Announcement of the BAFTA shortlist always provides our friends in the press an opportunity for a spot of patriotic cheerleading or handringing (and sometimes both at the same time) concerning the current fortunes of Scottish film. This year is no exception and that handy aphorism ‘success has many fathers but failure is an orphan’ comes readily to mind.
Under the headline “Scots produced movie shortlisted for Bafta” the Herald’s Phil Miller leads with “A Scottish produced movie about the early life of John Lennon is in the running…” Well yes Douglas Rae of Ecosse films is Scottish but he and his company have been based in London for most of the past 22 years and apart from his personal Scottish connection I’m not aware of any of ‘Nowhere Boy’ being shot or post-produced in Scotland, nor does it appear to have any finance from Scotland. Since Douglas executive produces all of his company’s output should we also count Brideshead Revisted, Mistresses as Scottish?
One shouldn’t begrudge writer or sub the need to find a Scottish angle in a ubiquitous UK story, but this kind of ‘any connection will do’ attribution of Scottishness to movies is not particularly helpful to the cause of greater understanding of the state of the sector, regardless of whether your interest is mainly cultural, economic or both.
The Scotsman is on much firmer ground with its David v Goliath angle “Never mind £200 million Avatar, how will £400 Happy Duckling fare at the Baftas?” which neatly manages to draw on the most popular theme of Scottish moviemaking coverage, how great success can be achieved with almost no money (and without the help of Scottish Screen) and see off the big boys (not that the two films are in the same category if one wants to be pedantic). Though the director is an established Israeli animator, producer Bob Last (declaration of interest – he sits on the Screen Academy advisory board) and his animation company Digital Ink are Dundee based (not that the Dundee Courier seems to have noticed) and the hands-on animation was undertaken by students at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art so there’s no questioning the legitimacy of this one. However The Scotsman also succumbs to the Ecosse connection in claiming Nowhere Boy’s four nominations for the homeland, stretching the parentage factor even further with the observation that “Even the Edinburgh festivals could claim a helping hand. In 2004, Christian McKay drew rave reviews playing Orson Welles in the one-man play Rosebud.”
Our friends in the north at the Press and Journal were reduced (lack of staff?) to playing the wire copy straight as they clearly couldn’t unearth a north east connection to ‘localise’ the story. Likewise the Daily Record which runs pretty much the same copy and unlike The Scotsman or The Herald doesn’t bother to point up the Scottish angle provided by Peter Capaldi’s performance in In the Loop.
So a mixed performance this year in the ‘milking the Scottish angle’ awards but the BAFTA Blether award for most tenuous supporting angle (thus far) must go to Tim Cornwell and the Scotsman for the Christian McKay connection. Well done Tim, a fairytale ending indeed, even if the competition wasnt quite so stiff this year as it might have been.