Pat Kane’s Glasgow Blog

Platform in Glasgow

Platform in Glasgow

By Pat Kane

It’s not much of a trip from your blogger’s home town Coatbridge to the penultimate CS Open Session at Easterhouse’s Platform, embedded in the John Wheatley College campus. Only one stop away from my recently demolished Roman Catholic comprehensive St. Ambrose at Blairhill, and I’m back in a 70s land of Tizer bottles, Willie Ormond, three-day weeks and some memorably territorial maneuvers across the scheme’s golden fields…

Glasgow was always on our horizon as one of our most potentially sparky sessions. It’s home both to a hustling creative industries sector, and the most cosmopolitan and cutting-edge visual arts scene: the location both for national tabloids sponsoring glitzy awards for “creative Scots”, and of events like the Tramway World Cafe, which focused much of the discontent over Creative Scotland’s direction in 2012.

Yet it was also good to be beyond the gridplans of “Glasvegas” (or “Clydegrad”, depending on your orientation), strolling past the plains of Easterhouse to the bustling, youthful Wheatley campus. It was a clear instance of the vision – often articulated in these sessions – that artistry and creativity should operate in the heart of Scottish life and society.

Our first provocation came from Angus Farquhar, creative director of the public-art company NVA (and before that with industrial band Test Department). He began with a series of leading political questions to the attendees – precisely targeted to elicit from them an almost complete consensus across a left-wing, anti-Thatcher, anti-imperialist line (with one bold dissenter in support of the Iraq War).

Industrial band Test Department; NVA's project Speed of Light at Arthurs Seat in August 2012

L-R Industrial band Test Department; NVA’s project Speed of Light at Arthurs Seat in August 2012

Angus’s response was to assert that “you are ‘state’ artists if you have taken public money and what the state deems worthy of funding as expressed through its cultural policies ultimately dictates the direction of Creative Scotland, where funding is focused, what it is spent on and how much is spent. We are all indirectly political artists whether we like it or not.”

From his experiences with Test Department supporting the miners’ strike in the mid-80s, Angus knows that crisis and struggle can generate feelings of “controlling your own destiny”. For Creative Scotland, the context is wider than its own national travails: recent comments by the Westminster Coalition government’s Maria Miller, suggesting that “art is a commodity”, show us how a “Thatcherite inheritance is being mainlined” elsewhere.

By contrast, Angus noted how vibrant discussions groups in Scotland have been around cultural policy – Stramash Arts and Variant as two examples. Yet Angus lamented that the SNP had “swallowed” a line on the Creative Industries from the “worst excesses of Blairite cultural management”. This was “intellectually vacuous and timorous”, and “a vacuous and weak setting” for the organisation.

The whole rammy began “because the Scottish Government cut the cultural budget, while bringing in other creative sectors from Scottish Enterprise, without the budget following those sectors” – the result meaning everyone going for a “smaller pot”.

Two specific suggestions for CS arose from Angus’s argument. One don’t do “themed years” – they require artists “to market Scotland at the expense of intellectual integrity”. Historic movements spring from much truer creative impulses than that – there should be nothing subservient, and everything about promoting the “variance of human ability”.

Angus urged all artists to take the longest view: “you need to go for radical solutions because in a hundred years, your artwork will likely be forgotten anyway – so there’s no point in being safe”. And secondly, that CS should find funding for “permanent cultural research” into the effect of arts on society – where arts was conceived as a “check and balance to ensure the best for society as a whole”.

Our next speaker May Miles Thomas – a filmmaker and director of Elemental Films – drilled down specifically into the status of film in the past, present and future of arts support in Scotland. Though a recipient of funds from Scottish Screen and the Scottish Arts Council in the past, under their current criteria May was “ineligible”. But she wanted to use this as the starting point of a deep analysis about the very status of films, not just in Scotland but also in the context of new technological and market developments.

