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'Stagnating' Scottish indie sector needs support, says Pact

'Stagnating' Scottish indie sector needs support, says Pact
Tim Dams
07 December 2015

Pact has called for greater support from local and network TV commissioners for a Scottish indie sector that ‘is beginning to stagnate’.

In a new report, Pact says the Scottish original production market is worth approximately £190m, and, since 2009, has grown by 9% a year.

Despite this growth, the report concludes that the market lacks sufficient players of scale to help build talent and provide the continuous employment necessary to foster a strong freelance community.

One commissioner told the researchers for the report: “There is a shortage of talent. There are too few outstanding Executive Producers and not enough Series Producers in Scotland. They have not succeeded in growing the next generation.”

Scottish producers. meanwhile, speak of having to spend significant time and money sustaining a presence in London to win business.

In particular, the report said there are too many sub-scale players, typically with revenues of less than £1m.

Many of these are corralled in local programming; unable to invest sufficiently in development and build the credibility to secure volume commissions.

“There are not enough big companies which makes it hard for writers and directors to build a career in Scotland,” a Scottish Producer told the report’s authors.

The report, A new model: building a sustainable independent production sector in Scotland, was commissioned by Pact, in conjunction with EKOS and Prospero.

The report found that local commissioning could play an important part in developing the sector further, and that co-commissioning should be supported and local producers championed.
It said that commissioners should be more visible and be open to developing both new and existing relationships with indies. There should also be more strategic and commercial UK network commissioning, focussing on commissioning smaller local producers in key genres that deliver volume and continuity for business planning.
Commissioners should also invest in talent by developing existing programmes to support both middle tier and new talent by setting up shadowing schemes and increasing mentoring and training.

At a market level, the report said that Scotland needs to build a centre of excellence in one or two programme genres, expand capacity in scripted (particularly drama) and create an energetic and creative environment in which young talent want to stay and build their careers.
Pact chief executive John McVay, said: “There has been good growth in the Scottish indie sector over recent years but it is slowing and we need to do something now to build on that success. That is why we are making these recommendations to all parts of the industry – commissioners, regulators, Government and producers themselves – to help develop a new wave of Scottish production companies and build a sustainable Scottish indie sector”.
Other recommendations from the report include:

-              A more rigorous application of Out of London quotas by Ofcom;
-              The designation of a single dedicated agency in Scotland for the TV and film sector;
-              Development of a strategy for Creative Scotland to grow and support the Scottish indie sector;
-              Reshaping the Scottish Enterprise/Scottish Development International strategy to target more support to  TV and film sector;
-              Producers to create partnerships with other indies to share skills or generate scale and to develop commissioner relationships in London; and
-              Producers to take advantage of international opportunities and develop an export plan.
Jane Muirhead, Director of Pact in Scotland said: “There has long been a debate in Scotland about the impact of ‘Lift and Shift’; the report sets out the different versions of this and the local impact, both positive and negative that this has had. This report helpfully brings together diverging views on the issues and makes some helpful recommendations for future action”.

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