Off Topic podcast: the new wave of Irish film

Four film industry voices discuss how Irish film has upped its game, and the work that’s left to do

Lenny Abrahamson’s Room is one of Ireland’s big success stories

Lenny Abrahamson’s Room is one of Ireland’s big success stories

 

With seven Irish nominees hopeful of Oscar glory this Sunday, it’s a time of unprecedented success for Irish filmmakers. Where did it all go right, and how does the industry go on from here?

Four of Irish cinema’s leading voices take up the debate, hosted by Irish Times film critic Donald Clarke, on this week’s Off Topic podcast: Ed Guiney, co-founder of Element Pictures and producer of four time Oscar nominee Room; Mammal director Rebecca Daly; Viva director Paddy Breathnach; and Irish Film Board director James Hickey.

They each have their own perspective on what has led to the recent glut of successful Irish movies. “Cumulative knowledge and experience has won out,”says Paddy Breathnach. “The long term commitment of the Irish Film Board,” says Ed Guiney.

A strategy for promotion helps too. The success of Room in particular owed a lot to the reception it got on the film festival circuit, picking up the people’s choice award at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.

It’s not all positive. The dearth of women in the director’s chair and in production positions generally has been a real cause for concern, as illustrated by Rebecca Daly’s experience of “being the only woman in the room” when the business of filmmaking is underway. What is holding women back?

Daly feels a “an unconscious bias” pervades the industry and the task of giving criticism on set is frequently construed as “being a bitch”. The objectives laid down by the Irish Film Board to address these issues are “certainly positive,” she says.

Abroad, Irish productions are viewed as art films with no stars, says Donald Clarke. How does a film get an audience with that preconception in place? Ed Guiney explains: “You have to market yourself as you want to be seen, join the dots for people. Everyone thought of Room as an Irish film, if you confound people’s expectations then they will talk about it.”

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