May was sceptical that the pending review of the film sector in CS would answer the key question of why “indigenous film production has remained static in Scotland for over 20 years”. One reason might be some competing interests on resources. Does television’s need for skilled workers need to command quite such authority (eg £800K granted to Creative Skillset by Creative Scotland, generating only 28 placements in the broadcast sector)? Should funds “previously ring-fenced for cinematic, not televisual production” be used in this way? BBC Scotland’s absence as “a regular, visible co-production partner working with the indie film sector” was also noted as part of the problem.

There’s a fundamental lack of power and control within Scotland’s film community, vitiating their ability to both produce and distribute movies. And the lack can be source to the core definitions of public arts funding. May asked us to look at the chapter headings in the Cultural Commission’s Our Next Major Enterprise document of 2005 – key to the formation of CS – and note that film is absent from its categories of arts and cultural sectors (though mentioned and touched upon throughout the text). As a result, the “quasi-Hollywood model for film support” characterised by Scottish Screen “was bolted onto CS”. May believed the organization’s film remit was thus “fatally flawed from the outset”.

In a response to her Freedom of Information request in 2006, May had discovered that Ken Loach’s films – which had received £2m subsidy from Scotland over late 90’s and 00’s – had recouped no money for Scottish Screen. “If Ken Loach’s films can’t turn a buck, what hope for relatively unknown Scottish filmmakers?”

So the presumption that a return on investment should be part of the current criteria for film funding in Scotland is fundamentally flawed – a criteria which explicitly excludes the vast majority of Scottish indigenous filmmakers. Is enabling of Scottish (and world) audiences to see Scottish films the kind of public good that a public arts body should be pursuing? If we agree, then May had four very precise prescriptions for Creative Scotland.

Firstly, “forget theatrical feature films” – spending money in this direction means many other forms of film are not pursued. Investment might be lower overall – but it will “afford the greater rewards of risk-taking” in movie-making.

Secondly, and relatedly, make the criteria for financing clearer. May had responded to one our earlier blogs about the “unconstrained degree of creative intervention” in film by public servant at Creative Scotland. Yet remove the “only-backing-winners” mentality, and funding can shift to enabling creative diversity in film. These are projects which can be proved to exist, rather than projects whose (commercial) success can only be guessed at.

Thirdly, “target the audience you already own” – meaning not just more indigenous supply of film, but finding a way to increase indigenous demand. This was linked to her fourth point, which was a request for CS to follow the lead of Brian Baglow, one of our previous speakers, and “embrace the fragmentation” of screen culture.

Apps magazine's two page feature on The Devil's Plantation app.

Apps magazine’s two page feature on The Devil’s Plantation app.

If most films are watched outside the cinema, across our current mediascape’s diversity of platforms, then nowadays “all films are equal. Scotland should be the first country in the world to truly grasp this fact”, said May, and respond infrastructurally. (May walks her talk here: her iPad app The Devil’s Plantation is a perfect example of how movie-watching is now disseminated across many devices, and audiences).

May’s last request was for CS to recognise the advantage of existing in, and for, a small nation. This means the organisation is close the ground of where artists and creatives are. Their evident and tangible goodwill was a resource to be exploited.

Following these broadsides, Stewart Henderson, founder and director of Chemikal Underground Records, shuffled onstage rather awkwardly and proceeded to be immediately controversial: “My experience working with CS has been almost exclusively positive!”

The Scottish Album of the Year Awards, which Stuart began through the Scottish Music Industry Association, could not have been realised without support from Creative Scotland – “the proposal required a leap of faith in a strong idea”.

He had “experienced discomfort in his silence” when the Artists’ Letter which brought CS’s crisis to head last year came out. But he wanted to take the opportunity today to acknowledge that “we operate in a complex range of sectors that have unique issues but also common challenges”.

Putting CS on one side, and artists on the other, was “too simplistic” – and the criticisms that were made “were not experienced universally”. One challenge for CS was to enormously improve communication between sectors, to enlighten everyone about challenges they collectively faced.

Could we clarify things with better terminology? Stuart attempted his own ringing manifesto statement: “Scotland is a cultural powerhouse – and we need to build an environment in which individual artists can create the work they want to create”.

