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Insurance companies ‘put up roadblocks’ to funding for film and TV industry, committee hears

Desiree Finnegan, chief executive of Screen Ireland, said the Covid-19 pandemic has affected every part of the industry.

Desiree Finnegan, chief executive of Screen Ireland
Desiree Finnegan, chief executive of Screen Ireland
Image: PA Images

INSURANCE COMPANIES PUT up “roadblocks” and posed a “significant challenge” to the Irish film and television industry as it battled with the effects of the pandemic, a committee has been told.

The media Oireachtas committee was told that the industry has been in an “extremely difficult position” because of Ireland’s lockdowns.

Stuart Switzer, of Screen Producers Ireland, also said that insurance companies put up “roadblocks” to prevent productions from accessing funding.

The committee was told that 24 productions were stood down, 59 were delayed and 800 workers were laid off, resulting in €20 million of unpaid wages.

Despite the challenge of coronavirus, some 12 feature films, three television productions, eight animated TV shows and 13 documentaries will have been produced by the end of 2020.

Desiree Finnegan, chief executive of Screen Ireland, said the Covid-19 pandemic has affected every part of the industry and that production insurance is “a significant challenge”.

She said, however, that three major productions have returned to Ireland which has given the industry a boost.

Screen Ireland was awarded five million euro by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media to allow productions to continue.

Finnegan added: “There’s no question that the pandemic has hit every aspect of the industry but the demand for content is very clear throughout the pandemic.

I think the demand on the direct consumer services that we have seen across the world also speaks to the appetite of consumers.

“The animation industry has a world-class reputation, they are multi award-winning and watched by millions of children around the world.

“They have adapted well to the pandemic.”

She said that Screen Ireland is to launch an animation academy to specifically address the skills deficit issues in Ireland.

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Switzer told the committee there was an opportunity to distribute Irish content to Irish communities throughout the world, while Finnegan said her company would be “very supportive” of funding to do that.

“It has been tried in the past but now the technology is there and there’s video on-demand,” Switzer added.

A huge opportunity exists for that material to be seen, both in film and television, by our diaspora.

Finnegan also said that Ireland is working with the major streaming platforms, adding that there is a “huge opportunity” to build deeper relationships.

“We found there is even more opportunity and that’s why we are recruiting for someone to be on the ground (in LA), particularly with travelling, it’s even more important to build relationships,” she added.

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