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NEW ROLE FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT IN SCOTTISH FILM INDUSTRY

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A package of measures, including a brand new Scottish Screen Agency, to strengthen the government's support for the...
A package of measures, including a brand new Scottish Screen Agency, to strengthen the government's support for the film and television industry in Scotland and to secure a user-friendly environment for indigenous and incoming film-makers has been announced by Scottish secretary Michael Forsyth.

Speaking in New York at a special pre-release screening of 'Loch Ness' for US tourism executive, which he announced in September:

'Last November I asked Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise to commission a report into how we could best strengthen the Scottish film industry and also make Scotland an even more attractive location for foreign film producers. Having received the report by Hydra Associates I am now able to outline the package of measures we will put in place in order to achieve these goals.

'An urgent priority is to provide a more coherent and streamlined infrasturcture to take the industry into the next century. I will therefore be setting up a new Scottish Screen Agency to absorb the functions of four existing bodies - the Scottish Film Council, the Scottish Production Fund, Scottish Broadcast and Film Training Ltd and Scottish Screen Locations. This simplifies the current structure and will leave those involved in film making in no doubt where to look for advice and assistance in the future.

'All this will require more public resources to be channelled into the industry's infrastructure. Overall, I would expect an extra £3m to be spent on film over the next three years - split roughly 50:50 between direct funding of the Agency and expenditure by the Enterprise Network. I will also be looking to the new Agency to free up some of its existing resources to reflect the more commercial rather than cultural emphasis which is now appropriate.

'The Scottish Office will meet the full costs of marketing and locations work, taking over that role from the local authorities who have so far funded Scottish Screen Locations themselves. While meeting the costs of national marketing activity, we will look to local government to play its part through effective liaison with film producers on the ground.

'I want to see more vigorous marketing both of Scotland as a potential film location and of Scotland's screen products. The Hydra Report identifies several innovative approaches for the new Agency to pursue but some steps must be taken immediately to take advantage of Scotland's current high film profile. I am therefore making funds available to recruit a scout, based in Hollywood, to alert Scottish Screen Locations to any movie projects which might be suitable for screening here. I am also injecting extra funds into the Drambuie Edinburgh Film Festival, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, to exploit more fully its marketing and training potential.

'In order to encourage our native talent - which has already excelled itself with films such as 'Shallow Grave' and 'Small Faces' - I will also be making additional funds available for development finance so that promising film scripts can be worked up into a more polished shape.

'If we can succeed in boosting the level of commercial activity within the film and television industry in Scotland, then our lack of studio facilities will become more of a handicap. I have therefore asked Scottish Enterprise to follow-up the Hydra recommendation that we should examine very thoroughly the feasibility of a new studio complex for Scotland with associated retail and leisure outlets. It would require a major commitment from a broadcaster and significant private sector investment to grasp this prize. If we can pull together all the necessary elements, I believe that this could be a breakthrough for the sector as a whole in Scotland.

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