Beatrice Colin reports on the Scottish filmmakers whose cameras are still rolling despite all the obstacles.
re‘ n in g
ention the words ‘Scottish Film Industry’ and you will be met with a blank stare. ‘What industry?’ Scotland has produced hundreds of musicians, writers and artists who have gone on to international acclaim, but somehow we have never matched France, Spain or even Denmark in producing a regular crop of home-grown movies. This is, in part at least, the fault of the government who have remained monumentally unsupportive. While the film industry in general has gone into virtual hibernation, the only whirr of a large camera you might have heard north of the border last year was filming Salt On Her Skin , a German/Canadian production starring Greta Scacchi.
However, all the potential is here. A large number of Scots pass through the doors of the National Film and Television School every year and films made at Scottish Film and Video Workshops are shown at festivals all over Europe. The technical expertise available here rivals London and provides the essential pool of talent that new projects require. The biggest obstacle is, of course, money — or lack of it.
Some efforts are at last being made to improve the situation with various initiatives introduced to encourage the young and
inexperienced filmmaker. The STV/Scottish Film Council award scheme recently ploughed £40,000 into the production of 36 films chosen from over 80 proposals. Meanwhile, the second Glasgow Film and Video Workshop Production Award Scheme has also chosen twelve productions which will be provided with free film, a small grant and use of all the workshop’s equipment.
The most inspiring single development is the recent installation of video projecting facilities in Cinema 2 at the Glasgow Film Theatre. Now claiming to be at ‘the cutting edge of moving image culture’, the OFT plans to show shorts from local filmmakers before main features. The cinema also hosted the recent New Visions Festival of Film and Video, and with this long overdue technical move, it has pledged its support to the advancement of an indigenous Scottish film industry.
To launch a series of articles on New Scottish Cinema, The List presents a selection of Scottish filmmakers’ work which is currently in production. From the excellent new feature The Playboys and the beautifully filmed romantic comedy Prague, to the gritty realism of Betty’s Brood, they demonstrate a wide breadth of approach and vision.
After the success of TV movies The Grass Arena and Conquest of the South Pole (above), GILLIES MACKINNON moves to Ireland for his first feature, The Playboys. Alan Morrison talks to the Scots director.
ast year, while the British contribution to the world’s cinema screens continued to plod its way down the dual track of costume drama and urban right-On-ness, one movie, seen only at festivals and eventually on TV, put the rest to shame. The Grass Arena, a powerful depiction of alcoholic-turned-chess-champion John Healy picked up rave reviews, as well as the Michael Powell Award for Best British Feature at the Edinburgh Film Festival, and the Best British Film and the Distributors’ Awards at France’s Dinard Film Festival. Its director Gillies Mackinnon recently completed his first cinema feature, The Playboys, which, on the strength ofearly screenings, will at last give the British film industry something to be proud of.
Set in a small Irish border village during the late 19505, The Playboys tells the story of Tara (Robin Wright), a young, independently-minded single mother torn between the amorous attentions of the village policeman (Albert Finney) and a travelling player (Aidan Quinn). Like most of Mackinnon’s films, it focuses on a central character rising above the pressures of
society or family. Wonderful performances from the entire cast and Mackinnon‘s skilful unfolding ofthe tale make it one ofthe most accomplished features to come from these isles in many a year.
Pre-production took the director further across the water to Hollywood in order to interview a succession of top American stars for roles in the movie. It was a trip that proved to be an eye-opening experience in a way that he had not expected: ‘I had a list, and on it were all these names who I knew from God knows where — Kyle MacLachlan, Holly Hunter, Madeline Stowe, Annette Bening [who was set to star until the Beatty affair came along] — and they’re coming in and having a cup oftea with me for twenty minutes. And I realised that they’re all just people who are out looking for an interesting job. It was good in that respect, the demystifying process.’
When he describes the elements that attracted him to the script — ‘What I liked about it was the balance, the shades; it was, well, chiaroscuro’ — Mackinnon begins to sound like the art teacher he once was. Born 44 years ago in Glasgow, he studied at the city’s School of Art before doing a one year
8'l‘hc List Ill—.23 April 1992