Rosie Ellison: Sunny outlook for city on screen

Peter Mullan and Jane Horrocks star in Sunshine on Leith. Picture: contrinbuted
Peter Mullan and Jane Horrocks star in Sunshine on Leith. Picture: contrinbuted
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With two films set in Edinburgh opening in the next fortnight, the city can capitalise on a golden opportunity, says Rosie Ellison

Two Edinburgh-set films hit the big screen in the next fortnight: this week, Filth, an adaptation of an Irvine Welsh novel about a corrupt Edinburgh cop, heralded as the next big thing since Trainspotting; next week, Sunshine On Leith, a toe-tapping adaptation of the stage hit that tells the story of a couple of squaddies coming home through the songs of The Proclaimers. In a city known for its dual nature, the dark and the light, Jekyll and Hyde, the Old and New Towns, the release of the “ultra-dark” Filth a week before the “glorious” Sunshine On Leith is almost holistic.

In the coming months we’re also going to see East Lothian’s coastline showcased by Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth in The Railway Man – which we hear may be an Oscar contender – and by Scarlett Johanssen in sci-fi thriller Under The Skin which features the stunning Tantallon Castle and Seacliff Beach.

Let’s not forget Cloud Atlas and BBC’s Case Histories from earlier this year. Cloud Atlas (in which the Scott Monument is comparable to the Empire State Building in An Affair To Remember) was more successful in China than Bond, and Case Histories is still travelling the world – Marketing Edinburgh has been contacted by people watching the series in places as far flung as North America and South Korea.

In film industry terms, the quantity and quality of these films put Edinburgh on the map. Knowing they were made in the Edinburgh area reassures filmmakers and financiers that we can accommodate high-impact productions. We are competing in an international marketplace, and our reputation as a film-friendly city is central to success. Edinburgh’s Film Office has a long-established Film Charter with the Edinburgh, East Lothian and Scottish Borders councils that assures filmmakers of a film-friendly reception by all departments and services. Quick answers, practical support, a can-do attitude.

This is not to say that Edinburgh should expect to be immediately flooded with feature films. Films and TV dramas are unpredictable. Scripts and financing can take several years, and just when you thought you were ready, your lead actor tells you he’s tied to a US TV series and things are delayed again. But the important thing is that we as a city region are ready to go when the green light does finally come on.

In terms of tourism, film and TV can implant the image of a place in the minds of people all over the world. One red phone box in Pennan, as seen in Local Hero 30 years ago, is still a visitor attraction. Seventeen years after Trainspotting was released, there is still demand for a Trainspotting tour. In fact, VisitScotland records that images of Scotland on the screen influenced 20 per cent of visitors, but this could increase. Look at the impact of Lord Of The Rings on New Zealand – some estimates have put the increase in tourism following the film as high as 40 per cent.

The sun truly did shine on the filming of Sunshine On Leith and the city cries out “visit me” as the camera pans over the city skyline. I’ve heard many people comment that we couldn’t have paid for a better advert (and we didn’t: on the contrary, film productions spend £3-4 million a year in the city region).

I can’t think of a time when so many films featuring Edinburgh have been lined up for cinema release in such quick succession, so now is the time to capitalise on this on-screen value.

• Rosie Ellison is film manager at Marketing Edinburgh’s Film Office