For the fifth year running I’m at Ireland’s National Film School for the first of three workshops in our ENGAGE film talent development programme. Every time I visit what strikes me about film in Ireland isn’t so much that there’s more going on than in Scotland (though there is, as there’s more money, a bigger and more clearly defined audience and all the less obvious benefits that come from being an independent state) but that there’s much more of a buzz and a more tangible sense of a real community of interest than back home. Leafing through the once monthly, now quarterly Film Ireland or visiting the Irish Film and Television Network website or the Irish Film Institute you can’t help but feel that filmmakers, critics, institutions, educators and the wider film audience are talking to each other, or at least abreast of what’s going on (or isn’t and should be), in a way that is rather lacking in Scotland. It’s a long time since we’ve been able to support a print magazine dedicated to celebrating/debating/informing on all things screen with the production values and sense of confidence of Film Ireland. Scottish Film and Visual Arts had a go in the 90s, Variant hosted an occasionally thought-provoking piece and Scottish Screen’s Rough Cuts, though sometimes rather cringe-inducing in its lack of discrimination or editorial quality control, was nonetheless a very important information conduit, if not really a place to debate the issues of the day. Similarly our online media portals, good as they are (e.g. ReelScotland, David Cairn’s blog), don’t (yet) have the same reach or the same ‘must check’ quality as IFTN.
Why this should be so has long puzzled me. We don’t appear to lack for things to write/talk about and there appear to be plenty of aspirant film journalists/critics/commentators who could rise to the challenge of creating a genuinely ‘authoritative’ epublication. From sharing experiences and publicizing opportunities to find funding or collaborators to holding institutions to account or debating the business, politics and ethics of filmmaking, we ought to be able to ‘get Scotland talking’ just as much as it seems Ireland already does.