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Who are your Scots stars?

Category: Dear Frankie News
Article Date: January 9, 2005 | Publication: The Sunday Times (Scotland) | Author: Brian Pendreigh

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The first nominations for the Bowmore Scottish Screen Awards exclusively offer readers of the Sunday Times the chance to vote in Scotland's democratic version of the Oscars. Be sure to cast your vote - and win the opportunity to attend this year's glittering award ceremony

People in films say that Hollywood is little more than a village. If that is true, Scotland’s movie business was until recently little more than a but-and-ben holiday cottage, with its film-makers living cheek by jowl, just like the Broons in their cottage.

But it’s not like that any more.Scotland’s film-making family has expanded and its members are achieving great things all over the world. Their talents are varied and colourful, as the nominations for this year’s Bowmore Scottish Screen Awards make plain.

This week and in the next two issues, Ecosse will reveal the contenders for the country’s most prestigious screen awards. The shortlists will demonstrate the extraordinary depth of ability and breadth of experience in the domestic film industry.

I chanced upon one small instance of this new, stronger Scottish industry last June. I had arranged to meet the director Paul McGuigan for coffee in the Tinderbox in Glasgow’s west end. McGuigan directed the film of Irvine Welsh’s The Acid House a few years ago, more recently took over Wicker Park, a $30m Hollywood thriller, and was at the time of our meeting in talks to direct the next James Bond movie.

And there, in the same cafe but at a separate table, sat Andrea Gibb, the writer whose debut film Dear Frankie had been bought by Miramax. Yet McGuigan and Gibb had never met before.

So the Scottish film business has reached a position where two big creative talents, both based in Glasgow, can conduct business in the same cafe and pass each other unrecognised like ships in the night.

There was a time not so long ago that a single film shooting in Scotland was big news; now filming is common, whether it is a production from England or America, or an indigenous project. Scottish Screen, the film agency, trumpeted a record number of 27 Scottish features and shorts at the last Edinburgh film festival, including Dear Frankie.

Then there are those Scottish directors who make movies abroad, like McGuigan, gaining valuable experience and marketplace clout that hopefully can be put to good use in getting more films made here in Scotland.

There will always be detractors, but Scottish films and film-makers are thriving. Scotland continues to produce new and exciting talents, in front of and behind the camera, and its locations attract productions from around the globe.

Two movies shot here — the big-budget sci-fi thriller The Jacket and the British drama On a Clear Day — have been given important slots for world premieres at the Sundance film festival in Utah this month. And Man to Man, an ambitious period drama that was shot in Scotland and Africa, has been selected to open the Berlin film festival next month.

Of course this is the time of year now marked on the film calendar as “awards season”. And while the Bowmore Scottish Screen Awards may not command an international television audience like the Oscars, they have developed into a prestigious and much-anticipated event.

The first award was made at the 1997 Cannes film festival, pretty much on the spur of the moment, as a way of acknowledging the achievement of the novice producer Douglas Rae in transforming Mrs Brown from a modest BBC Scotland period drama into an international cinema hit, with a little help from Miramax.

Now there are categories for film, film-maker, actor and actress. An award for outstanding achievement will be made for the first time this year, at the discretion of the judges.

While the Oscars and Baftas are festivals of back-slapping, the one aspect of the Bowmore Scottish Screen Awards most valued by the winners is that they are decided by the Scottish public. “These awards are important,” says Robert Carlyle, a two-time winner. “People are voting for you and going to see your films and that means a great deal.”

Today we publish nominations for the best film and best film-maker, with those for actor and actress appearing over the next few weeks.

It is no surprise that McGuigan and Gibb’s paths should cross again in the shortlist for best film-maker, and it is indicative of a changing industry that every one of the nominees in that category previously worked in some other field. Gibb and Alison Peebles were actresses, McGuigan a photographer, Richard Jobson a pop star and film critic and Michael Radford an English teacher.

In recent years there have been dramatic changes in the movie business in the UK and in the very nature of film-making, changes that have enabled these creative people to realise their dreams and make movies.

Several of the films and film-makers in contention this year have benefited from the lottery funds administered by Scottish Screen. New technology has also made it cheaper and easier to make films. Those who have seen The Aviator will know that even the oil multimillionaire Howard Hughes had to go cap in hand to the studios to borrow cameras. Now it is about as easy to make a movie as it is to write a book, and the technology is not that different.

