Date of Award

May 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Tami Williams

Committee Members

Jocelyn Szczepaniak-Gillece, Andrew Kincaid, Andrew Martin, Robert Nowlan


Amateur Filmmaking Clubs, Functions of Short Films, Independent Filmmakers, Scotland, Short Fiction Film


This dissertation tells a story of Scottish national cinema through Scotland’s short fiction films from 1930 to 2016. As a small nation within the United Kingdom, Scotland’s film culture has played a subordinate role in relation to England’s, and has struggled for decades to create its own thriving film industry. However, in the mid-1990s, critics and scholars began to talk of a uniquely Scottish national cinema, rather than the traditional and all-encompassing “British cinema,” because of the success of films like Shallow Grave (1994) and Trainspotting (1996). In spite of some key successes, the sustainable production of feature films has eluded Scotland, and as a result many have doubted the existence of a Scottish national cinema. I propose that instead of defining Scotland’s film culture exclusively by its feature-length productions, we should think of it in a way that includes its rich short fiction film tradition.

Short fiction films are often overlooked within the discipline of Film Studies because of the commercial and cultural dominance of the feature. The short’s relative obscurity and its limited accessibility impede analysis, as scholars must work harder simply to view the films. Nonetheless, short films are vital to national cinemas because they incubate film movements, allow filmmakers to take risks, and provide opportunities for marginalized people to make films. For example, Lynne Ramsay’s “Small Deaths” is a clear forerunner of independent Scottish films of the 1990s. “Chick’s Day” by Enrico Cocozza deals with issues like juvenile crime and poverty. Additionally, Margaret Tait’s numerous short films explore the subjectivities of Scottish women during the mid-twentieth century. Many others reveal the diversity and richness of Scottish film culture.

This work’s introduction and four chapters explain a number of functions of the short film heretofore unexplored in the scholarship, and work through several case studies of Scottish short films which illustrate those functions. The conclusion considers some recent developments and implications for both short films in general and Scotland’s filmmaking culture and industry.