Discussion, feedback and further ruminations

We were graced with several members of the Creative Scotland board on this Open Session. Add them to a room of Glasgow’s active and committed creators, and this was always going to be a feedback session thick with ideas and passion.

Musician and media producer Rab Noakes immediately wanted to pull up Angus Farquhar for his opening statement. “Arts funding is public, not political – and it doesn’t make the artist political”. The arms-length principle – whereby an arts-funding body maintains a protected distance between government policy and the artist, buffering one against the other – was invoked either explicitly or implicitly throughout the subsequent discussion.

Many called, as many in previous sessions have, for Creative Scotland to increase its powers of advocacy – and particularly to improve its capacity to make the research case for arts funding to civil servants and government ministers (particularly important, given the lack of artistic experience among ministers).

What information about the power and potential of the arts is actually getting through the governmental filters, in a less than superficial way? And even if substance is communicated, is that knowledge landing with the right people? The burden for monitoring the effects of the whole field of the arts (including the under-represented voluntary arts sector), and providing necessary feedback to Government, should rest with Creative Scotland – which would mean an increase in its staffing.

This can lift the burden on reporting from individual artists. Daniel Cosgrove from Scottish Youth Theatre reminded us that the purpose of doing art isn’t to “add to the economy, but to make us all feel better” – and that artists should be allowed to pursue the latter, and not demonstrate the former. Angus Farquhar noted further than “an output-led arts culture means that those who are good at monitoring their work are the most successful”.

Other suggested that we should draw strength from the fact that Scotland has followed Germany in largely defending the size of its public arts budget, even in straitened times – but perhaps an even more ambitious target should be set by the new CEO, and the community themselves. Was a doubling of the percentage currently spent on the arts – from 0.5% to 1.0% of the overall Government budget – a worthwhile campaign target to aim at?

TV arts producer May Miller, one of the members of the Creative Scotland board present, stuck her hand up to respond to an accusation that the Board “faced in two directions” and “was too scared to argue for artists”. She “didn’t recognise myself as one of those individuals on the board…Perhaps the Board doesn’t engage often enough. But it is sympathetic. And we are looking to develop relationships further”.

To conclude, Poet Elspeth Murray pointed us in the direction of her George-Wyllie-esque acrostic poem, titled “Sympathy – Synthesis – Synergy”. Empathy, at the very least, the watchword for going forward.

Elspeth Murray's poem titled “Sympathy - Synthesis - Synergy"

Elspeth Murray’s poem titled “Sympathy – Synthesis – Synergy

In the table sessions – where responses to the CSOpen question on a “vision” for Creative Scotland and its practical realisation are worked on – we had again amplification of a building consensus around Creative Scotland’s most immediate reform measures, which include:

  • Solving problems with application forms
  • Clarifying CS’s position as advocate for the sector
  • The need for a government strategy/vision for arts and culture
  • A re-examination of the £83m budget for CS – not particularly large for its range of responsibilities
  • To assess the power of “creative industries” terminology and address the perceived conflict between arts and the creative industries
  • The feeling that an overall and significant change in the organisation’s public language is required

However the Glasgow audience’s sheets (available in full here) had some distinctive shared demands. Stuart’s vision that there could be a common understanding, across sectors, of Scotland as a “cultural powerhouse” found some resonance, in statements emerging from across the tables.

“More funding and collaboration across art forms”; “artistic support which recognises that archaic categories no longer exist (the cross-pollination of art forms)”; “need more opportunities for networking and sharing across the sectors”. And most directly: “There is a them and us feeling between artists and the creative industries. This is not constructive.”

Other calls echoed across the tables – some of them familiar to those who’ve followed this process so far, were: much more expertise, experience and specialist knowledge in CS’s decision-making processes; the recognition that cheap rents, and mentoring, need to complement and make sustainable the direct funding support of artists.

And from a table including May Miller, Angus Farquhar and May Miles Thomas, a simple but direct statement: “trust the talent”. What might this mean in practice?

