According to today’s Sunday Herald “A Scottish movie version of Emily Bronte’s brooding romance Wuthering Heights picked up an award for best cinematography at the Venice Film Festival last night”. On this account what qualifies Andrea Arnold’s latest film as a Scottish hit is Ecosse Films‘ producer Douglas Rae’s nationality, his track record of producing Mrs Brown and BBC’s Monarch of the Glen and the fact that his production company now has a Scottish office.
With Skye-based producer Chris Young’s The Inbetweeners topping the box office for a third week in a row with a cumulative £35m that makes it the third highest grossing film of the year, it would seem Scottish film-making is riding the crest of the wave – or is it?
Sadly this journalistic boosterism (albeit perennially counter-balanced by equally wide of the mark doom mongering) is the arts and entertainment equivalent of ‘Titanic sinks: Aberdeen man lost at sea’. Notwithstanding Arnold’s previous Scottish connections (the Martin Compston and Kate Dickie starring Red Road, shot in Glasgow and co-produced by Sigma Films) and Doug Rae’s Scottish roots, until the very welcome opening of its Scottish office last year, this has been a film and a production company about as solidly English-based and focused as its possible to be. If only Scotland could legitimately lay claim to such a broadly-based and prolific drama operation as London-based Ecosse with over 200 hours of network drama from An Unsuitable Job for a Woman and Mistresses to He Kills Coppers and nine films including Charlotte Gray, Becoming Jane, The Water Horse and Nowhere Boy!
Since Mrs Brown in1997 Ecosse’s film output has had precious little economic or cultural relevance to Scotland save the location shooting of The Water Horse. Nor should we expect it to just because of the company name. Wuthering Heights is by most accounts a very fine film but it isn’t in any meaningful sense Scottish from story, cast and crew to locations, production company or financiers. To claim it as ‘A Scottish Movie’ is just silly and doesn’t help us have a mature discussion about the fortunes of Scottish film-making which is something we very much need. Papers need pegs to hang stories on but its a rather sad indictment of newspaper coverage of Scotland’s film and TV industry that this kind of flim-flam makes it on to page two of a serious newspaper.