Edinburgh TV fest celebrates cash injection in Scotland and YouTube Original content

TV/FILM: The UK screen-entertainment industry received a financial boost this month when Creative Scotland, the arts-and-creative-industries organisation, announced £95m (US$122m) was spent on the region’s film and TV in 2017.

The £95m invested last year represented a hefty rise as it follows £45m (US$60m) in 2014 and £23m (US$29.6m) in 2007.

Among the new projects shot on Scottish soil are Mary Queen of Scots (pictured above), starring Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie and co-produced by Working Title Films, Focus Features and Perfect World Pictures.

Outlaw King (pictured below), the Netflix feature starring Chris Pine and made by Sigma Films and Anonymous Content; drama series The Cry, starring Jenna Coleman and created by Synchronicity Films; as well as legal thriller The Victim, with Kelly McDonald and John Hannah and made by STV Productions.

The news about the growing TV/film investment in the region came just before the 2018 Edinburgh International TV Festival (EITVF) kicked off on 22 August.

An enthusiastic Creative Scotland has responded to last year’s bonus funding by launching its own Broadcast Content Fund (BCF), a £3m (US$3.7m) initiative to support Scottish scripted and non-scripted productions for broadcast TV and digital platforms. The fund offers applicants grants of between £10,000 (US$12,868) and £500,000 (US$64,342).

The BCF will be part of Screen Scotland, a new organisation dedicated to the promotion of the region’s TV and film markets with a £20m (US$25.7m) budget.

Introduced eight years after the government abandoned a similar scheme called Scottish Screen, Screen Scotland seeks to incite more production companies to shoot their blockbusters in Scotland. The move aims to double the value of the local screen-entertainment business to £160m (US$206m) in 2022 from £69m (US$88.8m) in 2016. Already US hit fantasy drama Outlander, Benedict Cumberbatch’s Patrick Melrose and Marvel action movie Avengers: Infinity War feature Scotland in their locations.

YouTube comes bearing gifts
As part of Europe, Scotland and the rest of the UK look set to benefit from the hefty investment in original TV content by YouTube, the Google-owned video-sharing platform still associated with free user-generated video clips.

Luke Hyams (pictured below, right), Head of Originals at YouTube EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa), was interviewed at the EITVF by up-and-coming British stand-up comic Mo Gilligan (pictured below, left) about the video-sharing platform’s ambitions.

The festival’s audience of aspiring and professional content producers learned that YouTube Premium (formerly called YouTube Red), the subscription-funded video-on-demand platform, is seeking one-hour dramas that are personality driven, comedy shows in the traditional half-hour formats, and 90-minute special-events programmes.

YouTube Premium has started producing a slate of titles, including 50 shows, movies and specials that will be delivered next year.

Hyams added: “Just like all broadcasters, we want to make sure that a show works for us. Our budgets are determined on a case-by-case basis by looking at what resources are needed. Basically, we ask, “Will this show drive subscriptions?’”

However, he also warned potential applicants: “If you submit something that is already free on YouTube, why would we want it?”

The increasing enthusiasm to invest in TV should please Jeremy Wright, the UK government’s new Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

In his first public speech since his appointment in July, he came to the EITVF to assure the industry that the government was fully aware of the sector’s concerns about Brexit, the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union after more than 40 years.

“One of the things I have heard loud and clear already is how important it is to find the right talent in this industry,” he said.

“I know that there is concern about how talent will be able to move between the UK and the EU after EU exit. Although you will understand that the final outcome is still subject to our future immigration system, I can say that the government well and truly understands how important mobility is for this sector.”

Coogan and Grant
Meanwhile, two popular British entertainers came to the festival to talk about how their careers in the still flourishing UK film and TV businesses.

Actor/comedian/writer/producer Steve Coogan (pictured below) discussed the appointment of Christine Langan as CEO of Baby Cow Productions, the indie venture he co-founded.

Coogan, who is soon to co-star in Stan and Ollie, the biopic about the iconic double comic act Laurel & Hardy, said his company chose Langan (a former Head of BBC Films) because she understands the need to make “something that is worthwhile but is accessible to people, that is entertaining”.

He also explained why he needed to write, produce and star in Philomena, the 2013 straight-drama feature film that co-starred Dame Judi Dench and represented a significant departure from Alan Partridge, the zany fictional TV character that originally made Coogan’s name.

“You get all these advices of what to do in this business but, in the end, you can either toss a coin or go with your instinct,” he explained about why he made Philomena, a US$12m budget film that ended up grossing more than US$100m at the box office.

Meanwhile, at another EITVF on-stage interview, English actor Hugh Grant joined writer Russell T Davies and director Stephen Frears (the three are pictured below), who happened to have helmed Philomena) about the new sensational miniseries A Very English Scandal.

Made for UK public-broadcast network BBC One, it traces the real-life rise of high-achieving UK politician Jeremy Thorpe and the downfall triggered by a sex scandal and an alleged conspiracy to commit murder in the 1970s. The show is forecast to bring Grant an industry award for his outstanding performance as Thorpe.