The average Hollywood studio film still costs $64m. But AfterLife is the first product of New Found Films, a scheme involving Scottish Screen and Scottish and Grampian Television to make feature-length dramas on digital video for about £200,000. Of course new technology does not make it any easier to make a good feature, but AfterLife was considered good enough for a commercial cinema release last year.

The nominations this year represent a wide range of movies, in terms of cost, style and subject, made in Scotland and elsewhere by talented Scots film-makers and actors. More features are being made, people are going to see them, and these days everybody in the Scottish film business does not know everybody else. Almost, but not quite.

Best film-maker

Andrea Gibb

If Andrea Gibb did not quite achieve fame and fortune as Deirdre, the Scottish vet’s girlfriend in All Creatures Great and Small, she was assured of recognition among aficionados of the classic series. She decided to have a go at film-writing and Dear Frankie was rejected by the Tartan Shorts scheme. Rather than give up Gibb developed the script to feature length, and in spring 2003 she had the satisfaction of seeing her first two movies, Dear Frankie and AfterLife, filming simultaneously in the Greenock area where she was born.

Richard Jobson

Richard Jobson fronted the 1970s band the Skids and then worked as a film critic. For 16 Years of Alcohol, which he wrote and directed, he drew on his early life growing up in a working-class community in Fife, on a semi-biographical novella and on Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. While many first-time directors spend years developing their second film, Jobson has since completed a Scottish martial arts film entitled The Purifiers and is currently making his third feature in Edinburgh.

Paul McGuigan

Paul McGuigan graduated from photography to making Channel 4 documentaries. He directed a short called The Granton Star Cause, adapted from an Irvine Welsh story about a man who falls out with God and is turned into a fly, then added a couple of episodes and it was released as The Acid House. Gangster No 1 made a star of Paul Bettany and his co-star Malcolm McDowell called McGuigan “the English Scorsese” (sic). Wicker Park was his latest film and he is now in big demand in Hollywood.

Alison Peebles

Alison Peebles was a founder of Communicado Theatre Company and played Elizabeth in the original production of Liz Lochhead’s Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off. Numerous television appearances included a regular role in the soap opera Strathblair. More recently she directed a couple of short films and the BBC series Stacey Stone. AfterLife is her first feature, shot on the sort of budget that would hardly pay for a Hollywood star’s expenses.

Michael Radford

Michael Radford, the director of the new version of The Merchant of Venice with Al Pacino, was born in India, but he considers himself Scottish. He spent much of his childhood in Dunkeld and developed an interest in film while teaching at Stevenson College in Edinburgh. He directed a 1980 television adaptation of Jessie Kesson’s The White Bird Passes, made his film debut with the same writer’s Another Time, Another Place in 1983 and won an Oscar nomination in 1996 for Il Postino.



Lindsay Duncan plays a mother who discovers she is dying, with Kevin McKidd as her journalist son and Paula Sage as the daughter who has Down’s syndrome. The writer Andrea Gibb drew on personal experience for the film.

Blind Flight

A Scottish set doubled for Lebanon in this story of two men the Irishman Brian Keenan (Ian Hart) and the Englishman John McCarthy (Linus Roache) who become hapless pawns in an international drama, subsequently held prisoner in terrible conditions for years.

Dear Frankie

Emily Mortimer plays a single mother who spins an elaborate yarn for her deaf son to explain the absence of his father. Dear Frankie opens in Britain on January 21

Ae Fond Kiss

Ken Loach revisits the basic plot of illicit love across a cultural divide that Shakespeare explored in Romeo and Juliet. Instead of coming from rival families, Loach’s star-crossed lovers (Eva Birtwhistle and Atta Yaqub) come from different ethnic backgrounds.

16 Years of Alcohol

The son of a hard-drinking womaniser, Frankie Mac (Kevin McKidd) inherits a taste for booze and develops his own passion for violence. Richard Jobson’s film manages to be both brutal and lyrical, and boasts a towering performance from McKidd.

You may send your votes to:

Scottish Film of the Year
The Sunday Times Scotland
124 Portman St
Kinning Park
G41 1EJ


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