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Scottish Film Culture Before 1938

The First Films of Scotland Committee

Scottish Film Culture Between the Committees

The Second Films of Scotland Committee


Distribution & Exhibition

Perthshire Panorama extract
The Highland Games at Crieff in Perthshire Panorama (1959)


Distribution and Exhibition

The Committee (1959, May 5) was able to claim that 'the films which the Committee helps industrialists to produce are not allowed to gather dust on a shelf in the office' (p. 1).  Domestic exhibition was enabled by Sir Alexander King's connections as a cinema exhibitor.  A sample of the documentaries distribution details illustrates the strength of this influence, and the Committee's general ability to get their films wide circulation. In 1959 Perthshire Panorama was released at the Odeon, Leicester Square with Ask Any Girl, and was exhibited throughout the country with North by North-West; in 1963 The Big Mill, distributed by MGM, was screened at the Cosmo, Glasgow with Bergman's The Silence; in 1968 Hebridean Highway had a London West End run with The Mercenaries, and began its ABC circuit release with The Comedians; in 1973 The Erskine Bridge was distributed with Jesus Christ Superstar; and in 1981 Castle and Capital premiered and was distributed with Woody Allen's Stardust Memories.


Seawards the Great Ships extract
The opening sequence from Seawards the Great Ships (1960)

Occasionally, the films also received television coverage; in 1962 for instance, extracts from The Heart of Scotland (1962), a film on Stirling and Stirlingshire that Grierson provided the treatment for, were screened on Scottish Television's Here and Now on March 5 and the BBC's Compass on March 7; a month later Seawards the Great Ships (1960), another Grierson treatment on Clyde shipbuilding, received considerable television coverage when it received an Oscar for best documentary.  In the mid 1950s, both BBC Scotland and Scottish Television had requested the use of extracts from a number of the documentaries produced by the first committee.


Scotland on Screen Programme
One of the Scotland on Screen programmes

For most of their life, the films were primarily 'quota quickies', screened to satisfy the statuary home-product requirement enforced on cinema exhibitors in 1927 by the Cinematograph Films Act (cf. Hartog, 1983).  Peculiarly perhaps for quota quickies, they also found their own audience, drawn to screenings where Films of Scotland films were shown exclusively.  These were the annual "Scotland on the Screen" events organised by the Committee, usually taking the form of a compilation of six or seven Films of Scotland films and a speech by one of the Committee members, the first of which was held in 1957 at the Regal Cinema in Edinburgh during the International Festival.  From 1958 these events were held annually in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and at the Royal Festival Hall in London (Films of Scotland, 1960, February 19, p. 5).


The films also reached a large international audience, partly because their overseas distribution was guaranteed by the Government's Overseas Film Service.  Further, a number of the films were distributed in different language versions by British Information Services, the British Council and the British Travel and Holidays Association.  In 1958, six Films of Scotland documentaries were screened in the British Industries Pavilion Cinema at the Brussels' International Exhibition.  In 1959 a scheme of Commonwealth performances was set up, with annual screenings in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.  In 1960 and 1962 coast-to-coast screenings of the films were carried out in Canada.  All of these activities were what the Committee referred to as 'the overseas projection of Scottish life and achievement' (Films of Scotland, 1960, September 28, p. 2).

In April 1982 the Films of Scotland Committee was devolved, and the films were transferred to the Scottish Council of Educational Technology who continued to distribute them through the SCFVL until 1995.

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Author: Richard Butt Images are drawn from the SCRAN database.