The Hot 100 2014: The Year in Scottish Film
Filmmaker and critic Eddie Harrison reflects on some ups and downs for Scottish cinema
This article is from 2014.
If 2014 was billed as Scotland’s decisive moment in politics, it was a year of ducking the big questions in terms of cinema. Scottish film production still depends on public subsidy, and with uncertainty about funding, 2014 saw little progress on any front.
The rocky reception given to director Jonathan Glazer when he screened Under the Skin (pictured) at Glasgow Film Festival reflected the uncertainty of purpose. Critically lauded, Glazer’s film offered an ugly, alienated depiction of Scotland, provoking angry accusations of cultural tourism.
In recent years, Scotland has been a backdrop for fantasies like World War Z and Cloud Atlas, but the lack of Scottish stories has become a matter of frustration. The positive reception for US TV production Outlander – filmed in Scotland but with a UK broadcast date yet to be announced – offered some promise; elsewhere, Scottish director David Mackenzie regained his directing mojo with Starred Up, but did so in Belfast. These projects should be considered in the context of a long-running question: should Scotland have a film studio?
With Creative Scotland funding resulting in scraps of activity, it’s hard to argue that there’s enough work here to sustain a studio; the failure of the Valleywood project in Wales is a warning of what hubris can lead to. But 2014’s ‘if you build it, they will come’ argument only polarised factions in disagreement about where a studio should be placed.
In terms of the Made in Scotland output on screens, What We Did on Our Holiday featured several generations of Scottish talent, but the comedy said little of note; Stuart Murdoch’s long-delayed release of God Help the Girl had ambitions beyond its Kickstarter-funded budget, but at least paid its own way. And – together with the King Creosote-penned soundtrack – Virginia Heath’s From Scotland with Love told the touching story of the country’s past through archive footage, just as the nation considered its future.
Yet our ongoing ‘dwam’ may present credibility issues for local festivals and training schemes as well; if Scotland is ever going to be a filmmaking player, we need to form a coherent strategy fast or resign ourselves to bit-part status.