One of the fascinating aspects of this whole process, in the age of social media, is the way that one can track the intellectual discourse around an event (using our Twitter hashtag #csopen). So Johnny Galley, one of our Skye speakers, tweeted after the Glasgow event that we should read a blog comment from an “acoulton” on “creative trust”. This is indeed illuminating, and creates some bridges between the “creative industries” and “arts” divide so often highlighted in these discussions.

Another of our regular Twitter interlocutors, Edward Harkins, points us to his comment on the Prospect Magazine’s website, where he links the CS Open Sessions to the AHRC’s Cultural Value Project, mentioned by Tam Dean Burn in our Dumfries session (and again here in Glasgow). “At last week’s Open Session forum in Glasgow”, writes Edward, the “accountancy valuation of ‘culture’ was resoundingly rejected by the participants. The indications are that the players in the arts and culture fields in Scotland are now embarking on something of a journey with Creative Scotland and ‘what truly counts’, and how we best address the outcomes of that discourse.”

So many words, so much quality discussion, and yes, perhaps “an opportunity to crowdsource cultural policy”, in the words of one tweeter – if we give ourselves the space and time to process properly.

Please comment on this blog, retweet and otherwise use well. Next and final session report: Aberdeen.

 

11 thoughts on “Pat Kane’s Glasgow Blog

  1. Edward Harkins

    I’d like to pitch in a reminder about one of the points from our Open Session round-table comments – it arose from how the ‘sector’ has spent a lot of time and energy over the past year or so on what (and who) it does not want or won’t accept. Our speculation was on whether it was time for the ‘sector’ to itself to invest more energy in working out more what it *does* want (or will accept)?

    I read Pat’s comments here after participating last night in the ‘Who runs Scottish Culture and what is it anyway’, event at the Tron in Glasgow. I pointed out the nature of some of the opening provocations at the Glasgow CS Open Session. At least one was in-part a denouncement of all things Thatcher and Blairite – undoubtedly popular with the majority of the participants (although not with one participant at our table, at least, who was clearly unhappy and left early). Also must be clearly acknowledged that the speaker was asked to provide a robust provocation.

    At the Tron event I said that the Glasgow Open Session together with what some of the Tron panelists were saying, had left me wondering “is that it, are diatribes against a dead reactionary from the 1980s and a discredited war leader what passes for a discourse on Scottish Culture?” The responses from at least one panel member – a definite, unqualified ‘YES! That leaves me pondering about the confusion and conflation of politics and culture in Scotland.

    That confusion and conflation arises, perhaps, out of the ‘failure’ of the political system for the majority of the population. Is then the use of culture in Scotland a substitute, or displacement activity, for the political? That may be understandable, but is it either appropriate or feasible for arts and culture to be ‘used’ in that way? A response might be that culture and politics must inevitably be inter-mixed – but the claims being made amounted to Scottish culture being about, or even for one, political, perspective. Implication being, if you do not hold that perspective then, like the person at our Open Session table, just leave the room?

    At the Tron event there were also assertions from panel members about Scotland being much more socialist [than England] and about the arts and culture sector being the only one to have ‘not been taken over by neo-liberal capitalism’ (whilst other panelists also suggested that that is what has happened in, for example, Glasgow).

    I commented that other Scottish sectors and fields have equal claim to provide elements that are essential to the civilised society, and have made more progress in adapting and prevailing in changed circumstances. This was met with the, repeated, barb that ‘they have capitulated’. I found this wide condemnation of much of the rest of Scottish society to be too self-validating and excluding – and as unconvincing as the assertions about ‘neo-colonial capitalism’. It also sat oddly with the claim of another panelist that the sector had indeed been making such progress.

    I liked Lesley Riddoch’s suggestion on the theme. She suggested that a problem in Scotland is that the arts and culture sector – especially at the local level – is expected and used to attempt too much of the ‘heavy-lifting’ that other agencies and institutions should instead be doing. Lesley quoted some data demonstrating just how disconnected our politics are (e.g. Scotland has some of the largest scale local authority entities in all of Europe). And maybe, as another Tron panelist pointed out, ‘as an artist you don’t have to be expected to set out to change the world’.

