Respected Scottish filmmaker Bill Forsth has sent shockwaves through the nation’s movie industry with his sudden resignation from the selection panel of the Scottish Film Production Fund (SFPF).
Forsyth's comments about the workings of the SFPF have sparked fierce debate alter he claimed the funding process lacked 'objectivity" and was ‘open to the charge of cronyism'.
The fund. now responsible for awarding millions of pounds‘ worth of grants through the Lottery Fund. has become increasingly high-profile — the Scottish filtn industry scored critical and popular hits with filtns such as S/ltll/Ult' (Hare and Small Faces.
Amid a flurry of charges aimed at the SFPF arid its director. Eddie Dick. the
difficulty is in separating personality clashes from genuine concern. Forsyth himself was. at first. turned down for funding for his sequel to (Irtlgmjviv (Iii-l. although the decision was later reversed.
Few filmmakers. to what is still a relatively small industry. have not been affected in some way by a SFPF decision to accept or reject a request for funding.
Penny Thomson -- Director of the SFPF front I989 to l‘)‘)l. now a hoard member and independent producer ~ believes that. with the need for experienced advisors on the panel. it is inevitable they will also be among those who apply for funding for major projects.
‘When you've got a very small
community. some people will end tip being not just judge and jury btit accused and defendant at the same time.‘ said Thomson.
Forsyth's main objections revolve around decisions to award panel member Lynda Myles and former SFPF chairman Allan Shiath million each for respective projects The Life 0/3714] and It’t'gt'itci'rrrimi.
As a producer. Myles's previous films include Defence ()f The Realm and The (‘oiiiniilniwilv Shiach. who has a string of credits as screenwriter Allan Scott. will also act as producer on Gillies Mackinnon's version of the Booker Prize-winning novel.
Because of the large sums of money involved. and their origins in the lottery fund. Forsyth's criticisms are likely to
Film fund attacked over panel members’ ‘vested interests’
lead to demands for greater public accountability.
‘There's a lack of information about how often the Fund meets. who decides what and what are the basic criteria.‘ Thomson accepts. However she argues guidelines on what makes a script worthy of funding are more difficult to define. ‘If we had a set of rules for turning a good script into a good film we would have discovered the 20th century version of tttrning base metal liil() g;tiltl.'
The debate will inevitably affect the setting tip of the new Scottish Screen agency in April. lndtistry insiders hope Scottish Screen can create a more accountable system without turning the current argument into a slanging match. (Alan b/lorrison)
Championing worse verse
With Burns flight approaching, appreciation for the hard is running low in some quarters.
Organisers of a new event in the Edinburgh calendar are sick of the pomp and ceremony of 25 January, and plan an alternative in March.
To make matters worse, the man who barred the bard is a namesake. Martin Burns, of the City’s Open Door Centre, a charity supporting the elderly and their carers, is gathering suggestions for a fundraising McGonagall night in March.
This will celebrate William McGonagall, the man widely regarded as one of Scotland’s least competent poets: ‘Think of the worst poetry you have ever read, and go down from there,’ warns Burns.
The idea is not new - McGonagall has been celebrated before, notably by Dundee students, but still ‘McGonagall flight’ suffers from a shortage of traditions. ‘Rather than toasting the lassies and splitting the haggis, we need some new ones. We want the populace to suggest some.’
Given that he was from Dundee, whimsical suggestions for the gathering have included a main course of traditional Dundee Cake coupled with readings from the Sunday Post.
But while the poetry may be bad, the food will not be, Burns premises. The aim is to celebrate a glorious Scots underachiever, as Burns explains. ‘lt is all about deflating self-importance.’
The rivalry between McDonagall and Robert Burns is a recent development. McConagall was fulsome in his praise of his predecessor. ‘. . . in your “Cottar’s Saturday flight”, your genius there does shine most bright. As pure as the dewdrops of the night,’ he wrote in tribute. (Stephen Naysmith)
Thanks to the team at The Green Room. Park Road, Glasgow for work on last issue’s Kelly Macdonald photo shoot. Hair was by Lisa Behnan and makeup was by Joanne Osborne.
