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Willy Wands is arguably one of the most talented and experienced line producers in the UK. His credits include The Winter's Guest, Rogue Trader, East is East, Gregory's 2 Girls, The House of Mirth and recently Beautiful Creatures which gave him his much awaited producer credit. He is certainly one of the most respected and knowledgeable players in the UK film industry.

Glasgow based, he would always choose to work from home, a choice he and others are increasingly unable to make. He has recently returned from Liverpool where he spent 5 months line producing 51st State, an American thriller directed by Ronnie Yu starring Samuel L Jackson and Robert Carlyle.

When we caught up with him he had plenty to say about the relative health of the industry in England and Scotland.

Liverpool has had a significantly successful year in terms of production output; whilst 51st State was shooting, there were 4 other feature films in varying stages of production. So how did a City which is unused to such levels and demands of production cope and how did it compare to Glasgow?

"There are very few, if any, feature film technical grades and so it's very difficult to get feature film staff" explains Willy. "Glasgow has a very experienced crew base, studio space, facilities companies, camera, lighting and grip companies, prop-hire and so on. Liverpool doesn't have any of that. Everything has to come from Manchester or the South which means having to take substantial costs out of the budget to pay for petrol and drivers to get it all across."

However, despite all of the above resources existing in Glasgow, its diverse locations and an industry office to facilitate production (all of which to Willy's mind have established Glasgow as the most film friendly city in the UK), Liverpool has overtaken all regional areas for output. 1999 was Glasgow's most successful year for film production - and as such Scotland's, as the vast majority of projects, producers, technicians and facilities are based here. 7 feature films, 1 TV drama and numerous shorts and commercials were based in Glasgow alone. The rest of Scotland accommodated location shooting for several films and television dramas.

However 2000 proved to be an entirely different story. 1 feature film was based and shot in Scotland, and only because it was co-developed and co-financed by Glasgow Film Office as a pilot scheme. Scotland also facilitated 7 television dramas throughout the year. This is a phenomenal reduction and one from which Liverpool has greatly benefited, enjoying the employment and local spend figures from 7 feature films, as well as television drama, shorts and commercials. This has not only enhanced its reputation and marketing strategy as a film friendly city but also means that its crew base and infrastructure is gaining more experience. Facilities companies will be tracking Liverpool, as they did Scotland, to see if it is worthwhile to set up satellite offices. Liverpool's proximity to Manchester and Granada studios will only compound this. Indeed, film production in England has now overshadowed Scotland to an alarming degree. The BFC has recently announced its figures for the last year - filming activities created a local spend figure for the UK of £211m of which less than £1m was in Scotland.

Willy is in no doubt as to the source of the problem:

"At the moment, 95% of the indigenous production community are having to work elsewhere. That's absolutely scandalous. What's being done to stop it? Why are producers and line producers able to take projects out of Scotland without questions being asked? No one at a national level picks up a phone and asks what could be done. The Escapist (Gillies Mackinnon's latest project) is a great example of this - that film should have been made here. They wanted to make it here. The line producer, production designer, costume designer and potentially the 1st AD are all from Glasgow, as is the director. But nobody succeeded in keeping it here. So because of this, it's now in prep in Dublin. It's another film that could have been made here and has slipped through the net. All the necessary components exist in Scotland but there just isn't an industry to use them any more. The more films that go, the more it dries up. People want to stay at home to work. They don't want to be staying in hotels in Liverpool or Dublin or having to spend hours driving across London each day"

Scottish Screen is responsible for the marketing of Scotland and its industry to the rest of the world in order to bring more locationally mobile projects here. Willy believes that there needs to be a deeper understanding of the film production industry by those in a position to create change.

"They need to be marketing Scotland far more aggressively within the industry and from an industry perspective. It's not just about pretty locations; it's what we have to offer compared to other regions. They should be bending over backwards to get films here, lobbying London producers and line producers, all the production guilds and offering financial incentives at levels where the return will be good. But it has to be done by people who are industry based with a strong network of contacts, especially the financiers and studios. And at the moment it is just not."

Most technicians and facility companies in Scotland echo Willy's thoughts on the matter. There is an overwhelming concern within the industry regarding the lack of film production in Scotland. No work in Scotland will mean even greater personnel evacuation to London.

It would appear that the lead agency needs to be seen by the production community to be fighting on their behalf, to secure an industry and its livelihoods. Scottish Screen would undoubtedly argue that this is already the case. But Willy disagrees:

"At the moment they sit and wait for projects and people to come to them. It has to be the other way round. Their attitude isn't aggressive enough. They should be all over people, seeing what they're up to, taking a valid interest and enticing them by whatever means necessary to bring their projects here."

Willy does not only focus on or speak about the inadequacies; he is someone who consistently fights to bring more projects to Glasgow, not just because he wants to work at home but because he fervently believes in the Scottish film industry. If he can't work here, he takes the crew and companies with him. On 51st State he argued (and won) to take Kate Carin (costume designer), Dena Thanopoulos and Margie Fortune (wardrobe supervisors), Beverly Syme (unit manager), Aeroshoot and its drivers with him.

Willy Wands is one of Scotland's greatest ambassadors, consistently singing its and its industry's praises to any London or American producer, director or writer who will listen. And with Willy, they usually do.

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19 April 2014
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