Mixed news for Scotland’s creative and high tech industries

The latest analysis of the UK’s creative and high-tech economy by NESTA (‘The Geography of the UK’s creative and high tech economies’ ) aims, amongst other things, to apply a more rigorous set of definitions to creative occupations/industries and to develop the distinction set out in their earlier report between the jobs and value added of the creative industries (those industries which have high proportion of creative jobs and e.g deliver creative content directly to the public) and the wider creative economy (which contains lots of creative jobs in non-creative industries). As importantly the report looks at the geographical trends in the creative economy and it’s here where warning signs for Scotland emerge.  As we’ve noted before (see june 2014 post) Scotland’s level of creative employment is in the mid range (6.4% of Scotland total employment) of  the UK’s nations and regions,  above Wales (5.7%) and Northern Ireland (5.3%) but below the South West (7.6%) and Eastern (8.4%) regions and of course London (15.5%) and the South East (10.7%).

The real issue however is that  creative employment is, if these figures are accurate, declining in Scotland while it is growing nearly everywhere else, both in the wider creative economy (down 1% in Scotland, up 4.3% across the UK 2011-13) and in the specifically creative industries (down 0.8 % in Scotland while up 5.0% across the UK). And this isn’t, for once, due to the ‘London effect’.  The highest growth rates are not in London but  in the Eastern (9.3% in Creative Economy, 11.5% in Creative Industries) , West Midlands (8.2% and 11.8% ) and North East regions (56% and 9.8%).

There’s better news from the high-tech economy where Scotland is leading growth at 5.1% compared to the UK average of 2.1% and ahead of even London (4.5%).  The NESTA study goes on to look at the intersection of the creative with the high tech economy and the analysis reinforces the  divergence of Scotland from the rest of the UK.  Whereas in the rest of the UK creative industries are growing faster (4.3%) than high-tech industries (2.1%) in Scotland the opposite is true. At the ‘sub-regional’ level (in Scottish terms = ‘regional’) it comes as no surprise that Glasgow and Edinburgh have higher levels of employment in the creative economy relative to other kinds of jobs.  The ‘Location Quotient’ ( the relative proportion of creative jobs in the region where 1.0 would be no different  to the national proportion) gives Glasgow and Edinburgh more than 1.2 and the rest of the country less than 1.0 and mostly less than 0.8.  (Edinburgh comes out particularly highly (7th in the UK) when creative and high-tech jobs are taken together.)

What does it all mean and why does it matter?  Well given employment in the UK creative economy is growing at 4.3% per annum, 3.6 times faster than the UK workforce as a whole (1.2% per annum) Scotland is losing out on almost all of these new jobs, compensated for by doing very well in the high-tech sector (5.1% p.a.) which across the UK is growing at a more modest 2.1%.  If we could secure even half the high-tech sector level growth in Scotland’s creative industries – say 2.5% we could add around 4,000 jobs a year.

Growing Scotland’s film and television – yes please Minister(s)

Though some practitioners are expressing ‘consultation fatigue’ (following the Creative Scotland Film Sector review (which I chaired) and subsequent consultation on its Film Strategy 2014-17, the Scottish Parliament Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee’s enquiryto consider how Scotland can grow sustainable TV and film and video games industries” it is an important opportunity to set out the potential for growth as well as the obstacles facing our screen practitioners and businesses and encourage Parliament to press the Scottish Government  to seriously up its support for the sector if it really wants to see the culture, economic and social benefits from the moving image that other European countries have achieved through concerted action.  My tuppence worth is available along with the other eighteen [since posting the number has risen to 40] written evidence submissions (though one of them seems to have wandered in by mistake!) here. The committee will be taking further evidence from a variety of practitioners and agencies during January starting with Games on the 14th, TV and film on the 21st, public agencies on the 28th and Fiona Hyslop, the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs on the 4th of February. Given the concern for the economic impact of the creative industries it is curious that the Committee, so far at least, doesn’t plan to take evidence from the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth, John Swinney.  He’s the person who really holds the key to investment in the sector…having read and heard the evidence from all the above perhaps the committee will then have some questions for him.

UPDATE 4/2/15 in recent days John Swinney’s name has appeared on the agenda alongside Fiona Hyslop to appear in front of the committee today which suggests that the committee members/those giving evidence have successfully upped the ante..

