'Even the Silent are Guilty in the Empire of the Senseless: The Creative Problems of the Indigenous Scottish Film Industry' by Grant McPhee

May 11, 2018

The last decade has brought with it what I refer to as a Year Zero moment in filmmaking. Every aspect of filmmaking has changed beyond all recognition from when I first started my career in the early 2000's. I think mostly for the better.  

 

Cultural movements of the 20​th​ century which have also been referred to as Year Zero moments have mostly followed the same path of change, with those who adapt with the times moving forward, and those who don't stagnating. Times and circumstances change and a fresh and healthy industry has to move with them, and preferably lead.

 

We should be leading. 

 

I was recently asked to appear on a Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations (CTEER) panel, addressing MSPs for my views on the proposed new screen unit. I suppose I was asked due to having a slightly unusual dual place within the Scottish Film Industry. Firstly, my involvement with a grass roots feature film collective called Tartan Features, which have created a number of relatively successful feature films on micro budgets.

Secondly, for my early involvement with digital cinema cameras in which I helped create a new crew role – the Digital Imaging Technician. My views on emerging talent funding are heavily based on my experiences of helping define this new role – noting a reluctance for change from a minority, and understanding the importance of recognising that to have a better future for your industry you sometimes have to fight for that change, and raise your head when you feel that is what's needed. 

 

While on the CTEER panel it transpired there was little opportunity to speak about emerging talent unfortunately, along with generally not feeling comfortable with public speaking; however I had spent a large amount of time preparing my thoughts and research on the subject as I passionately believe in the importance of home-grown talent.

 

This process, and my experiences with independent film made me realise that there are significant faults currently within our industry, specifically regarding emerging talent and entry to the film industry. Rather than letting these thoughts sit on a hard drive I've taken the opportunity of the recent release of the CTEER Interim Report to present them here. I think another fight is needed to better our industry and to grow our own opportunities.

 

Before the plans for proposed Scottish Screen Unit are finallised I  hope there's time to fully acknowledge the importance of us growing grassroots, indiginous, independent and emerging filmmaking within our industry.  It's the only way we can progress and create a real industry.

 

You hide behind this public machine...Still follow the same old scheme.​

 

The vast majority of our industry, in my experience is very forward thinking and genuinely do fight for the betterment of everyone involved. Unfortunately there are still a handful of people clinging to the belief that we should carry on just as before, much like the Japanese soldier in John Boorman's Hell in the Pacific. These are the adherents to the Cinema of Papa. I don't think there is any malice involved, but there is a malaise of the 'don't rock the boat' approach which I feel is dangerous and wasteful to have in any creative industry. And it's this attitude that I think is at the heart of many of our current indigenous creative problems. 

 

While this is far from a (counter-)report, I decided to try and bring together my views on how we can change things for the betterment of new filmmaking -and to keep asserting the importance of risk -taking, and DIY thinking as an ideology for creating a stronger overall industry.

 

I genuinely believe there are no individuals responsible for what has happened (or is happening) to Scotland's home-grown film industry, so nobody will be or can be named. But there is a collective responsibility that everyone must take on board because silence only cements the deep hole that grassroots filmmaking has seemingly fallen into. This is the county whose industry was born from grassroots filmmaking – think Bill Forsyth and the now ironic sounding That Sinking Feeling.  

 

I want to address 3 aspects of our current problems, as I see them: 

 

1.Funding for Emerging Talent, and the Promotion and Nurturing of that Talent.

 

2.The Role which Film Festivals play in our culture and in promoting an indigenous industry. 

 

3.The Role of 'The Established Film Industry' in developing indigenous filmmaking.

 

 

 

Part One to Follow.....

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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