Radical voices in Scottish film
The long but erratic history of radical/oppositional filmmaking in Scotland is an ongoing interest which draws on both my personal experience of groups like Red Star Cinema, Edinburgh Film Workshop Trust and the wider workshop sector and the largely untold story of the many and various groups and individuals who from both inside and outside the country have used film to illuminate, challenge or engage with social and political concerns. Two essays on this topic have just been published – see WRITING – and I have presented on the topic at a number of conferences including ‘Becoming Scotland’, QMU, Edinburgh 2014; ‘Political Cinema for the 21st Century’, Birmingham City University, 2014; ‘Digital Divide’, University of the Philippines Film Institute, Manila, 2015 and the UFVA conference panel on Scottish Cinema, Washington, 2015.
Local Heroes: the rise and fall of Scottish cinema
My other focus is examining the realtionship between film policy, production and audiences in Scotland and in comparison to other small countries such as Ireland or Denmark. Starting in 2009 I have been building a dataset of Scottish films’ performance in cinemas in Scotland and internationally, relative levels of investment and production in Scotland and comparable small countries (with a particular focus on Ireland and Denmark) and a review of the policy literature, commentary and opinion relating to the development of film industry and culture in Scotland. This initial work formed the context for my Professorial Lecture (‘Local Heroes- the rise and fall of Scottish cinema‘) in September 2009, a paper (‘Is bigger better? Film success in small countries’) presented at the 16th International Conference of the Association for Cultural Economics International in Copenhagen in June 2010 (See ‘Lectures and talks‘ for links to both the lecture and paper) and a shorter version including data on Singapore published online here PS. It was very widely shared but ASEF have reset their social media counters!). Published outputs drawing on this work include ‘Shape-Shifters: independent producers in Scotland and the journey from cultural entrepreneur to entrepreneurial culture‘ in:Murray, J., Farley, F., Stoneman, R. (2009) Scottish Cinema Now and ‘Peripheral visions? Alternative film in a stateless nation.’ (June 2015) in Atton, C. (2015) Routledge Companion to Alternative and Community Media, London: Routledge. (See ‘Writing’ page for more details).
As a film practitioner for the past twenty-five years I have, like many others, tried to integrate practice and theory in a productive praxis. Currently I am exploring the long term impact of historical documentary films on audiences and communities, making use of my 2004 collaboration with Sana Bilgrami,’Tree Fellers’ (see My films for more details), as the basis of the project, funded by the Carnegie Trust, ‘Tree Fellers Revisited‘ (material from which can be found at https://vimeo.com/channels/treefellersrevisited).
Another practice-led project ‘Filming The List‘ is based on a SFC-funded innovation collaboration with Scottish Women’s Theatre company Stellar Quines and involves an investigation of the creative and commercial challenges of taking theatre onto digital platforms. See https://www.facebook.com/FilmingTheList