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screen ireland

‘We've never been in a better place’: Here's what's ahead for Irish film and TV in 2024

The producer of Small Things Like These says Irish film is strong – as Screen Ireland unveils its 2024 slate of films and TV series.

IRISH FILM IS stronger than ever – and only getting better, says the producer of the forthcoming Irish film Small Things Like These, which stars newly-announced Oscar nominee Cillian Murphy.

The film, based on the 2021 Claire Keegan novel, is set to premiere at the prestigious Berlin International Film Festival next month.

Written by Enda Walsh, it stars Murphy as Bill Furlong, a coal merchant who lives with his family in a small Wexford town. The film takes place in the lead up to Christmas, when Bill makes a shocking discovery about the area. 

The film is co-produced by Big Things Films, the production company set up by Murphy and Alan Moloney.

Speaking to The Journal, Moloney (who has also produced many Irish films, including Brooklyn and Intermission) said that they are hugely excited about being the first Irish film to open the Berlin International Film Festival on 15 February.

He was speaking as Screen Ireland today announces its slate of 2024 productions and co-productions for film and TV, including Small Things Like These.

“It’s a bright light to shine on the movie, which is good,” said Moloney of the festival. “Opening the Berlin Film Festival, it’s an iconic sort of moment.”

Cillian Murphy, who is also one of the producers of Small Things Like These, added: “Working on this film with director Tim Mielants and screenwriter Enda Walsh – as well as the film’s outstanding cast and crew in Wexford, Wicklow and Dublin – was an incredible experience. It’s a wonderful time for Irish filmmaking, and I’m proud to be part of putting Irish stories on the screen that tell us about ourselves: our past and present.”

Last year saw a big international spotlight on Irish film at the Oscars, the pinnacle of Hollywood awards season, particularly the nomination for An Cailín Ciúin (which is also based on a Claire Keegan novel, Foster). The atmosphere is great for Irish film right now, said Moloney. 

“I don’t think Irish film has ever had such a strong presence in the market. Over the last number of years, it’s been a consistent output of very high-achieving films. And I think the body of talent that’s emerging – has emerged over the last 20 years, and continues to emerge – speaks for itself in a way, these extraordinary actors, great directing talent,” he continued.

“I don’t think we’ve ever been in a better place, and it’s only going to get stronger. A lot of that can be traced back to the Irish Film Board in the first instance and Screen Ireland in its current iteration, and the work that they’ve done.”

Désirée Finnegan, Chief Executive of Fís Éireann/Screen Ireland, said that last year was “an outstanding year for the Irish film industry”.

Moloney said that Irish film has “evolved hugely” over the decades. “When I started out, which is a long time ago, it was unusual if a film was made in a year. It was maybe once every two years there was [an Irish] movie,” he said. “It’s moved from a cottage industry into a proper industry and I think we have a meaningful business on our hands, and it’s growing and developing all the time.”

He’s seen this himself while representing Ireland in the international film market. “Whereas before you had to explain yourself a bit, that’s gone away. We don’t need to explain ourselves now. We’re as good as anybody else doing it, and our batting average is probably higher.”

He added that today’s filmmakers stand on the shoulders of giants, like those of Neil Jordan and Jim Sheridan, who “fearlessly” brought Irish film international in the 1980s and 1990s. 

Small Things Like These is financed by Screen Ireland and also by Artists Equity, an ‘artist-led’ studio set up by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.

“Both Cillian and I had been fortunate enough to work with Matt Damon on separate projects so we both had relationships with him,” explained Moloney. The pair gave Artists Equity the script “and they just immediately responded”, he said. “And then Screen Ireland came in very quickly as well.”

Moloney said that Artists Equity have an ethos and a philosophy where they “let the filmmakers and the storytellers do what they’re good at. I can’t sing their praises enough.”

Screen Ireland also released production figures today which show that despite the disruption caused by the writers’ and actors’ strikes last year in Hollywood, local production remained strong in 2023.

In total, the industry spend in the economy on local goods and services was €322 million. Meanwhile, Irish TV drama production spend increased by 16% to €55 million in 2023.

