Swedish Sunset Song sparks debate

A NEW film based on one of Scotland’s classic novels will soon be in production – in Sweden.

An adaptation of ‘Sunset Song’, the book by Mearns novelist Lewis Grassic Gibbon, will be filmed next year. Stars will include Peter Mullan, Agyness Deyn and Stuart Martin. Location scenes will be shot in the Mearns but most of the technical work on the movie will be done in Sweden.

The film sparked a Parliamentary debate led by Nigel Don, MSP for Angus North and Mearns where Sunset Song was set. Mr Don welcomed the film but expressed regret that much of the economic benefit would go elsewhere.

Speaking after the debate, Mr Don said: “This is a novel rooted in Scotland, written by a great Scottish author which finds universal truths on the crofts of the Mearns in the first world war. Scotland has a rich literature which, translated into films, games and music, can generate jobs and prosperity, and we should make the most of it.

“I’m delighted the film is being made and I do not grudge the people of Sweden their success in attracting this project. In Sweden they have the facilities that we in Scotland lack. Specifically, we need the kind of studio facilities which would enable all the work on major movies to be done here, using talent based here. It’s time we caught up.”

Political heavyweights such as Annabel Goldie, Labour’s Mark Griffin and the SNP’s John Mason and Bob Doris joined the debate and talked up the potential of Scotland’s film industry.

Former Conservative Leader Annabel Goldie highlighted the importance of the creative industries in Scotland, noting that they already employ 60,000 people in 9,000 businesses.

Bob Doris noted that Scotland’s facilities for large scale studio productions are “fairly limited” and need to be improved. He said Scottish Enterprise is keen to attract a film studio to Scotland that could rival the likes of Pinewood in England.

Summing up the debate, the Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, praised Sunset Song and described the Scottish Government’s efforts to attract more film production to Scotland, with some success.

She said: “The film industry has nearly 400 production and related companies in Scotland, and they generate a turnover of £1.2 billion a year. Creative Scotland has recently committed £75,000 to work with the industry on a feasibility study on how that can be achieved.”

She added that there could be further government support of £1 million if the study shows a way forward.

Observing the debate were Professor Robin MacPherson of Screen Academy Scotland and Caroline Parkinson, a Director of Creative Scotland. Both met with the Cabinet Secretary and Nigel Don afterwards to discuss the best way forward for the film industry.

Mr Don said: “Scotland is a natural film set. We have the mountains, the cities, the acting talent, the musicians, the screenplay writers and the inspiration. What we don’t have is a studio. I hope this debate has helped to focus minds and demonstrate just what is possible. We all need to work together on this.”