Scotland’s Film Access Sector grew out of a community filmmaking movement often referred to as the Film and Video Workshop Sector. The history of this Sector is particularly inspiring.


Within this context, the timeline below shows the emergence of our five founding members: GMAC Film; Screen Education Edinburgh; Media Education; shmu and The Portal Arts, as well as some of the policy initiatives that proved fundamental to the development of the Film Access Sector in Scotland.

1974: Independent Film-Makers’ Association (IFA) founded

The IFA was set up to promote the interests shared by a diverse coalition of independent filmmakers working in Britain, and adopted a philosophy of the ‘cinema of social practice’. The IFA’s lifespan runs from the autumn of 1974 to the spring of 1990.

1977: Edinburgh Film Workshop Trust founded

The Edinburgh Film Workshop Trust established a model for community filmmaking, with a not-for-profit organisation supported by the local authority providing training, low-cost access to equipment, facilities and expertise for local groups and projects.

1979: Project Boy with Video Camera - Edinburgh Film Workshop Trust

Credit: David Halliday

1978: NETS founded (part 1)

In 1978 there were around 60 freelancers working in Scotland’s film and television production sector but there were no formal training schemes for potential recruits. NETS (New Entrants Training Programme) was therefore formed to fill this gap and provide on-the-job training in production, technical, craft and design areas.
View Generations NETS: 30 Years in the Making

1978: NETS founded (part 2)

NETS was formed by freelance technicians - all members of the trade union, Association of Cinematograph, Television and Allied Technicians (ACTT, which later became known as BECTU) - with funding support from the ACTT and the Scottish Film Council. It was the first of its kind in the UK. Later in 1993, NETS became part of Scottish Broadcast & Film Training, and in 1997, it came together with three other bodies to form Scottish Screen (a predecessor of Creative Scotland).

1979: Red Star Cinema Founded

From 1979, Red Star ran a fortnightly Cinema at the Netherbow on Edinburgh’s High Street (now the Storytelling Centre). Red Star was established with funds from School Press, a small left-wing printer based at the Trades Council in Edinburgh. Red Star began by covering demonstrations and labour movement activities missed by regional TV.
View Red Star Cinema video

1981: Video in Pilton (later to become Screen Education Edinburgh) founded

Video in Pilton was founded in 1981 to develop people, support the work of local organisations, and be at the heart of community development exclusively in North Edinburgh, through film education and production. It was renamed Pilton Video in 1988 after receiving European Aid funding for 7 years. In 1995 the organisation grew to become an Edinburgh-wide resource, before rebranding to Screen Education Edinburgh in 2011.

Shooting ‘Operation Calamity’ at Craigmuir School

Joel Venet of Video in Pilton is shown teaching a youngster how to operate a video camera.

Graham Fitzpatrick (Development Officer at SEE) begins his career as a trainee at Pilton Video (1993)

1981-1982: Launch of Channel 4

Some initiatives to set up community filmmaking groups across Scotland were consolidated in the 1980s, with the launch of Channel 4 in 1982. With its clearly defined public service broadcasting remit, Channel 4 set up an innovative Independent Film and Video Department and promised to introduce new voices, encourage diversity, and sponsor regional initiatives. This led to funding and new opportunities for community filmmakers to make programmes for broadcast.
View Channel 4 launch day video

1982: The ACCT Workshop Declaration (part 1)

Finalised in 1982, the Workshop Declaration was an agreement made between the newly established Channel 4 and ACTT. It was created through consultation with the Independent Filmmakers’ Association (IFA), the British Film Institute (BFI) and Britain’s regional arts associations.

1982: The ACCT Workshop Declaration (part 2)

The Workshop Declaration provided financial security and new audiences for independent film and video workshops. It aimed to instigate a model of "integrative practice" - that is, workshops were required to include distribution, educational activities and the provision of film and video equipment, alongside producing work. It also provided full-time regular work for people working in each workshop.
View ACTT Workshop Declaration

1982: Glasgow Film & Video Workshop (later to become GMAC Film) founded

GMAC Film started in 1982 as Glasgow Film & Video Workshop. Above all, the purpose was to widen access and offer low-cost facilities and equipment. The organisation further wanted to enable a greater diversity of people to make films. This remains their core purpose today.

1989: Media Education Edinburgh founded

Media Education was established as a community interest company in 1989 and developed a strong track record for producing a wide range of media outputs including digital media, creative films, documentaries, training videos, animation and graphics. Across the years they have worked in co-production with groups, individuals and organisations to make media outputs which are appropriate, accurate, accessible and attuned to their audiences.

