Una Mullally

Society, life and culture on the edge

Irish film industry has a happy Christmas

Homegrown film, animation and television has generated €168 million this year.

Thu, Dec 19, 2013, 09:59


You could practically hear Irish Film Board boss James Hickey’s grin over the radio on Morning Ireland yesterday, as he rightly gave the Board and the film, television and animation industry here a big Christmas high five for having a record year of revenue. In the Irish Times today there’s more detail on the cash that came their way in 2013.

So you know that thing they say about creativity flourishing in times of economic crisis? Maybe they’re right. The interesting thing is though, although international television has given the industry a big boost here, the days of luring massive film productions to Ireland seem slightly old fashioned. In Dingle recently, a bar man and an aul lad were having a chat in Curran’s about when the older of the two had his first drink. He was 16. “That would have been ’68 or ’69, was it?” someone interjected, “I suppose so,” he replied. “Was that the year of the film?” “It was.” The film being Ryan’s Daughter. In those days, a films of that scale could completely transform a town and an industry and the lives of the people who worked on it, and indeed still be spoken about nearly 45 years later.

Ripper Street, Penny Dreadful, Vikings and Game of Thrones have all been a massive boost to the island of Ireland. Ripper Street was sadly cancelled the other week, and when I was at a Q&A with the makers of it in the Lighthouse recently (which like most TV and film Q&As was self-congratulatory. Every Q&A with people who make a film or a television series has two identifiers: 1. According to the moderator and panel it’s the best thing ever. 2. The audience asks totally irrelevant questions when the mic is thrown out to the stalls) they impressed upon those gathered that one of the key factors of making TV and film here was the quality of the crews. This was followed up by a remark about how it’s hard to do certain things like night shoots because the crews are strongly unionised. Clearly the makers of Ripper Street hadn’t made the connection between quality crews and unionised crews, but it’s a pretty bloody obvious one. Irish crews are world class, and like tech companies waxing on about how access to talent is a huge factor in moving the latest billion-dollar ‘start-up’ to Dublin, the availability of brilliant crews means productions will keep coming back, as long as the tax incentives remain sweet and all the rest of the bells and whistles ring and toot merrily.

Hickey also makes the point that indigenous productions are strong. And he’s dead right. As Variety says, “Irish animation TV producers at Cartoon Forum this year presented the highest number of IFB-backed animated series ever to financiers.” It also helps that a new breed of actors are flying high. Ireland has always punched almost strangely above its weight when it comes to leading actors, and the ascendence of Chris O’Dowd, Domhnall Gleeson, Jack Reynor, and Saoirse Ronan matters in the cool stakes. It also matters that directors such as Lenny Abrahamson, John Michael McDonagh and Paul Duane will continue to knock it out of the park, especially with Frank and Calvary showing at Sundance, which will position Irish film firmly in the spotlight in 2014.

But it’s not just about individuals. Production companies and distributors such as Blinder, Element, Wild Card and Fantastic Films have had great years as well, and Brown Bag is continuing to excel. It’s also important to note that Catalyst returned in 2013, because bringing new directors, writers and producers into the industry is the only way it can be sustained. Education, talent, a good environment for production and making indigenous (and genre) films for audiences? Sounds like a plan. Next stop, get more women writing, producing and directing.

And what about our neighbours in the UK? Here’s a very interesting look at the good times UK TV drama is currently experiencing. (via Sarah Francis).