    All in all, I’d repeat my online comment earlier this week in exchanges with Johnny Gailey – that “the sector’s need [at this time] is for evidence, articulation then action; and we’re not there yet.”
    We’re on the journey and to repeat from Pat’s thoughts; “an opportunity to crowdsource cultural policy” – if we give ourselves the space and time to process properly”

  2. bring on the black hats

    No comment then Pat, on the table request for a “transparent process ?”.

    Merely putting up a couple of blogs and facebook pages isn’t enough and I would suspect are nothing more than a box ticking smokescreen.

  3. bring on the black hats

    And let me elaborate exactly why its a smokescreen – looking at the new artists bursaries forms, theyre a month and a half late, with spelling errors and a needless fixation on supplying an excel spreadsheet – what if you don’t know how to use excel ?

    That needless hoopjumping, redolent of the financial industry who are the main users of excel is still there – presumably at Sandy Crombies insistence.

    Ever heard of left brained and right brained people ?

    It’s a given that artists are right brained people, an absolute given – yet here we are with this bizarre insistence that we tackle excel.

    Lets have another one: this myth, supplied via phone to CS that they don’t personally see people to help with applications – its well known that they approach people under the radar to offer them funding – so where is the transparency ?

  4. Owen Thomas

    Reflecting on my attendance at the Glasgow session, I was inclined by the end to feel that Ken Fowler has been sincere in his efforts to engender an open debate. That he also possesses the confidence in his role to engage directly with the great volume of criticism unleashed (both constructive and self-serving) – in the notable absence of other CS senior management – is also to his credit.

    Sadly, the more that is revealed about the progress of the film consultation, the less inclined I am to believe there is the same intention amongst the many parties to the process to honour this commitment to openness and discovery.

    The pity of this is it so disinclines me and many others from investing the time and effort necessary to making a positive contribution. Declaring an interest, I work with May Miles Thomas, so am very well aware of the days of deliberation and re-writing she put into her acutely researched and argued talk.

    For those unaware, a review of the film sector is underway. Why – and why at this time – seems unknown. This review involves board members of CS, staff of CS, a ‘Film Reference Group’ and no less than three consulting firms. The review is chaired by Robin MacPherson, a CS Board Member and, significantly, the Director of Screen Academy Scotland.

    Firstly, at a time like this I would have thought it was essential for any review to be fully at arm’s length to ensure the greatest scope for original thought. The failure of past policy as identified in May’s talk is so comprehensive we need to start over. Yet the parties overseeing the review are so beholden to this past and to their own sectoral desires (most particularly television and education) I find it hard to believe there will be an honest accounting of failures or assessment of future possibilities.

    Secondly, the consultants appointed are in large part the very people who have brought us to this point of crisis. To varying degrees they are the same outfits hired last time…and the time before that. Would any fair minded person believe they deserve another crack at getting it right?

    Thirdly, as ever, there are the contributors asked in the back door. And then there is the rest of us. To a great extent the people who get a hearing are the ones with a dependency to maintain, a dependency established as having failed – hence the review. I’m absolutely in favour of talking to people but it should be with everyone who wishes it.

    For those not invited in we have been offered the tantalising prospect of a written submission. Aside from the considerable labour involved, a text submitted is a perspective unchallenged. I have ideas – very progressive ones – as do my unseen friends and peers. I want the opportunity to debate them face to face with the arbiters of the future. I want to know why I’m wrong and I want them to explain to me why they will be right. It’ll be quicker, cheaper, more honest and potentially far, far more positive. Ken – on his own – has displayed the assurance necessary to engage at a human level. Why can the consultants et al not stand tall as well?

    All of which brings me to what’s really pissed me (us all) off: a chance remark, the significance of which has grown and grown on me, and which I now realise stands for this entire shebang. Amanda Millen, from Go North, offered in her talk at Greenock that it’s ‘not just about picking up a camera and going out and making a film.’

