Irish audiovisual industry nears tipping point
As for the films that didn’t make it? “If it doesn’t hit the spot, it is usually a missed opportunity. You can see the potential that is there and it isn’t delivered. The other reason is that the talent wasn’t there and that is usually the fault of the director because it is a director’s medium. If the director blames the script, it is still the director’s fault. It is our job to take risks. Some of the films turned out bad, but to say that you should never have had a go, that’s another thing.”
The retention of Section 481 tax breaks has been welcomed across the industry, as has the move towards a tax credit system which the industry hopes will see an upfront payment from the Government to production companies before filming starts. Clarity will be needed because the UK is moving towards tax credits for TV drama productions which have been a lucrative business for Irish filmmakers in recent years.
Morris says Ireland will stay competitive if a tax credit equal to a third of Irish expenditure at home is introduced to replace the investor-driven scheme. His big idea for Irish film is “vertical integration”. The point for many Irish film producers is to get a film made. He says Irish film-makers need to be involved not only in making a film, but marketing and selling it abroad too. That is the only way to get to the €1 billion industry in the Creative Choices document.
“The simple matter is that the industry has to survive on the basis of exports,” he says, pointing out that the booming animation sector has “zero” market at home, but has built up world-class companies servicing overseas TV companies.
The Danes provided the model for such an industry, he says. Zentropa, set up by Lars Von Triers, is involved in every aspect of the marketing and ownership of Danish films. The country has also had international success with TV series like The Killing and Borgen – even without the advantage of the English language.
“To have the kind of growth to double it to €1 billion, you need to have companies and businesses that are involved in financing and owning their products. Once you own something, you have a motive to sell it to make income,” says Morris. “There is no point in having great salesmen if you don’t have great product. It is equally important to keep enabling the growth of great Irish film-makers. If you have great talent, it will get out there anyway. Talent and creativity is what drives commercial success.”