Gleeson: Film plans will collapse if Bord Snip implemented

AWARD-WINNING actor Brendan Gleeson has warned a multi-million euro film he plans to shoot here next year will collapse if An Bord Snip Nua recommendations about the Irish Film Board are implemented.

And he said the country had already missed out on the new $200 million Robin Hood blockbuster because the production team did not have certainty on costs.

Mr Gleeson plans to begin shooting his directorial pet project – a long-awaited adaptation of Flann O’Brien’s At Swim Two Birds – next spring.

This will star the likes of Cillian Murphy, Gabriel Byrne and Colin Farrell, and lead to a initial injection of €11m into the local economies.

And he said next week he will start shooting The Guard, a €4m project based in Spiddal and Dublin. He said this would not have been possible without the support of the Irish Film Board (IFB), which Bord Snip Nua suggested should be merged with the IDA. Mr Gleeson said if there is any uncertainty about the tax incentive regime or support structures his pet project will not be able to get all aspects of production in place at the one time.

“The nature of film and film production is that everybody must jump together at the right time for the project to happen. It is all or nothing.

“[If the IFB is removed or funding cut for At Swim Two Birds] all the ships that are now in a line will scatter to the four winds,” he said.

Mr Gleeson, appearing before the Oireachtas Committee on Arts, said if the film board and Arts Council were abolished or undermined it would remove expertise and replace it with uncertainty.

He said when picking up his Emmy Award recently he met internationally renowned director Ridley Scott who spoke about the current tax status for filmmaking in Ireland.

Mr Scott told him in recent years, when there was doubt about the continued status of the film tax relief, he was forced to relocate the shooting of the upcoming Robin Hood film to Britain.

“We lost a 200 million dollar project because we were not clear about our intentions,” Mr Gleeson said.

He told the committee Mr Scott’s daughter has since found the tax situation here is more stable and this has encouraged her father to consider Ireland as the base for a follow up series on the knight William Marshal. This would mean four years of shooting. Mr Gleeson said film producers need a “rock solid” tax status and “cost certainty”.

Mr Gleeson was part of a delegation that argued the support given to the arts sector sowed the seeds for tourism and investment bonanza.

He said after he and Colin Farrell starred in Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges, the Belgian city saw its tourism figures rise by 30%. And this was despite Mr Farrell’s character referring to the city as a “s**t hole”.

Author Colum McCann flew in from New York to tell the committee how grant funding in the early stages of his career helped him become an internationally renowned writer.

He said he would have swam across the Atlantic to argue his case.

Fiach MacConghail, director of the Abbey and spokesman for the National Campaign for the Arts, called on the committee to lobby to retain Cultural Ireland, the IFB and secure the budgets of the Arts Council.

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