A Glasgow University law student is staking his life savings on a battle to preserve the natural wilderness he used to explore as a child.
Phillip Lardner. a Glasgow University 3rd year student. was so enraged when he saw engineers carrying out tests on marsh and grass land near his [Erskine home that he decided to take action.
He goes to court on 28 January. accusing chfrewshirc Council of failing to carry otit a survey of conservation valttc of the site. “i used to play there as a child.‘ Lardner said. ‘Now I take rny niece there. it sounds silly. btit the area was important in my forntative years.’
"The case is based on my legal research and my theory.’ Lardner conlidently stated. ‘I think l‘vc got a good case. But ill be standing or falling on my own.‘ it could be a big fall: if Phillip loses in court he could
Student fights o s
7 43".3. I‘ ' I.
Tilting at windmills: lardner
face legal costs of tip to E I 0.000. Lardner first knew about plans to
btiiltl houses on Erskine‘s Rennies
Roatl iiiai'shland in June l‘)‘)5. Since
then he has orchestrated a campaign to win local support. ‘We had a lot of response.‘ he said. ‘Most local people are against the development.‘
Environmental organisations Friends of the Earth and the Scottish Wildlife Trust are supporting the campaign because they claim the site is rich in wildlife and llora. Also. they argue. a victory in court could set a legal precedent for further wildlife disputes.
Stan Blackley. a spokesman for the Scottish Wildlife Trust commented that success for Lardner ‘will force planners and developers in future to give individual. site-specific consideration of an area‘s wildlife antl conservation valtie.‘
Despite all this support Phillip Lardner knows he must go it alone in the court case. btit he is undaunted. 'l‘vc been saving tip and I think it is worth it.‘ he said. (James Blake)
Arts council fails to pacify folk music lobby
Fears have been expressed in the Scottish folk community over plans to create an agency to promote and develop traditional music in Scotland.
The Scottish Arts Council (SAC) claims the move will provide widespread benefits, but grassroots activists fear the folk scene will end up sidelined.
The SAC argue they consulted widely with at least 800 musicians, promoters and teachers, but some feel their worries haven’t been addressed: ‘If this happens, it must be well funded, not just an excuse to get the folk lobby off the back of SAC luvvies,’ said Rob Stokes, who co-runs the Tron Folk Club in Edinburgh.
The original SAC questionnaire was loaded in favour of the idea of an agency, he explained. ‘There is a feeling that the SAC is trying to steamroller this proposal through.’
Those on the folk scene have been concerned in recent years that support for art forms such as opera and theatre has far outweighed that given to more traditional Scottish music.
The SAC claim a separate agency
will be able to focus all its efforts on traditional music while benefiting from independence and freedom of speech. It will also enable funding partnerships between private and public sources.
However, Robin Morton, founder of folk label Temple Records, was also critical: ‘I would question whether the consultation process gave the support claimed by this document,’ be said.
In a letter introducing the report, SAC music director Matthew Rooke describes traditional music as ‘integral’ to the SAC’s vision. ‘llow can they say that, yet suggest they throw it off into some kind of backwater?’ Morton argued.
‘They are not saying “this is absolutely the best we can do for traditional arts”. It seems to me to be a bodge,’ he concluded.
Both Stokes and Morton claim the report misrepresents the mood of face-to-face consultations held around the country. ‘My impression was that people would rather see the appointment of an in-house officer for traditional arts,’ Stokes said.
SAC spokeswoman Fiona llammill
defended the report: ‘Dver 300 people responded to the consultation. We are now asking peeple whether this is what they said they wanted,’ she claimed.
The proposals will be finalised in March. Hammill insisted they were the best course for Scottish traditional music: ‘This is the best scenario giving traditional music a special place and its own structure in which to develop.’ (Stephen Naysmith)
Celtic Connections: flow on tradltlonal music be protected?
4 The List 24 Jan-6 Feb l997