Issue 196
Winter 2016

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Dec 18, 2017
The Ultimate Travel Guide
Scotland's Stations - Northern Books

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    Editorial Comment

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    A Pentland revolution for film?

    THE DECISION by the Scottish Government to approve a planning application for a £250m film studio complex on the outskirts of Edinburgh – thus overturning the recommendation by the government reporter that the scheme be thrown out – may bring to an end a debate about the future of film-making in Scotland that has gone on for years.

    Despite the enthusiasm for making both films and tv series in Scotland, and despite the lack of purpose-built facilities, the industry spent £52.7m on filming in Scotland last year.

    Recent productions have included Outlander, which had to be shot in Ward Park Studios in Cumbernauld, Trainspotting T2, shot in West Lothian, and The Avengers, shot in Leith.

    Other major films that have used Scottish locations include World War Z, starring Brad Pitt, which used locations in Glasgow, and the tv series, Bannan, which has been shot on Skye.

    Other productions such as Filth, Sunshine On Leith and Under The Skin, have been made only in part in Scotland because of the lack of studio space.

    The Pentland site for the studios will now have to overcome one problem that is similar to that faced by Donald Trump when he purchased land for a golf course in Aberdeenshire: part of the site belongs to a tenant farmer, James Telfer (aged 83), who does not want to move despite an offer of £ 250,000 to do so.

    Part of his reason is that he is on excellent farming land that should not be lost when Scotland has plenty of other land that is of little use for agriculture.

    Assuming the Pentland studios do go ahead, Scotland will still have to catch up with the facilities that have already been provided for film-making elsewhere in Britain and Eire. Among the Pentland facilities will be six sound stages up to 70ft high, two Hollywood-style backlots a 180-bed hotel, a 50,000sq ft creative hub, 50,000 sq ft of workshop space and a film academy.

    Altogether, some 1600 people are expected to be employed by the studios. However, assuming the Pentland studios are built, there will still be difficulties faced by people who film in Scotland.

    Most concern those who make documentaries. Recent international hits include Anthony Baxter's You've Been Trumped, about Trump's Aberdeenshire golf course that's already been mentioned, and Sara Ishtaq's Oscar-nominated Karama Has No Walls.

    BBC Scotland has been reluctant to give either a public showing, while financial support from Creative Scotland has been hard to get Ms Ishtaq only got help after she had won Best International Feature at the Canadian film festival, Hot Docs, in 2015. But, as she says: "I don't expect to clear my debt from this film for ten years That's the same for a lot of film-makers... and that's not good for anyone."

    And even when one body has been supportive, it does not mean that all are. Paul Fegan, whose award-winning documentary about Scottish song-making traditions, Where You're Meant To Be, was initially backed by Creative Scotland, was then rejected by BBC Scotland.

    It took a second screening to persuade the BBC to show the film. It seems that, despite all the evidence to the contrary, making films for the cinema and tv in Scotland is still regarded by many people as a not very important side show.

    Toshie 150 – a time to ask questions

    NEXT YEAR, 2018, marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Toshie – Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

    Hacks everywhere will be foaming at the mouth in anticipation of the event. Great. A wonderful architect sadly neglected in his time and in his home town, Glasgow, for many years after his passing.

    It is very right and proper that we should celebrate his achievements, relatively few though they were.

    At the same time we should ask ourselves why he faced such trials and tribulations in his lifetime and why the magnificent Glasgow School of Art is effectively the only real monument he left behind.

    Read the letters he sent back from self-imposed exile in Port Vendres in France and feel ashamed that such a genius should be reduced to having to hold back in his correspondence for fear of taking the weight of the envelope to another postal level – which he could scarce afford.

    But perhaps more fruitfully we could look at the state of the built environment around us and ask whether things have improved.

    How many inspiring, breath- taking even, buildings have gone up in the years since he was amongst us?

    Why is it that ordinary domestic house building is stuck in such a grotesque time warp?

    Modern automobiles are not hammered and welded together in fields as our houses are. See a modern automobile production line and you could search a while for a human hand controlling things.

    Why have we failed so miserably to meet the challenge of producing truly affordable housing, taking advantage of the many wonderful new materials that are out there.

    Housing that is jokingly called 'affordable' is still way beyomd the reach of the ordinary working person.

    We should mark this anniversary not by holding cosy celebrations of the life of a past master, but by vowing to try to do better ourselves.

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