Posts Tagged 'co-production'

Scottish film in the 21st Century (Part 1) More women, more international but remaining stubbornly middle aged

As promised the statistical elves were hard at work over the winter holidays continuing to pour over three decades of feature filmmaking in Scotland to see what trends they could find in some of the less well explored but no less important aspects of our national cinema.  What they found is reassuring in some respects – more women directors, more international co-productions and more first time directors (just) – but less so in others – it’s still an agonisingly long wait to direct a first feature for example.

First up, three decades of concerted effort to nurture ‘new talent’ and expand production has certainly produced more debut features: three times as many in the 2000s as in the 1980s (though a distinct drop from the ‘high watermark’ decade of the 1990s).  But despite much talk of nurturing ‘young film-makers’, the average age of first time feature directors remains stubbornly above forty (although it did dip slightly in the 1990s) suggesting that it is no easier to acquire the credibility that unlocks investment now than it was twenty tears ago.

Gender-wise things have certainly improved since the 1980s (they couldn’t get any worse!) such that by the ‘noughties’ 30% of first time directors were women but that leaves plenty of room for improvement.  As for ethnicity, well suffice it to say that out of around 150 films only Nina’s Heavenly Delights (2006) can truly claim to have foregrounded an ethnic minority community in its narrative, one directed by Londoner Pratiba Parmar.

Total number of features Number of debut features (%) Median Age* No. (%) by women directors No (%) which are co-productions
1980s 19 11 (58%) 40 0     (0%) 0 (0%)
1990s 84 13 (15%) 38.5 3   (23%) 4 (5%)
2000s 52 32 (62%) 43 10 (31%) 19 (37%)

* – median age based on those directors for whom date of birth information was available.

However, the most dramatic change evident is the proportion of films which are co-productions, having risen from zero in the eighties to 37% in the noughties, (almost without exception all of these co-produced with other European countries).  This is consistent with the general trend towards co-production in Europe arising from the growth of soft-monies, location incentives, risk-exchange across territories. And it no doubt also reflects a greater level of international awareness and stronger networks amongst producers here and across the North and Irish Seas.  (Something which is now part of the aspiring producer’s curriculum at our very own Screen Academy Scotland for example).  Over the past decade Germany has been easily the most popular partner (10 films) followed by Ireland (4) and Denmark (3).

But the most worrying figure remains simply the total number of features being made. As we have pointed out at length elsewhere there is little to no chance of securing more critically or commercially successful films without an absolute increase in the volume of production.  Thus far the 21st century has seen a reversal of the decade on decade growth evident between the 1980s and the 1990s so we have some ground to make up even to simply match the output of the 1990s.  That will require sustained, increased investment and in part two of this series we look at what the record shows there.

Where have all the co-pros gone?

While the world’s media were heading to Cannes to traipse the Croisette and the red carpet (where, incidentally, our own Lynne Ramsay’s adaptation of We Need to Talk About Kevin has been very well received), MEDIA, the EU’s support scheme for pan-European collaboration last week announced the results of its latest round of funding.

The good news is that Accidental Media, a Scottish based company founded by Tomas Sheridan (an Edinburgh Napier graduate and 2009 participant in ENGAGE, Screen Academy Scotland’s European coproduction workshop which is itself funded by MEDIA) has secured Single Project Development funding for ‘Babel’s Market’ which was a runner-up in the 2009 ENGAGE competition.

Accidental’s €11,488 award amounts to 3% of the total €413,393 in single project funds awarded to UK-based companies so far this year.

The less good news is that Accidental are the only Scottish beneficiaries out of nineteen UK companies awarded a total of €1.6m across all of the MEDIA schemes from single project and slate development to interactive projects and TV distribution.  That makes the Scottish share of MEDIA funds thus far (there’s a second call whose results will be announced later in the year) less than 1% of the UK total and would appear to the confirm the trend over the last decade which we noted here last October .

In itself the share of MEDIA funding secured by Scottish companies needn’t  automatically be cause for concern, but taken together with the seeming absence of much recent co-production activity across film or TV there are clear signs that the Scottish production sector is not securing the international finance or distribution that it arguably needs to ensure growth or indeed sustainability.  Cinema is almost inherently international these days as the UK domestic market is simply too small to finance anything other than ultra low budget films.  In television, while there is undoubtedly plenty of scope for Scottish companies to grow within the context of UK network commissions, co-production is an increasing opportunity if not a pre-requisite in higher-end factual programming in genres like natural history, history, science and arts.

While of course it’s gratifying that ENGAGE has helped at least one Scottish company on the road to international co-production, it would be good to see more alongside it  The development support available from the MEDIA programme is a very valuable aid to getting projects off the drawing board and into serious development and if there are reasons Scottish companies aren’t applying or are relatively less successful in securing support these clearly need to be addressed.


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