly it is they are looking for. It's about continuing the good practice they have started by entering into a dialogue with artists of all kinds.
A lot of work needs to be done to get back to that golden age. We live in a vibrant country with the most epic and beautiful locations in the world, the most diverse and fascinating culture.
We used to be able to make great cinema, it's time we did it again. So let's get on with it.