Iain Shaw of Media Education with primary school children from Flora Stevenson Primary School in Edinburgh (1989)

1990: Workshop Declaration/ Channel 4 Funding Ends (part 1)

The Workshop Declaration remained in place until the late 1980s, when Channel 4 began to withdraw funding. Channel 4's policies were forced to change under the influence of the Broadcasting Act of 1990, which made the Channel responsible for selling its own advertising, tying it much more closely into the TV marketplace. The Channel became more and more subject to market forces, finding it harder to act primarily as a public service. As a result, many open access film organisations began to partner with local councils and focus on community education in order to secure funding.

1990: Workshop Declaration/ Channel 4 Funding Ends (part 2)

The legacy of the Declaration is the encouragement of a consistent, long-term policy of funding in place of the opportunistic, short-term approach which has been and often still is, the norm.

1999: Station House Media Unit (shmu) founded

In 1999/2000 the Great Northern Partnership (GNP) in Aberdeen submitted a major bid for Scottish Executive Pathfinder funding, including a proposal to commit £30,000 per year (for 2 years to end March 2002) towards a community media component. The project aimed to build people’s capacity to use digital video to improve service provision locally. This bid was successful and resulted in bringing the two strands of GNP Young Filmmakers and Pathfinder Projects under one roof at Station House Community Centre and under one name: Station House Media Unit (shmu). To date, shmuTV has produced over 250+ films, including local documentaries made by community members and activists. The organisation has since expanded to include a focus on radio and music production, as well as traditional and online publications.

2001: The Portal Arts founded

Plantation Productions was set up by Moya Crowley in 2001, founder and Creative Director, with a £2,000 grant from the Greater Govan Community Forum. Initially based in Kinning Park Complex (in the area known as Plantation - hence the name), the ambition was to address the Digital Divide offering local people access to equipment and media training. Plantation Productions was a core contributor to the local regeneration agenda, bringing the passion that the arts are an effective tool for community engagement, development, and regeneration. In 2022, Plantation Productions rebranded to The Portal Arts.

2004: Media Access Projects Scotland (MAPS)

The first effort to establish a national organisation for the Film Access Sector started in 2004 with Media Access Projects Scotland. Despite the enthusiasm of a number of partners across Scotland, including a national seminar on the Sector at Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA) in 2007, MAPS sadly struggled to secure investment from what was then the Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen, and the organisation was disbanded. Though some of the partner organisations involved with MAPS ceased to operate, the relationship between the core partners remained strong, and in 2013 they all met at Media Education’s base in Edinburgh to discuss establishing a new national body for the Sector.

November 2013: Film Access Network Scotland (FANS) founded

Film Access Network Scotland was founded as a consortium of leading moving image and media access organisations working with young people and the wider community across Scotland, both in the formal and informal education sector, within the framework of the curriculum for excellence. It was founded to facilitate consultation and representation at strategic level which had been challenging due to the historic under-resourcing of the Sector. The founding members in 2013 were: GMAC Film, Jumpcut, Media Education, Plantation Productions, Screen Education Edinburgh (SEE), Station House Media Unit (shmu), Scottish Kids Are Making Movies (SKAMM) and Voice Of My Own (VOMO).

2018: FANS rebrands as Film Access Scotland

2021: Film Access Scotland is granted charitable status as a SCIO

2022: Film Access Scotland opens to new members and associates

In August 2022, Film Access Scotland opened to new members and associates. Film Access Scotland now offers a range of activities including networking and Sector development events, training programmes and workshops and an Annual National Conference.


MacPherson, R. (2015). Peripheral visions? Alternative film in a stateless nation. In C. Atton (Ed.), The Routledge Companion to Alternative and Community Media, (268-277). Routledge

Holdsworth, Claire M. and Blanchard, Simon (2017). “Organising for Innovation in Film and Television: The Independent Film-Makers' Association in the Long 1970s.” In: Mulvey, Laura and Clayton, Sue, (eds.) Other Cinemas: Politics, Culture and Experimental Film in the 1970s. London : IB Tauris. pp. 279-298. ISBN 9781784537180

Holdsworth, Claire M. ‘The Workshop Declaration: Independents and Organised Labour’. Other Cinemas: Politics, Culture and Experimental Film in the 1970s, 2017.

Roberts, Tom. THE ACTT WORKSHOP DECLARATION PROVIDES FINANCIAL SECURITY AND NEW AUDIENCES FOR INDEPENDENT FILM AND VIDEO WORKSHOPS. Lux Online, http://www.luxonline.org.uk/history/1980-1989/actt_declaration.html.

Scott, Alistair. ‘Community Filmmaking: Diversity, Practices and Places’. Representing Scottish Communities On Screen, Routledge, 2017.








Thanks to Jennifer Souter, the Moving Image Archive at the National Library of Scotland, and all our founding members for making this page possible.