“Last year was one of the toughest years for a while because the strikes had a real impact globally,” said Moloney. “People should pay attention to the fact that Screen Ireland is doing as well as it’s doing and the industry is doing as well as it’s doing. I can’t think of an Irish film that hasn’t had Screen Ireland involved in it for 10, 20 years. 

“Too often we don’t really fully understand what’s going on behind the scenes, and the truth is a lot of people are working very hard to make it happen.”

Irish film and TV in 2024

So what can we expect from Screen Ireland-funded film and TV in 2024?

Twenty feature films, eight TV dramas, seven animated series, 10 documentaries, three RTÉ Storyland projects and 31 short films all feature on its slate for the coming year.

As well as Small Things Like These, we can expect a wealth of exciting TV and film, including Bring Them Down, starring Barry Keoghan. 

“I can’t wait for audiences to see Bring Them Down very soon, and delighted the film is part of the Screen Ireland slate ” said Keoghan. “It’s an amazing time to be telling Irish stories. Being able to shoot at home with an Irish crew – who are some of the best in the world – is always incredibly special to me. I’m so proud to see how many new filmmakers and actors are coming out of Ireland, ready to take on the world.” 

There’s also the Irish language film Kneecap, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last Thursday, European co-production The End, the latest project from acclaimed director Joshua Oppenheimer, and Darren Thornton’s Irish drama Four Mothers, starring Fionnuala Flanagan.

Then there’s The Boy That Never Was, a thriller directed by Hannah Quinn, adapted from Karen Perry’s novel by crime author and screenwriter Jo Spain, which is coming soon to RTÉ; The Hardacres, a period drama with Channel 5; and the second season of comedy/drama The Dry for RTÉ and ITV.

Animated projects include Maddie + Triggs, Doodle Girl, and interactive multi-platform project Where The Wild Geese Go. Irish documentary includes Housewife of the Year and a true crime investigation from Charlie Bird, Ransom ’79.

Eva Birthistle is one of several debut directors with her feature film Kathleen Is Here (starring Hazel Doupe), while others include Claire Byrne with Ready or Not, Brian Durnin with Spilt Milk, and Brendan Canty with Christy.

Last year, 41% of Screen Ireland-supported projects were shot partially or fully in counties outside of Dublin and Wicklow.

Looking back at least year shows a prevalence of new voices, with 38% of Screen Ireland productions in 2023 directed or written by new filmmakers.

Susan Bergin, Chair of Fís Éireann/Screen Ireland, said its priorities “remain to support skills development nationwide, the nurturing of new talent and voices, and funding Irish screen stories across film, television and animation”.

Screen Ireland also announced it’s set to establish a new National Talent Academy for VFX. Recent Irish VFX work includes the series and films Marvel Studios’ Wanda Vision and Spiderman – No Way Home, Netflix’s The Irishman and HBO’s Game of Thrones.

Awards season

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Last year, Screen Ireland-supported projects garnered 124 awards and 178 nominations in total.

And there was great news for Cillian Murphy yesterday, as he was been nominated in the Best Actor category for his lead role in Oppenheimer. (He told the New York Times that he was “kind of in shock” after finding out.)

Meanwhile, Poor Things (directed by Yorgos Lanthimos and co-produced by Ireland’s Element Pictures) has scooped a whopping 11 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing. 

“It’s amazing. Once again, we have that presence on the international stage at the very highest level. We should all just be very proud of what we’re collectively doing,” said producer Alan Moloney. The 96th Oscars will be held on Sunday, 10 March at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.

Small Things Like These will reach audiences this year, and Moloney hopes it will resonate with people internationally. It’s directed by Belgian director Tim Mielants, who Cillian Murphy worked with on Peaky Blinders.

“Cillian could feel it instinctively that this was the right thing for Tim, even though he’s not Irish, even though he did not know the underlying history of the story,” said Moloney, adding that the story of a small, heroic act of kindness during a dark period of history was one likely to connect with people.

The perspective [Mielants] brought was entirely based on his own experiences. So I think what that means is that it’s a very universal story.
I hope that it won’t just be Irish people who appreciate the themes of the film.”

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