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Documentary hub focuses on success

An unlikely mix of weightlifting pensioners, Jedis, and one corner of the University has changed Scottish film culture.

Film still of an ice house in Columbus, North Dakota from How to Save a Fish from Drowning by Kelly Neal.

Since it was founded eight years ago, the Scottish Documentary Institute (SDI) has produced more than 50 films from its home within Edinburgh College of Art (ECA).

Ranging in length from eight minutes to one hour, created by both students and professionals, the documentaries have captured everything from wind turbines and premonitions of death to breadmakers and abandoned villages.

Two of the most notable films from the Institute include Ma Bar, the story of 73-year old bench presser Bill McFayden from Stranraer, and At Home With The Jedi, about a family who practice the Jedi 'religion'.

Ambitions fulfilled

The Institute was founded with the ambition of creating a dynamic documentary scene in Scotland. It hoped to encourage more film makers to embrace a medium pioneered by Scots such as John Grierson.

The Institute has created more of a culture of documentary film making in Scotland. We want to get cinematic documentaries out there: films that use creative storytelling. And it is now at the point where full-length documentary features are coming from here.

Finlay PretsellScottish Documentary Institute Distribution and Production Manager

Upcoming releases

Next year the SDI will release its first two feature length documentaries. Future for Sale will follow film maker and ECA graduate Maja Borg as she explores what the world would be like without money.

Breathing is directed by ECA drama tutor Morag McKinnon and Head of Film and TV Emma Davie. It charts the life of their friend who died of motor neurone disease.

Watch online

A selection of the Scottish Documentary Institute's films are available to watch online.

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Watch SDI films online

Student success

Located within ECA and backed by its principal funder Creative Scotland, the Institute provides a link between academia and the film industry.

It allows students to work with directors, film editors and producers and helps promote student documentaries to international film festivals.

This link has found recent success. MFA Film graduate Julian Schwanitz won the Golden Dove for Best Short Film at the Leipzig Documentary Festival for his degree show film Kirkcaldy Man.

Fellow 2011 graduate Lou McLoughlan won Best Student Documentary at this year's British Documentary Awards for her MA film Caring For Calum.

Nurturing talent

As well as producing and promoting films, the SDI runs the Bridging The Gap scheme, which guides several young film makers through the process of creating 10 minute documentaries. The scheme has launched several careers.

Every June it hosts a pitching forum during the Edinburgh International Film Festival, encouraging fresh documentary film makers to hone their ideas in front of a panel of experts.

Resolutely international in its approach, the SDI has produced films that have screened at the Sundance, Cannes and Melbourne film festivals.