Scottish cinema culture flourishes

To an outsider, Scotland, and St Andrews in particular, might not seem to be the ideal place for the cinematically inclined. Despite the one small cinema and a population barely reaching 17,000, St Andrews has recently seen an explosion in opportunities for both the filmmaker and casual movie-goer alike. A wide range of societies, a growing Film Studies Department, and a cosmopolitan student body have made it possible for those interested in all aspects of cinema to flourish. 

For students keen on viewing interesting foreign films, a casual Film Club has developed via Facebook with its simple stated aim, we all go round to somebody’s house and watch a nice film. This semester the Film Club has provided free, informal screenings of a number of foreign films for its members.  A number of the University’s international societies, such as the Middle East and Polish Societies, hold film-screenings to introduce students to various movies from across the globe. 

The newest subcommittee of the Student Association, Rogue Productions, provides a number of opportunities for those students more interested in the filmmaking process itself. Rogue supports students with both the creative and technical aspects of film, and has participated in a number of projects with other St Andrews organizations, including work with FS:X to create the shows opening sequence, and a planned collaboration with STAR News to cover the events at the On the Rocks festival in April. Rogues main operation, the Half Cut Film Festival, highlights student films in all genres from across Scotland, and provides awards for the years best submissions. This year’s Half Cut will take place on 22 April at the New Picture House Cinema, and provides the chance for student filmmakers to see their films on a big screen in front of a real audience.  

Luckily for St Andrews students, Scotlands national film scene is rapidly developing. The Saint spoke with student filmmaker Julia Gay, a nominee for Best Film at Half Cut 2009 and Glasgow Film Festival Artist in Residence, about film making across Scotland.

The Saint: How do you think Scotland can develop a unique place in the film industry?

Julia Gay: Before the conception seemed to be that Hollywood and Scotland don’t mix (except the Lochs), and its true. Hollywood stories don’t work here. My talk with Scottish Artist Mark Millar at the Glasgow festival echoed this  he discussed how the traditional American super hero films don’t work in Scotland, because America loves its clean cut heroes, while in Scotland we root for the underdog. The difference is now that we realize we have our own stories, our own humour and culture. We’re seeing this emerge, with the success of films such as Hallam Foe.

TS: Do you have any advice for the budding film enthusiast?

JG: There arent a huge amount of opportunities out there for young filmmakers as there are no major studios. If you’re willing to work hard though, we have the freedom to be independent and theres so much room to make opportunities. With Scottish Screen and the Art Council, we have the access to fund films, but you don’t need that. You just need somewhere to borrow a camera from, some friends and an idea. With Edinburgh having an established film festival, and Glasgow’s well on its way, the opportunities opening up we have are always increasing. I can see Scotlands future in film being significant; its up to this generation to make it happen!

Here’s Julia’s award winning short film Picnic:

– Michele Giovia

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