Irish Film Board shines spotlight on new productions

Chairman Bill O’Herlihy says sector ‘can do better’ if it secures higher Government funding

At the Irish Film Board  announcement of its schedule and priorities for 2015 were (from left) actor Sarah Greene, actor Tara Lee, James Hickey, chief executive of the Irish Film Board, and actor and screenwriter Amy Huberman. Photograph: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

At the Irish Film Board announcement of its schedule and priorities for 2015 were (from left) actor Sarah Greene, actor Tara Lee, James Hickey, chief executive of the Irish Film Board, and actor and screenwriter Amy Huberman. Photograph: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

 

A tale of love and music in the Dublin inner-city of the 1980s, a literary adaptation about 1950s emigration from rural Ireland, and the contemporary story of an 18-year-old working in a Havana drag club.

These are just some of the Irish-made films on a “coming soon” catalogue published by the Irish Film Board (IFB), which has released details of its production slate and funding priorities for 2015.

Flanked by Irish acting, writing and directing talent, IFB chief executive James Hickey and chairman Bill O’Herlihy said its budget of €9.9 million for film and television projects last year had generated production spending of €42 million by IFB-supported projects.

The Government is “getting a very substantial return” on its investment, Mr Hickey said.

Production activity in the independent film, television drama and animation sector – which excludes the sums broadcasters spend on entertainment, lifestyle and factual programmes – reached €195 million last year. This is 6.5 per cent higher than in 2013 and up 37 per cent on 2012.

IFB-supported projects set to go into production this year include Whit Stillman’s Love and Friendship, based on Jane Austen’s short novel Lady Susan; Jim Sheridan’s adaptation of Sebastian Barry’s novel The Secret Scripture; and The Siege of Jadotville, a film about Irish troops in the Congo in 1961 with Jamie Dornan in a lead role.

The IFB content budget will clock in at €9.9 million again in 2015, 40 per cent lower than the board’s pre-recession funding, and it will make a pitch for more money when it presents a five-year strategy to the Government in the spring.

Mr O’Herlihy said he believed the board could “do better” if it had more funding. “I don’t say that to denigrate what has been done. What I mean is, we are ambitious,” he said.

It is estimated there is the equivalent of about 6,500 full-time jobs in the Irish film industry, with 15,000 working in the sector in total. “We believe that is something that can be strengthened and increased,” Mr Hickey said.

However, it is unlikely a five- year target of 10,000 full-time jobs for the sector, a figure contained in the 2011 Creative Capital report commissioned by the Department of Arts, will be reached by 2016, he added.

Mr Hickey welcomed the extension of the Section 481 film tax relief until 2020 and said he was optimistic about future funding. “The Government should be able to see that we can achieve value for money and deliver on Irish culture and talent at the same time.”

Attending the launch of the board’s plans for 2015 were Glassland director Gerard Barrett, director John Carney, who is “in the final stages” of editing the forthcoming Sing Street, and writer-actor Mark O’Halloran, who has just returned from the shoot for Viva in Cuba.

‘New adventure’

Sarah GreenePeter CoonanAmy HubermanBoltI Wished For You

Although the total domestic box office for Irish films increased in 2014 – with Calvary taking in €1.6 million and The Stag a sum of €750,000 – Mr Hickey said that from a commercial standpoint international sales are “far more important than what is generated locally”.

The industry’s next big event is the Sundance Film Festival, which begins next week in Park City, Utah. Mr Hickey said he expected Glassland, a story of broken families and the criminal underworld, would attract distributors’ interest. It is in the festival’s world drama category, alongside Australian- Irish co-production Strangerland.

Two more Irish co-productions, The Visit, which competes in the world documentary section, and The Hallow, will also screen at Sundance.

But the most likely future hit is perhaps Brooklyn, Parallel Films’s adaptation of the Colm Tóibín novel, which stars Saoirse Ronan as emigrant Eilis Lacey. Directed by John Crowley from an adaptation by Nick Hornby, it will premiere out of competition at the festival.