This article also appeared here on the online news platform Daily Business
With the BAFTAs having recently taken place and the film and television awards season now in full swing, the spotlight is being shone on the latest success of the Scottish screen industry. The film Aftersun, which received funding from Screen Scotland’s Film Production and Development Fund,was nominated in four categories at the BAFTAs, with the film’s Scottish director, Charlotte Wells, going home with the award for outstanding debut by a British writer, director, or producer.
Aftersun is one of many Scottish productions that have had national and international success in recent years. Many will have also seen films such as 1917, Mary Queen of Scots and My Old School, and television shows Guilt, Good Omens and Vigil, which have all originated or benefited from Scotland’s production sector in the last five years.
These successes demonstrate Scotland’s position as a creative hub which has the resource and talent to produce first-class, original content, and the potential to increase production activity further. In fact, Screen Scotland has predicted that the value of the Scottish screen sector could reach £1 billion by 2030 provided that the current levels of investment, infrastructure and talent development are maintained.
In terms of infrastructure, Scotland is set not only to maintain the existing studio facilities it has in place, but also to build a significant amount of new space in the next few years.
Recent openings and redevelopments of studio spaces across the central belt demonstrate the demand for more facilities outside of London by major streaming services. At the recently opened First Stage Studios in Leith Amazon’s the Rig was filmed, and at the Pyramid Studios in Bathgate, which is adding an additional 120,000 sq. ft to its existing site, filming has been secured for Amazon Studios and the BBC.
The latest studio to be launched is Pioneer Film Studios in Stepps, Glasgow, which once complete will offer 200,000 sq. ft of studio space.
The screen sector in Scotland is also seeing increased support from both the Scottish and UK governments. The Scottish government provides finance for Screen Scotland’s various development and production funds, which are available to eligible individuals and production companies that are seeking investment for new projects being made in Scotland.
The UK government encourages growth through its plans to increase production activity in the nations and regions, an example being support of new site openings for The National Film and Television School (NFTS) in Glasgow, Leeds and Cardiff.
The aim of the NFTS is to strengthen local talent to ensure that UK production companies always have skilled content makers behind the camera. It recently announced it is partnering with Channel 4 to provide free training sessions across the nations and regions to individuals looking to develop their career in filmmaking in order to target specific skills gaps in the industry.
These examples of initiatives and support, funded in part by the public purse, are important to the development of the industry. But public service broadcasters also have an important part to play and Channel 4’s involvement in the NFTS training programme highlights the impact that public service broadcasters have on local television production.
Public service broadcasters (PSBs) represent a vital source of production revenue, spending an estimated £196.6 million in Scotland alone in 2019. This is, in part, due to the quotas for nations and regions content set by Ofcom, the UK’s media regulator, which ensure that a minimum proportion of programming broadcast by PSBs is made outside of the M25.
However, there is clearly appetite from PSBs to obtain more regional content than the quotas require. Channel 4 substantially exceeded its 35% quota for nations and regions commissioning in 2021, with 66% of main channel commissioned content coming from nations and regions indies, and 55% of spend being on new content commissioned from nations and regions suppliers.
A new study into the economic value of the Scottish screen sector is set to be published by Screen Scotland soon. It will provide an update on industry activity in 2021, being the year that Screen Scotland describes as the start of the current Scotland-based production boom. Any adviser with clients in the film and TV industry will be interested to discover the outcomes of that study and the impact that it may have for those clients.
The advantages of the skills, infrastructure, and funding opportunities that Scotland’s screen sector has to offer are many, and it is even more important than ever that talent and producers looking to access those opportunities get the best possible advice from advisers with experience of all stages of the film and television life cycle. And that advice is also now available closer to home.