    To which the only possible response is, ‘Yes, it bloody is!’

    That’s how we all start – and keep going – because we have the desire, regardless of others’ approval, or lack of. From JJ Abrams to Nick Park to Elliot Erwitt, Amy Macdonald and Samuel Beckett we all just pick up a camera, a guitar or a pen and get on with it. And we get better by keeping on doing it. If we find money we spend it, if we don’t, we make something anyway.

    Amanda’s casual comment, tossed off as if her perspective is a given, betrays the root of this fractious confrontation. She believes she and her equivalents make the work, not us; the euphemism for this is ‘Cultural Leadership’. As if the Arts are simply an infuriatingly inefficient service industry.

    This was an arid, destructive perspective in the past but now – in regard to film – in a world of WebM and Vine and AWS and YT2GIF and Maya and Minecraft (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you – yes, you – really shouldn’t be a consultant), never mind the 100-odd ‘notable’ video hosting services listed on Wikipedia – and of course, from another angle, MOOCs – it is beyond absurd.

    This is the perspective I would love to bring to the film review, to have these thoughts and May’s analysis debated in the open (in an exchange on Twitter Robin MacPherson said May was ‘mistaken’ in her views, but offered no justification). But will I, can I be bothered, is it worth it, do they care? If only they offered some token that this isn’t the same old, same old, I might just be persuaded.

    1. Kenneth Fowler

      Hi Owen,

      Thanks for your comments.

      It is intended that the film review is genuinely open.

      Like the other reviews that have already happened in theatre, dance and music, this review aims to reflect the current picture of the entire landscape.

      It is intended to identify gaps that need addressing as well as strengths to build on, to help the industry and film in Scotland and (from our perspective) inform future funding policy and operations.

      The review will hopefully result in actions for a number of parties including ourselves and we are dedicated to working with industry and partners to make a positive difference.

      On another note; both Caroline Parkinson and Robbie Allen (as well as a few other Creative Scotland staff) also attended the Glasgow open session and participated in the debate at their tables.

      Hope that makes sense…always happy to discuss!

      Kenneth.

  5. Angus Farquhar

    Edward Harkins response to my provocation at the Open Sessions seems to slightly miss the point. The reason to attack Thatcherism and its perfect continuation through Blair is not to be stuck in the past, but to acknowledge that cultural policy has carried through as a legacy of market-led ideology for over two decades without any serious challenge. If, as is clear, the arts community of Scotland is for the most part well left of centre in its politics and outlook, is it too much to expect that Scotland’s future cultural policy reflects and champion that reality? This remains true whether we go indedpendent or end up with further devolved powers.

  6. Edward Harkins

    Angus, I did try to acknowledge the role you were carrying out – and I’d add to that, respect for what you reiterate above.

    My point, having on more than one other occasion heard some similar thoughts being expressed, was to ask in effect ‘yes, but what else is there of immediate need and relevance to have a discourse on if we are about Scottish arts and culture?’. Underlying that, is my growing fear that major new, different ways and means and thinking are developed by-default in the absence of a more fully engaged-with contemporary agenda. Notwithstanding the blanket condemnation of other Scottish fields and sectors, they have moved on – for example, in the affordable housing sector, who in retrospect who would trade in the emergence of the housing association movement in Scotland for a return to the old local state monopoly that produced the infamous ‘clearances’ of settled inner city communities and the creation of State resettlement camps in the form of giant mono-tenure peripheral estates?

    From my perspective I suggest that the need is for a genuinely engaging, and engaged-with, process that begins to develop a consensus on the where, why and how of public investment – within that consensus there needs to be agreement on legitimate expectations (requirements?) of the role and locus of private funding and financing. The latter would be in part of refusal to countenance once-size-fits-all, purely ‘market-led’ worldview. For me, the social enterprise approach has much to offer in navigating this challenging terrain.

