Swimming against the tide of downbeat news from the UK sector, Scotland is currently experiencing a mini-boom in film and television production.
Basking in the continuing festival acclaim and awards buzz for The Magdalene Sisters, Morvern Callar and Sweet Sixteen, Scotland was hailed as 'the new hotbed for British filmmaking' by Elliot Grove at last month's BIFA awards.
Now, it seems that quality will be matched by quantity as the industry is poised to achieve a record number of production starts in 2002.
Hero Films $4.4m (£2.8m) black comedy The Bums' Rush starts filming on November 18. The feature debut of writer-director Stewart Svaasand, it stars Kevin McKidd, Jamie Sives and Iain Robertson in the story of a modern day gold rush in the Scottish Highlands. Momentum has UK rights, SF Norway the Nordic territories and Myriad Pictures has acquired all remaining world rights.
Momentum also holds the UK rights to Solid Air, the second feature from BAFTA-winning writer-director-editor May Miles Thomas which is currently shooting in Glasgow. A digital feature, budgeted at under $1.6m (£1m), it places a complex father-son relationship against a high stakes industrial court case and stars Maurice Roeves, Brian McCardie and Gary Lewis.
Palm Tree Productions is filming 6th century adventure The Bone Hunter with Michael E Rodgers. Ideal World, makers of the acclaimed Late Night Shopping (2001), began shooting the $4.8m (£3m) television drama The Plan Man with Robbie Coltrane in Glasgow on November 4.
Bronco Films' $5.2m (£3.3m) The Flying Scotsman has now been postponed until Spring 2003 but numerous other projects are waiting in the wings, including Noel Gay Motion Pictures' new version of family favourite Greyfriars Bobby to be directed by John Henderson; Own Two Feet Productions adaptation of the Rosamunde Pilcher novel Winter Solstice and the low-budget modern day passion play Mandancin
"I think we've become very realistic about what is achievable in Scotland and also quite expert at making the $1.6m (£1m) feature," claims Lenny Crooks, Director of the Glasgow Film Office which is a direct investor in Solid Air. "This year, we've also begun to see the results of the strategic alliances that Scottish filmmakers have been able to forge with sympathetic partners in Europe, notably Zentropa."
Features shot in Scotland over the first nine months of the year include Lone Scherfig's Wilbur Wants To Kill Himself , Soren Kragh-Jacobsen's Skagerrak, romantic comedy American Cousins, television presenter Richard Jobson's directorial debut 16 Years Of Alcohol and the eagerly waited Ewan McGregor-Tilda Swinton collaboration Young Adam, directed by David Mackenzie.
The boom in film production has also been matched by a wide-range of television activity that includes the BBC period drama The Key, the Catherine Deneuve-Rupert Everett Dangerous Liaisons, American reality TV series Escape From Experiment Island and the new twice-weekly soap opera River City.
The one potential cloud on the horizon is that much of the current production boom owes its existence to tax-based finance schemes, hence the rush to begin production and deliver by April 2003.
"I think the UK industry as a whole knows only too well the perils of a tax-based boom and bust, " confirms Crooks. "I think there is a broad enough range of activity in Scotland that we can avoid the downside of the boom and maintain a healthy, sustainable industry."
The signs for 2003 are already promising with a further collaboration between the Sweet Sixteen team of writer Paul Laverty and director Ken Loach on the cards as well as location filming for Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban and the big-budget period adventure Jamie MacGillivray which has been developed by Robert Carlyle. John Sayles is the writer and director of an ambitious Scottish-Canadian-US venture budgeted in the $24-32m bracket and currently on target for a Spring start.