IT'S boom time in Scotland for the film industry according to leading executives attending this week's Cannes Film Festival, who claim the glitzy festival will not only showcase Scottish talent but provide opportunities to entice bigger and better productions to Scotland.

Boosted by additional Scottish Government funding and the Outlander effect – the global historical time travelling hit that showcases Scotland as a location – the country is seeing unprecedented growth. Recent films shot in Scotland include Avengers: Infinity Wars, part of which was set and filmed in Edinburgh, and Trainspotting 2, set in Scotland's largest cities, as well as biopic Churchill, filmed across various Scottish locations.

Despite serious concerns raised early this week about Creative's Scotland's decision to create a Screen Commission rather than a separate stand alone film unit, it is claimed that the slates have never been busier with both the number of enquiries about shooting here increasing and bigger productions now tempted by what Scotland can offer.

Cannes Film Festival, which runs until May 19 will this year see the premier of Scottish director Kevin MacDonald's - who made Touching the Void and The Last King of Scotland - documentary on Whitney Houston. Edinburgh based director and critic Mark Cousins will also see the first public screening of his documentary The Eyes of Orson Welles. Meanwhile a raft of up-and-coming Scottish producers will attend the festival – which this year sees Cate Blanchette head-up the jury – aiming to find investment for a range of new film and projects.

Brodie Pringle, a former location manager who worked on World War Z – the 2013 zombie disaster movie starring Brad Pitt and filmed in Glasgow's George Square – and now head of Scotland’s Screen Commission for Creative Scotland, claimed that Cannes was an ideal opportunity to sell what Scotland had to offer.

"It's busier than it's ever been," she said. "We're getting larger budgets and more ambitious projects. Five years ago people were really not educated about Scotland. They would ask questions like did we have crew here. Now that's very different. They ask when they are available. Outlander has been pivotal. It's a global production that is screened all round the world and it shows what we have available here and the skills that we have."

She said Scotland attracted some productions through its reputation for "incredible vistas" such as those shot for Star Wars: The Force Awakens in Argyll. "When budgets are large we find [they] use the whole of Scotland, not just the central belt and Glencoe," she added. "In Glasgow the grid system means that you can get incredible depth of field and it can double for any major US city. We have places like RAF Machrihanish airbase or for concrete brutality there is St Peter's Seminary in Cardross. We have buildings from Historic Environment Scotland and National Trust for Scotland now has its own film officer to make the most of opportunities."

This year the Scottish Government doubled screen funding to £20m. It claimed production spend has increased by 200 percent since 2007 while film and TV producers spent a record £69 million shooting in Scotland in 2016, an increase of more than a third on the previous year.

It has ambitious targets set to double production business growth over the next five years but it did not commit to establishing a stand alone screen agency, recommended by Holyrood's culture committee, which will push for Screen Scotland to be taken forward.

In 2010 Scottish Screen was merged with the Scottish Arts Council to create the much beleaguered Creative Scotland, which has received widespread criticism for its out-of-touch and overly bureaucratic approach.

The committee's report acknowledged that filming of the Outlander series in Cumbernauld had brought more than $400 million (£295m) of investment. But since then it has claimed there has been a failure to invest in studio space and capitalise on the opportunities offered by the industry.

There have been long running frustrations about the lack of a purpose build studio in Scotland but full planning permission has now been granted for the expansion of Wardpark Studios in Cumbernauld, which was created by the Outlander production team. Plans for a further purpose built facility, Pentlands Studios, have also finally received the go ahead in Midlothian.

Rosie Crerar, who founded Glasgow-based production company barry crerar in 2016, is one of several Scottish producers invited to attend Cannes where she hopes to raise the profile of the company and its projects with buyers, financiers and funders. She will be promoting feature debut We Don't Talk About Love - set in a small fishing town, directed by Scott Graham and starring Game of Thrones Actor Mark Stanley - which was selected for the Great 8 market showcase of emerging UK talent. Crerar will also be promoting feature documentary Irene's Ghost directed by Iain Cunningham about a man's search for the mother he never knew. The company, set up with an intention of halting the London talent drain, is also pushing new proposals in need of investment.

She said: "This is an exciting time in Scotland’s growth as a film producing nation with increased funding and recognition of both the economic and cultural value of film from the Scottish Government, record levels of film and TV production activity across the country and Glasgow currently bidding for Channel 4 headquarters.

"However we are still under-selling ourselves and risk continuing to lose talent and opportunities to London and LA without a stand alone screen agency, proper purpose built studio facilities on the west and east coasts, a long-term investment in the development of indigenous Scottish production companies, and a clear and accessible pipeline for new entrants."

VisitScotland said that investment in the film industry had knock-on benefits in terms of tourism – the latest Scotland Visitor Survey found that almost a fifth of visitors were influenced to come to Scotland after seeing it on the big or small screen. Jenni Steele, Film and Creative Industries Manager at VisitScotland, added: “It’s the unique mix of stunning landscapes, rich heritage and fascinating stories that make Scotland an irresistible draw for filmmakers from across the world. The productions not only give a financial boost to the local economy but provide great opportunities to promote the locations through our screen tourism activity, and inspire fans to visit them for themselves.”


This year’s Cannes film festival runs until May 19 and features new films from all the greats (though, as pointed out by critics, it's still vastly under-representing female talent). Here are some to watch out for at a screen near you soon.

BlacKkKlansman (dir: Spike Lee)

When it comes to knock-out drama Spike Lee is a master. The 61-year-old director of Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, and Inside Man is back with a new drama set in the 1970 that tells the real-life story of Ron Stallworth, an African-American detective who successfully infiltrated a local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan to become one of its leaders.

Girls of the Sun (dir: Eva Husson) French director Eva Husson is one of just three female directors selected for the main competition. Her last film, Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story), featured teens behaving badly but filmed with chilly nonchalance. Her latest offering follows female Kurdish fighters attempting to recapture their town from extremists.

Solo: A Star Wars Story (dir: Ron Howard): The Star Wars franchise’s latest highly anticipated prequel had its world premiere Thursday night in Los Angeles and so far the view is that despite a few rocky moments, it's mostly a blast. Full reviews are embargoed until May 15 but when it comes to Star Wars it's hard not to be hopeful.

Whitney (dir: Kevin Macdonald): It comes less than a year after Nick Broomfield released his documentary Whitney: Can I Be Me. But this offering by The Last King of Scotland and Touching the Void director Kevin Macdonald had the blessing of the Houston estate and as such includes previously unreleased recordings, live performances recorded by Houston and personal home movie footage.

Pope Francis: A Man of His Word (dir: Wim Wenders): The beautiful cinematography of Wenders combined with the stylist's narrative of Papal power is surely a heady mix. This documentary is intended as a personal journey with Pope Francis rather than a strict biography as the audience come face-to-face with the Pope as he meets farmers and workers, refugees, children and the elderly while travelling the world.