SCOTTISH FILM SPECIAL
Movies and shakers
Creative impulses and trendy young actors are not enough to sustain the Scottish film industry. Behind the stars and the filmmakers is a man with a mission. Words: Eddie Gibb
JOHN ARCHER HAS Michael Forsyth to thank for his new job as head of Scottish Screen which, in theory at least. makes him perhaps the most powerful figure in Scotland’s burgeoning movie industry. Funny how fortunes can change. While the former Scottish Secretary was contemplating life in the political wilderness. the newly anointed McMogul was enjoying his first taste of European film’s glamour fixture at the French seaside.
‘lt’s not the Cannes you see on television.‘ Archer adds hastily, by which [assume he means it wasn‘t all cavorting with big- breasted models. Should think not too — this is public money we are talking about.
Apparently smitten by the ballyhoo — not to mention the bucks — which accompanied Mel Gibson when he came to Scotland to film Brave/term, Forsyth accepted 21 recommend— ation for a new super-quango to oversee the development of the Scottish film industry. He was even moved to pay for it. Scottish Screen, it was envisaged. would pull together the work of the existing public bodies charged with
'There's no point spending millions on films people don't want to see. We want films which have a distinctive voice but are addressed at a
wide audience.’ John Archer
training. location finding and actual movie funding. It would also advise on the spending of the film industry’s share of National Lottery money in Scotland. which is laundered by the Scottish Arts Council.
According to Archer, Scottish Screen’s role is to nurture a film industry which isjust that — an industry — but one that is distinctively Scottish. ‘There’s no point spending millions on films which people don‘t want to see,’ he says. ‘We want films which have a distinctive voice but are addressed at a wide audience and are culturally defining. The importance for the film industry for Scotland at this time is that film is the best expression of a nation’s culture for a mass audience. Television’s in there as well, of course, but a good film can really hit the spot. I think Local Hero did that.’
Archer‘s own background is in television, as senior producer at BBC Scotland, and latterly head of arts and music, where he oversaw hits including Billy Connolly’s World Tour Of Scotland. Not strictly a movie man, then, but he is someone that has actually made programmes for a living, and anyhow part of
14 TIIELIST 7—20 Mar 1997
Scottish Screen’s brief is to treat film and television as complementary halves of the same industry.
With BBC Scotland seeing the release of its feature film Small Faces last year followed by the promotion of a Screen One commission Mrs Brown to a cinema release. the advantages of having a TV insider at the helm are evident. If he could persuade Scottish Television. which has already made TV movies for the domestic and American cable markets, to back films with the chance of a cinema release it would be a major coup.
In the two months since Archer officially took up his post. he has already had to hold the
towels in a spat between Scottish filmmakers : on the committee charged with assessing projects seeking lottery ; cash. Sensibly enough. i it was judged that it ; takes a film producer to I spot a good script. but ‘ G rcgorj' '3‘ Girl director
Bill Forsyth walked. out, suggesting the
process was open to ‘insider dealing‘. Archer i reckons there will always be possible conflicts :
of interest. but believes a more formalised structure can overcome the obvious problems.
‘Peer assessment is the basis of the Arts Council judgement.‘ says Archer. ‘We just need to be constantly vigilant about who's on the panels and whether we have a wide enough bunch of people. The lottery could be seen as a soft touch — we have to make sure it’s creating distinctive work that creates a true return.‘
If Archer can achieve that. he will be forgiven anything — even Scottish Screen‘s Scottie dog logo.
For future release
Films still on the drawing board. Words: Deirdre Molloy
GOVERNESS Starring Minnie Driver of
§ Sleepers, this movie will tell the story of a young Jewish woman who disguises her origins, takes
g a post of governess with a family in Skye, and becomes romantically involved with the father. It § is to be made by London's Parallax Pictures with
g director Sandra Goldbacher and producer Sarah
§ Curtis (Mrs Brown) at the helm. International distribution rights have been snapped up by
3 Sony Pictures Classics.
? KIDNAPPED A historical drama based on the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson,
i Kidnapped is the first feature from Edinburgh-
3 based Avonbridge Productions. Producer Penny ; Thomson, former director of the Edinburgh Film ; Festival, teams up with director Gavin Millar
; (The Crow Road) for this big budget epic. Avon — are poised to shoot the film in Scotland as soon - as financing is confirmed.
John Archer: at the helm of Scottish film industry . WILLIE HOGG Names being ﬂoated t0 Steer
this project - an adaptation of Robin Jenkins’s
novel — include actor Alex Norton (The Crow
Road, Bad Boys) and Peter Barber Fleming who brought the idea to producer Christopher
Young (Venus Peter, Prague). Planned as a co- production with BBC Scotland.
ALIEN LOVE TRIANGLE A science fiction
' romance in three parts, each to be written and
directed by a different person, this will be a co-
: production between US financiers Miramax and
Andrew Macdonald’s Figment Films (which has
‘ also bought the rights to Alex Garland's novel The Beach). Bill Forsyth and John Hodge are
already on board and shooting is due to start late 97 or early 98.
WHITE MERC WITH FINS The first
. feature from hotshot Glasgow director Patrick V Harkins (above) will centre around a bunch of
British twentysomething inadequates staging a
bank raid. Adapted by John Hodge from the
novel by James Hawes, the film is being financed by the Guild/Pathe production stable. Filming on location around West London and in the studio should commence later this year.
TRAVELLING LIGHT An original screenplay by Aileen Ritchie of Clyde Unity Theatre, Travelling Light is a romantic comedy set in Drumchapel about a nineteen-year-old girl who joins a travelling theatre company. Ritchie, writer-director of the BBC 'Mind The Gap’ short Double Nougat, is off to New York to further polish the script for Christopher Young Films.
COMPLICITY A hair-raising thriller set in and around Edinburgh, adapted by Bryan Elsley
(Casualty, Hamish Macbeth, The Crow Road)
from the Iain Banks novel. Producer Richard
Jackson of Talisman Films is keeping the
director's identity under wraps for now.