Irish Film Board calls for restoration of funding to €20m

Capital budget has been cut 44% since 2008

 

The Irish Film Board has called for an immediate restoration of its capital funding to €20 million, its pre-recession budget.

Successive governments have cut the board’s funding for film, animation and television drama projects by 44 per cent since 2008, whittling it down to the current level of €11.2 million.

IFB chairwoman designate Dr Annie Doona said she had met Heather Humphreys, the Minister for Regional Development, Rural Affairs, Arts and the Gaeltacht, and the Minister had expressed “strong support” for its new five-year strategy.

“What we’re asking for is an immediate €20 million. That’s what we need,” Dr Doona said.

“The Minister has expressed support for us, but clearly the Government as a whole has funding priorities.”

She said the industry wanted to build on its recent achievements, which saw Irish-supported films win a record eight Oscar nominations at this year’s Academy Awards.

“We want to seize the day,” Dr Doona said. “We want to develop creative talent and build a stronger film culture in Ireland.”

Triumph

The recent critical triumph has been matched by some commercial success. In 2015 and 2016 to date, Irish films including Brooklyn, Room, Sing Street, Love & Friendship, Song of the Sea and The Lobster have taken a combined $140 million at the worldwide box office, with Brooklyn accounting for about $62 million of this.

Irish films have attracted an estimated 18 million cinema admissions in this period, while the growing video-on-demand market, as well as DVD and television sales, will swell the total audience further.

Minister Humphreys announced last July that the board would be renamed Screen Ireland.

But Dr Doona said on Monday that the IFB needed additional financial resources if it was “to give full effect to the remit of the title”. The Screen Ireland name implies that the board would, “in an ideal world”, also be capable of funding the development of computer games and interactive content as well as give more support to television projects.

More collaboration between the IFB and other sources of funding, such as the RTÉ and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, is part of the five-year plan.

“We sometimes feel we compete for funding, and we compete for funds within the film space, and we don’t want to do that. We want to be working together as the Irish film sector in making Ireland international film champions.”

Dr Doona said she wanted “a more co-ordinated approach” to develop the film industry and “be clear about who is funding what, where the money is going”.

The arrival of Dee Forbes as RTÉ’s new director-general “might be a good start to a new partnership”, she added.

The board has also set a gender parity target for itself. It wants 50 per cent of the writers and directors it works with and funds to be women and has begun a number of initiatives to help develop and train new female creative talent.

Benefits

Dr Doona said it was vital to “stress the economic benefits” as well as the cultural importance of Ireland’s film industry. The wider audio-visual sector employs some 6,000 people in Ireland and is thought to contribute more than €500 million to the Irish economy.

The board’s total funding for 2016 is €14.5 million, which includes €3.3 million in administrative funds. Its total funding peaked in 2008 at €23 million.

She said the Section 481 tax break remained “absolutely critical” for attracting international co-productions to Ireland. This currently runs until the end of 2020 and the IFB would like to see the Government announce an extension to this date soon so that film producers can plan ahead.

On the UK’s vote to leave the European Union, she said it was too early to tell what this meant for the Irish film sector. “I think, a bit like everyone else, we’re not entirely sure yet.”