Why not a Scots Hollywood? Fiction film production in Scotland, 1911-1928
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This thesis addresses a neglected area of British national cinema history, presenting the first comprehensive study of Scotland’s incursions into narrative film production before the coming of sound. It explores both the specificity of Scottish production and its place within the broader cultural, political and economic contexts of the British film industry at key periods in the ‘silent’ era before and after the Great War. Early film production in Scotland has been characterised as a story of isolated and short-lived enterprises whose failure was inevitable. The work problematises this view, focusing instead on the potential for success of the various production strategies employed by Scottish film-makers. It demonstrates that producers were both ambitious and resourceful in the manner in which they sought to bring their films to local, national and international screens. Previously unknown markets for these films are also identified. In 1911 the first British three-reel film, Rob Roy, made in Scotland by a Glasgow production company, reached audiences as far away as Australia and New Zealand. Scottish efforts in film production, including the development of synchronised sound systems, were not haphazard but mirrored trends in the British and worldwide film industries until the late 1920s. With the coming of sound, the costs of commercial film production represented too great a challenge for the limited resources of Scottish producers. The study encompasses a detailed exploration of efforts in feature film production; how far these productions travelled and for whom they were made; the presentation and treatment of Scottish-made films by the trade press and local newspapers and their critical reception both at home and overseas. The majority of these films are lost, but close scrutiny of contemporary publicity and archival documents including business records has enabled a detailed picture to emerge of their content, nature and production background. Scottish stories and the Scottish landscape were important to the British film industry from its earliest days, and feature films shot on Scottish locations by outside producers are also discussed. Were these the films Scots would have made, if they could?