A humble feature film intended for television established the fortunes of Ecosse Films, a production company set up in 1988 by Douglas Rae, a former presenter for the children’s programme, Magpie. Rae created the company, working on his kitchen table, when he realised he could not go on saying Well, hello children for the rest of his life. Later he came up with the idea for Mrs Brown, the tale of Queen Victoria’s relationship with her gillie John Brown, but it took two years to find a backer. The struggle to find backing was so protracted he had to remortgage his home. ‘It reached a stage when we were all close to nervous breakdowns,’ says Rae. ‘Our ideas were all being rejected by the drama establishment.’ All that changed when Rae enlisted the services of Billy Connolly, who had presented an Ecosse series about Scottish art. Connolly was fed up with foreigners such as Mel Gibson playing Scotsmen and agreed to lend a hand by pitching the idea to BBC Scotland. So impressed were the BBC executives with the finished product that they decided to release Mrs Brown through cinemas. The film gained instant critical acclaim and won two Oscar nominations, a Golden Globe, two nominations for The Golden Rose of Montreux and four Baftas. Such success has helped to drive up the company’s sales by 136% a year, from £550,000 in 1996 to £7.3m in 1999. The company, which also produced BBC Scotland’s Monarch of the Glen, starring Richard Briers and Susan Hampshire, is now making Charlotte Gray, a £12m adaptation of Sebastian Faulks’ best-selling novel.
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