Screen Ireland goes virtual for Hollywood trade mission

Week-long series of meetings with US streamers and studios begins with Disney

Screen Ireland chief executive Désirée Finnegan (centre, bottom row) and Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Catherine Martin (centre) lead a virtual trade mission to Los Angeles. Photograph: Naoise Culhane

Screen Ireland chief executive Désirée Finnegan (centre, bottom row) and Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Catherine Martin (centre) lead a virtual trade mission to Los Angeles. Photograph: Naoise Culhane

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Lights, camera, unmute: Screen Ireland will aim to build on this week’s Oscar nomination success for Cartoon Saloon’s Wolfwalkers by staging a virtual trade mission with Hollywood studios and streaming services.

An online meeting with executives from Disney on Monday evening marked the beginning of a week of talks with major Los Angeles-based companies in the hope of strengthening working relationships between the Irish screen industry and some of the biggest financiers of content in the world.

Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Catherine Martin will lead the mission alongside Screen Ireland, while the LA Consulate General of Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, Tourism Ireland and the IDA will take part.

Screen Ireland said it hoped to develop further partnerships following the critical success of Irish-produced film and television projects such as the Apple TV Plus-backed Wolfwalkers, which has been nominated for Best Animated Feature at this year’s Academy Awards.

The delegation intends to update key industry players on the expansion of existing studio infrastructure and planned construction of new facilities in the Republic, while also reiterating Government support for the industry through incentives such as the Section 481 tax credit.

“Since the last trade mission to Los Angeles [in September 2019], US-Ireland industry partnerships have continued to grow with Irish projects achieving critical and commercial success around the globe,” said Screen Ireland chief executive Désirée Finnegan.

“Despite many challenges, the Irish creative screen industries have demonstrated resilience throughout the pandemic. This trade mission aims to further strengthen relationships with our US partners and build towards future industry growth and success.”

Spending boom

The screen development agency wants Irish production companies to be able to participate in a global audio-visual spending boom being fuelled by streamers chasing subscribers.

Disney-controlled Hulu co-funded Element Pictures’ Normal People alongside the BBC, while The Last Duel – the film Matt Damon was in Ireland to make when the first Covid-19 lockdown occurred – will be released in October by Disney’s 20th Century Studios.

The entertainment giant plans to rapidly escalate its Disney Plus activity in Europe, commissioning 50 projects a year by 2024 in a potential boost for the Irish animation sector as well as other Irish production companies eyeing the budgets of Star, Disney’s general entertainment brand.

“The Government is very ambitious for the screen creative industry. The sector has doubled in size in the last 10 years, and with additional production infrastructure planned, together with the continued work of Screen Ireland to grow the skills base, we are well positioned to realise our ambition to be a global hub for content production,” Ms Martin said.