Try to be crazy! Wu Wenguang – Founding figure of Chinese Independent Documentary

Last week I had the chance to interview renowned documentary filmmaker and founder of the Caochangdi Workstation in Beijing, Wu Wenguan, while he was in Edinburgh screening work by new filmmakers associated with the Village and Memory projects.  Our hour long conversation ranged over his accidental entry into the world of documentary, losing his way in it and finding a route out through his work with emerging filmmakers – of whom he simply asks “try to be crazy”

We’re smart enough and have the resources to run our own TV

(Originally published on the Guardian Website Tuesday 16th September)

Claire Enders (What would a Scottish yes mean for democracy, 14 September) claims that “Scotland simply isn’t big enough to support strong independent media”.

She suggests the substitution of a Scottish Broadcasting Service for the BBC in Scotland would reduce media plurality. However, since 1957 Scotland has had an independent commercial station, STV, with a vibrant news and current affairs output, which would continue to offer strong competition to any licence-fee/state-funded broadcaster. Not since the 1980s has Channel 4 had any Scottish current affairs or political output, so the level of plurality would remain unchanged.

She suggests Scotland could not secure a free-to-air deal with the BBC. The licence fee (or post-independence equivalent) in Scotland raises £300m; the pro-rata share of network BBC television is £75m, while BBC Scotland costs £86m. Even if the BBC secured £100m for supplying its services to Scotland (considerably more than Ireland currently pays for the same privilege), that would still leave £200m to fund SBS, radio and online services.

After independence the Scottish parliament and whichever government the people of Scotland elect would shape Scotland’s media regulation. Holyrood, elected on a proportional representation basis, and with much greater cross-party pre–legislative scrutiny, is considerably more democratic than Westminster.

The scanner has been working overtime this week digitising some pre-web documentation of Scotland’s film history and this delightful epistle from Bill Forsyth in the 1986 Edinburgh International Film Festival Programme is just one example

Bill Forsyth letter on That Sinking Feeling EIFF Programme 1986

Sunshine on Leith and Filth zoom into all time Scottish top ten

The latest and, as ever, fascinating annual statistical handbook from the BFI allows the elves here at The Producer’s Cut to update the all-time top Scottish films at the UK Box office (NB Adjusted for inflation) with not one but two films making it into the list from 2013.  Not surprisingly perhaps Sunshine on Leith and Filth, having briefly occupied the number 2 and 3 spots at the UK box office in 2013 have quickly joined the all time Scottish top ten at number 4 and 6 respectively.  Trainspotting remains the undisputed top dog with 25% of the total box office garnered by the ten films and indeed all but one of the top five films are from the 1990s.  Inevitably the definition of ‘Scottish’ used here is subjective – both Rob Roy and Last King of Scotland could be ruled out on production origin terms (as could even Mrs Brown for that matter) but allowing for that caveat we can see that there’s no real pattern to the best-selling Scottish movies other than that from thrillers to a musical they managed to strike a chord with the film-going public.

 

UK Box Office £ (adjusted for inflation)
Trainspotting (1996) 12,331,224
The Last King of Scotland (2006) 5,680,951
Shallow Grave (1995) 5,101,342
Sunshine on Leith (2013) 4,600,000
Rob Roy (1995) 4,352,000
Filth (2013) 3,900,000
This Year’s Love (1999) 3,600,636
Mrs Brown (1997) 2,647,037
Magdalene Sisters (2002) 2,138,934
The Angels Share (2012) 1,928,376
Total 46,280,500

Coming to a cinema near you, possibly

After an absurdly long time (ten years to be precise) I’m pleased to reveal that I’ve got a new film premiering at Filmhouse in Edinburgh next month (or two if you count executive producer credits which of course I don’t :) ) Advising the unquestionably Stellar Quines on the transfer of their hit play The List to the big screen gave me the opportunity to shoot a behind the scenes doc on the collaborative process between film director Morag McKinnon, theatre director Muriel Romanes and Maureen Beattie, star of the one woman play by Canadian dramatist Jennifer Tremblay, translated from the French by Shelly Tepperman. The collaboration was supported by an ‘innovation follow on’ award from the Scottish Funding Council which allowed me to advise Stellar Quines on the creative, commercial and practical aspects of turning theatre into cinema and connect them up with the right talent and skills to realise their ambitions. As it turned out the film director of The List is an Edinburgh Napier graduate, as was the film production manager Lili Sandelin, DIT Mihail Ursu and Karel Dolak the online editor of ‘Filming The List’. Former staff member Rob Walker recorded and mixed the sound for The List while current staff member Ross Buchanan mixed ‘Filming…’. So all in all the whole project has been a shining example of collaboration, both between theatre and film and between university and the arts. Tickets for the Filmhouse screening are on sale now and the films will be in Dundee at DCA on Tuesday 5th. Further dates and venues t.b.c.


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