Last summer, Scotland got its own Disney heroine in the form of Brave‘s Merida. This summer, Scotland is hot again, and it’s not just a late-breaking heatwave that has the mercury rising. Every August, the capital city of Edinburgh becomes a hub of festival activity from the Edinburgh International Festival to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the Edinburgh International Television Festival, but this year there’s more reason to consider England’s neighbor to the north (especially as it readies a 2014 referendum on independence from the UK). Attention turned to Edinburgh last week as Kevin Spacey spoke at the TV fest to deliver a timely take on issues facing the business. Meanwhile, four movies partly funded by Scotland are on their way to Toronto, and next month sees the Starz series Outlander settle in for 38 weeks of shooting from a base near Glasgow.
Back in the late 90s when Trainspotting and Braveheart “made Scotland hip” there was “an opportunity to capitalize and lure people” to the territory, Trainspotting producer Andrew Macdonald tells me. But now might really “be the moment,” he says. Macdonald produced Sunshine On Leith, the Toronto-bound Dexter Fletcher-directed movie based on the stage musical that was inspired by the music of cult Scottish pop-folk band The Proclaimers. (Their 1988 song ‘I’m On My Way’ was featured on the soundtrack of DreamWorks’ Shrek.) The film follows the stories of Davy and Ally after their return home from serving in Afghanistan. Peter Mullan and Jane Horrocks star in the DNA Films production. Shooting took place in Edinburgh and the movie received £300,000 in funding from Scotland’s arts body Creative Scotland. Just this month, Focus Features International boarded for worldwide sales. Macdonald is a Scotsman (he’s also the brother of helmer Kevin Macdonald), but director Fletcher is English. This didn’t stop Creative Scotland, which is coming off of a bumpy 2012 that saw a management shake-up, from investing. The org’s Caroline Parkinson, head of creative development, tells me that there is a cultural test to access the £4M pot from which the outfit draws, but the idea is to be “flexible” and not rule out what can be “fantastic films for Scotland.”