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Brooklyn and Room made millions at the box office - but Irish filmmakers need more money

The sector needs more government investment if it wants to keep this level of success, says the Irish Film Board.

Image: YouTube

IRELAND’S FILM INDUSTRY needs investment if the country wants more international successes like Room or Brooklyn: that was the message from the Irish Film Board today as it launched its five-year strategy following a year of “unprecedented” critical and commercial success.

Irish films have taken in over $140 million (€125m) in the worldwide box office in 2015/2016 to date, but the Irish Film Board has had its funding cut since the recession.

NO FEE IRISH FILM BOARD 9 Dr Annie Doona, IFB Chairperson Designate Source: Marc O'Sullivan

It is calling on the government to help foster future success by reinstating its previous funding level of €20m.

At the launch of the strategy plan today, chairperson designate of the IFB, Annie Doona, said:

We are saying very loudly in our strategy that we need the immediate restoration of pre-recession funding to at least €20 million. Look at what we’ve done with limited funding – just think what we could do if we had the funding that we’d like to have to take the industry forward.

9/2/2013 Irish Film and Television Awards The team from the film What Richard Did (from left) Jack Reynor, Lenny Abrahamson, Ed guiney and Andrew Lowe pictured with their IFTAs Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

“People outside of the industry don’t realise how long it takes to make a film – it can be 10 years from conception to screen,” pointed out actress and IFB board member Kate O’Toole, adding: “Making films is an expensive process.”

“Lenny Abrahamson is a case in point,” said Doona.

The Irish Film Board has been working with Lenny for many years and it’s really only in this last year that he’s got that international critical success.

O’Toole pointed out that new funds can benefit the industry in helping widen the scope of the types of films that get made.

“With limited funding, one has to make difficult decisions – and the inclination is to support proven success. And that is not always helpful in creating young, new, fresh voices,” she said.

What about Brexit?

Asked about the impact of Brexit on the Irish film industry, the board said they were waiting to see how things played out, but that they do have some immediate concerns.

“I think like everyone else we’re not entirely sure yet – we need to see how this plays out,” said Doona.

Clearly anything that makes us less competitive is a problem for us, if that’s how it turns out. Anything that prevents free trade or free movement is a problem for us.

IFB CEO James Hickey said that the common travel area is another element which the IFB would be concerned about.

Source: Young Offenders/YouTube

Not working alone

Doona said that the IFB board wants to be a stronger voice for Irish film.

“We would like to develop and want to grow and make the Irish film industry the centre of the world industry,” she said.

We can’t do this alone – we want to work with our partners, with RTÉ, with the BAI, with people in the industry, and with third level… bringing the film training industry into the strategy is very important with developing the next generation.
We sometimes feel we compete [with RTÉ and the BAI] within the film space. And we don’t want to do that. We want to be working together as the Irish film sector in making Ireland the international film champions.

“We’re at a good place and I think the timing of this plan has got to the stage where it’s so important and has such a strength that we need to build on that and not let it slip away,” said board member Maurice Sweeney.

He added: “The key to all this is talent, and building on that.”

If Ireland doesn’t feature in the Oscars next year, is there the fear that this could have a detrimental affect on the Irish film industry?

“I would hope not and I don’t think so,” said Doona. “There are some great films that are out this year and are doing well already in the international box office. Now, will they make Oscar nomination? I don’t know, but I don’t think we’d see it as a failure [if they didn't].”

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Tony Awards-Presenters Source: AP/Press Association Images

Doona said that diversity and quality in the Irish film industry is important to the board. They set an “ambitious” target of three years to reach 50/50 funding for male and female filmmakers.

They have been working on specific schemes for women, as well as events where production companies get meet with aspiring talent, in an effort to help people network and make new contacts.

“One of the things that we’ve said to production companies was the applications we get from films that include female talent need to go up,” said Donna.

“We’re seeing progress already.”

Sweeney  pointed out: ”We are the facilitators of this, it is up to people to put their projects in.”

A strategy for young filmmakers is currently being drawn up.

Asked if there should be a specific Arts Minister, Doona said that the issue for the IFB is that the arts remains central – whether it is a separate ministry or not.

The strategy comes as it was announced that eight Irish people – including Room director Lenny Abrahamson and writer Emma Donoghue – were appointed to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, meaning they can vote for the 2017 Oscars.

NO FEE IRISH FILM BOARD 8 Pictured at the launch of the strategic plan are: John Rice, IFB Board member, Dr Annie Doona, IFB Chairperson Designate, Maurice Sweeney, IFB Board Member and Kate O'Toole, IFB Board member Source: Marc O'Sullivan

The message from the IFB was clear – the Irish film industry is capable of great things, but it also needs increased government investment.

“This is the time to seize the day, carpe diem, and really move forward. That’s what we need that additional funding for,” said Doona.

Read: “It’s beyond all our wildest dreams”: Landmark day for Irish cinema with nine Oscar nominations>

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