Not everyone will recall that many years ago while working at Napier University, Jack briefly established a National Film School for Scotland. It ran for only a few years and could not officially use the name Scottish National Film School, as at that time Scotland had not yet developed and was still run exclusively from Westminster. The problem back then, as Jack saw it, was that Westminster was not that interested in developing filmmaking talent in Scotland, but Jack was interested, very interested. Then, as now, Jack believed that the young people of Scotland had all the talent necessary to make great films and he set out to try and help them do so. To that end, he worked tirelessly to create the Film and Television Department alongside the well-established Photography Department which at that time run only a small module on film production as part of their degree course. The model was simple but unheard of at that time.
To teach film making, we would make short films, lots of them and we did. napier students went on to make countless short films, win many awards and further to that, begin to build a Scottish industry for themselves. Short filmmaking is now recognised as the primary way to build talent, but before Jack, that was not the case. In the fullness of time, his contribution here will be seen as paramount but he probably would not have it that way. The remarkable thing about Jack was not that he had a grand vision of how to develop talent in Scotland; it is the fact that for him the way forward was completely natural and belonged to everyone who wanted to join in on the fun.
His gift as an educator was that he inspired his students without making them feel obligated. What help he could give, he gave without question and without any need for gratitude. he was a generous mentor, full stop.
Jack was also a documentary filmmaker. Years before it was fashionable, Jack knew this was important work. He understood that it was a great subject made for a great documentary.
Again, in this work, he made certain not to draw attention to himself as an artist. For jack, the filmmaker was not the focus
of attention, but rather the conduit to channel a story that
needed to be heard. His wok in this regard primarily revolved around people. A fascinating person made for a compelling documentary, another simple elegant truth that came naturally
to Jack. Why?, because Jack loved people. people and their stories were the most important things about life. He found common ground with almost everyone and delighted in the human condition.
In the end, Jack turned out to be one of the fascinating people himself. Everyone who knew him will reflect on what a unique character he was and on the influence that he had on their lives both personally and professionally. His importance to our film making culture will not be fully recognised for years to come and that is how he might have wanted it. An unsigned masterpiece, artist unknown! Regardless, his efforts will be felt in subtle ways through the work of others, primarily his students, who will have all benefitted enormously from his guidance. This is one of Jack's legacies. There will be others... we will find out the truth when
the documentary is made about his life, years from now, possibly by one of his own students. Keep watching!
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