This paper examines the historic relationship between Channel 4 and the Scottish independent production sector over four decades and investigate how the opportunities and support for Scotland’s producers and freelance workforce today compares with the impact of the Channel in previous decades.
(Nelson Correia) The paper examines the role of the early Channel 4 commissions in the development of the Scottish freelance screen workforce. The launch of Channel 4 in 1982 coincided with a period of fundamental change within the Scottish film and television sector. Prior to that, local production activity in Scotland had been limited, especially in terms of narrative features. The institutional landscape to foster indigenous filmmaking had yet to be developed, and the local freelance workforce, consisting of around one hundred creative and technical crew personnel, had been making their living by producing mainly short documentaries, sponsored by local government and industry. Many freelancers, however, had the ambition to expand their skills and venture into bigger-budget projects, which motivated them to come together to campaign for more funding and institutional support for the local sector. Channel 4 from the outset proved to be a crucial source of finance to kickstart new forms of indigenous production in Scotland. From the 1980s to the early 2000s it commissioned local work across all television genres and supported the production of a range of Scottish narrative features, bringing a new array of opportunities for the local screen labour force. Based on analysis of the career biographies of professionals involved in the Channel’s Scottish projects from this period and data from the annual Film Bang directory of Scottish-based freelance crew personnel, the paper argues that Channel 4 helped to promote not only the expansion of the local screen sector and freelance workforce, but also their diversification. The paper also reflects on the legacy of these early projects for the current Scottish sector in terms of local talent development.
(Alistair Scott) The paper will also assess the interventions made by Channel 4 to support the infrastructure of the industry in Scotland which started with local Scottish Briefings led by CEO Jeremy Isaacs in the 1980s; the appointment of Commissioning Editors with direct responsibility for liaising with Scottish companies (Mike Bolland followed by Michael Attwell); and the creation of a Glasgow office from mid-1990s led by Commissioning Editor, Stuart Cosgrove. The paper will investigate the more recent impact of promoting regional production through the Alpha Fund; investing in Scottish production companies with the C4 Growth Fund, and the establishment of the Creative Hub in Glasgow in 2019.
Scott, A., & Correia, N. (2022, September). Channel 4 - then and now - the view from Scotland: the evolution of the Channel’s relationship with the Scottish production sector. Paper presented at Channel 4: Then and Now, BFI Southbank, London