    (A rejection of the worse crudities labelled ‘Thatcherism’ and ‘Blairism’ would necessarily be part of any such consensus in a Scottish context.)

    Perhaps we might be talking about the essential space that’s needs for thinking and acting specifically on the arts and culture and creativity dimensions, and another space about the structures and process and governance for the organisation and business dimensions’?

  7. May Miles Thomas

    Pat Kane – Your job may be done soon, but I hope you are taking note of these comments both here and on Twitter because I intend in being a total – I mean total – nuisance if my questions are not fully answered. The worst that can happen is you get another gig!

  8. Owen Thomas

    Ken, nicely sidestepped. My point was that for all the effort around the Open Sessions, sector reviews are conducted in private, talking only to approved parties. This is what has engendered the prevailing mood of disillusion.

    In the case of film, there is every indication that the review is being conducted to a pre-determined agenda, led by favoured interest groups for whom protecting the public interest is not a significant motivation.

    In the course of the Open Sessions substantive criticisms of past policy and apparent current practice in relation to film investment have been presented. Openness does not consist of saying ‘Thank you, we’ve listened’ without offering rebuttal or, better, refutation.

    The issue of the putative television studio manoeuvring its way onto the agenda – http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/top-film-producer-warns-lack-of-studio-could-cost-scotland.21082651 – is a good case in point and brings to the fore a critical issue.

    Increasingly cultural budgets are being raided in support of ‘economic development’. Just as the UK tax relief structures for film are now greatly skewed to lure US productions to the UK – to the detriment of indigenous films – so support for Scottish films is increasingly losing ground to the claims of job creation in television and education.

    Job creation is fine by me, but it’s not CS’ role. It belongs with Scottish Enterprise (et al). But the problem is the numbers. Iain Smith in the above article condemns SE for a lack of support for the studio, but SE are right not to proceed. The numbers don’t work.

    Never mind that a useful studio is not viable in the private sector. If one were to break ground at even a fraction of the necessary investment – purely with public money to promote ‘regeneration’ – the cost per job would be insupportable.

    So robbing producer Peter to pay propsman Paula is both culturally retrograde and unsustainable.

    But it’s not just about infrastructure. The numbers don’t work for production incentives either. Take Cloud Atlas and it’s (low) investment of £150,000 routed through Sigma Films. I’d be impressed if that money created 4 weeks of work for 30 skilled people. If it did, that would equate to a scandalous cost per job of £65,000/year.

    Even if only justified as a stimulus to the local economy the value is doubtful at best when it comes to ‘runaway’ productions – and such an allocation of CS’ funds is clearly inappropriate.

    My point is we should of course invest in infrastructure and international productions. Indeed, we should be more generous than we are. But we should do it honestly and strategically from a joined-up pot that exists for those purposes and with clarified objectives. We should not be cannibalising core funding to bail out favoured voices.

    More emblematically, a studio is a 20th century solution to a 21st century problem. It represents retrenchment and a narrowing of (a top-down) vision. Just as technological solutions to the conjoined crises of supply and demand are maturing – solutions that could democratise and grow production and participation in a distinct territory like Scotland – it would be a pitiable folly to go back to the future.

  9. Owen Thomas

    Re. My last post. Apologies to Sigma Films which I mistakenly referenced as Scottish co-producer on Cloud Atlas.

  10. May Miles Thomas

    In the interest of transparency and to reinforce Owen Thomas’ assertion (see above) that ‘a text submitted is a perspective unchallenged’, as an alternative to those who wish to discuss the future of Scottish film rather than make an open submission to Creative Scotland’s ongoing Film Sector review – according to Matthieu Prin at BOP Consulting (one of the firms appointed by CS for this purpose), a meeting is being held at Film City Glasgow from 10.30-12.30 on Monday June 3 to discuss the themes of Production and Finance. A further meeting of the Film Review Group is taking place at 2.00pm on Thursday June 13 at Creative Scotland’s Waverley Gate offices. 2-4 Waterloo Place, Edinburgh.

    Neither meeting has been announced on the CS website.

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