Book Chapter

"Ploughing a lonely furrow": Margaret Tait and professional filmmaking practices in 1950s Scotland



Neely S (2009) "Ploughing a lonely furrow": Margaret Tait and professional filmmaking practices in 1950s Scotland. In: Craven I (ed.) Movies on Home Ground: Explorations in Amateur Cinema. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp. 301-326.

Margaret Tait - filmmaker, poet, painter, and short story writer - has frequently been cited as a truly independent filmmaker. Her first and only feature film, Blue Black Permanent was released in 1992, but she is primarily remembered as a prolific creator of shorter films, ranging from vivid portraits, to cinematic poems and mobile graphic works painted directly onto film stock. When her films were screened at Calton studios in 1979, she was billed as a “one woman film-industry”.1 Hugh McDiarmid, the subject of one of Tait’s film portraits, had much earlier described her as “ploughing a lonely furrow”, and the majority of her work, although sometimes aided by family and friends, was produced largely on her own and with limited budgets.2 She received very little financial support for her productions. Although her film Colour Poems was financed by the Scottish Arts Council’s “filmmaker as artist” competition in 1974, the majority of her attempts at securing funding, including a number of approaches made to the Scottish Film Council, were thwarted. To some extent, this was because her work, crossing a range of disciplines, was unable to be placed within familiar traditions. Her experimental methods were frequently misread as “unprofessional” by a variety of funding bodies, more focused on the strengths of Scotland’s documentary revival.3 Despite this lack of backing, Tait managed to achieve a degree of success, distributing her films internationally through diverse mechanisms. Yet it is hardly surprising that the oversight of her work on a funding level in Scotland, is reflected in the filmmaker’s absence from critical histories of Scottish cinema.

Amateur film; Tait; Cocozza; Scotland; Tait, Margaret Ann, 1907-1985; Motion picture industry Scotland

Publication date31/12/2009
PublisherCambridge Scholars Publishing
Publisher URL…-4438-1344-3.htm
Place of publicationNewcastle upon Tyne