And the Oscar goes to….Scotland

And the Oscar goes to….Scotland

More than six months after its LA premiere saw the First Minister and assorted delegates from Scotland’s tourism industry walk along a specially-made green carpet, Disney-Pixar’s Brave had glasses raised in its direction once again when it took the Oscar for best animated picture this week in the Dolby Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, the same venue which hosted its June launch.  When we note the success of Brave is in fact an incredible hat-trick for it this movie awards season, after wins at the Golden Globes and Baftas, it serves as a reminder of the affection Scotland is held in internationally and its marketability as a brand, which is great news for the future of the creative industries here.

Brave’s co-director Mark Andrews, who has already spent time in the country with Brenda Chapman and the production team researching the project, will be coming back to Glasgow over two weeks in April to pass on skills and knowledge used to create the picture, to what will be a rapt audience at the Mackintosh School of Art.  The fact this is a unique experience for any student in the UK getting access to filmmakers and creators of the calibre produced by Disney-Pixar on home turf marks Scotland out as a unique destination for animators and filmmakers.

In the past couple of years we have seen Scotland, and Glasgow in particular with its city centre grid streetscape, provide the backdrop for a wealth of big budget productions, and the interest which ought to be further generated by Brave’s prizes at the movie awards circuit is no bad thing.  Hence the interest from both the Scottish Government and our tourism agencies in wanting to jump on the back of the film’s promotional campaign.

The only baffling element of the interest gathered by Brave’s win last Sunday was a bizarre exercise in navel-gazing on social media, by all sides, arguing about the politics of the feature after its win.

Surely all sides can see that it is a fictional movie, and whether it portrays an ‘accurate’ depiction of Scotland is neither here nor there.  Any Scottish Minister, regardless of their political colour, would want to promote the film.  Braveheart was a lot of historical tosh but I don’t imagine hotels and businesses who welcomed holiday-goers eager to spend their cash afterwards were in complaining mood.

On the bright side the rubbish written online, as per usual with spats amongst the political geeks, was entirely shared just between themselves.

Some may not like the litany of ‘tartan tat’ shops across our capital city and the Highlands, but these have arisen from the mythologised ‘ancient’ culture written about by Walter Scott, and Scotland’s tourism industry was entirely built on these foundations.

Times move on, and with it so should our approach in relation to our selling points.  For a small country, the depth and appeal of Scotland’s natural landscape, along with its vast portfolio of cultural and social history means we have an almost infinite appeal.

If people are too serious about Brave, they are missing the point entirely.  Is it a bad thing Disney produced this video – ? Of course not.  Its hilarious.  It is on Disney’s blog.  It will be viewed by thousands of people if not more.  They will all be trying out silly Scottish accents.

Perhaps some of the political geeks and wonks should lighten up a little, try out an American accent if that makes them feel any better, and be delighted that theirs is a country and brand which is known in every corner of the world.

Brave is a film made by one of the biggest film companies on the planet.  It has won the three biggest awards of the movie season.  We should be yelling from the rooftops that Scotland is just like it is depicted in the animation, but so much more.  I would say that opportunities like this don’t come around all the time, but as we can see in recent years, it looks like Hollywood has already cottoned on.  Lets hope Holyrood does the same.


‘Dare the Difference’

Just over a month ago at the Davos meeting of the World Economic Forum, an important contribution to the debate around gender disparities in modern workplaces was made by the hosting of a discussion panel entitled Women in Economic Decision-Making.  Although it was only the second such dedicated annual panel by the WEF to this particular economic debate, it is definitely worth revisiting if you missed it first time around.  You can watch it via this link –

Christine Lagarde from the IMF and Sheryl Sandberg, CEO at Facebook, both made particularly striking observations regarding both their experiences and how to positively influence future change on this.  The contribution from EU Justice Commissioner Reding also made essential points surrounding the benefit both to better board governance and the wider economy.

It is easy, particularly listening to some of the current statistics on workplace diversity, to be pessimistic, however there is scope for an improved outlook.  Both Lagarde and Sandberg made the valuable point that what is most important is actually to just dare to differ from what has gone before as standard practice.  These two women, inhabiting very different workplaces, have made it there by ensuring a more flexible approach is taken during working hours on the way, but not one which has eliminated their or their colleagues ability to do the job.

Flexi-working now is even more possible with the develop of technology which ensures almost all jobs can be done from home, at least some of the time.  Which begs the question – why on earth are we not applying this for both men and women in countries where we have access to that technology?  If we were to look at it from an outsiders perspective, a country which did not utilise fully all of the population who secured further education qualifications, which is 65% women to 35% men in the EU, we would view them as an economic basket-case.  Qualified people having to sit on their degrees because of an outdated system means an economy and business not even scraping at its full potential.  A mere glance at the working practices of the companies which inhabit Silicon Valley in the US, and their phenomenal global success, demonstrates that with better and more flexible practices comes economic reward.

This should be one of the foremost thoughts in the minds of those leading the Scottish civic campaigns in the coming weeks and months.  Talk of economic improvement does so much.  But explosions in economic activity and entrepreneurialism come through real visionaries daring to be different.