Cork film industry facing into unwanted funding drama

Cork film industry facing into unwanted funding drama

The business of "Lights, cameras, action!" continues apace as Ireland’s film industry looks to consolidate its profile on the global stage.

Having weathered the downturn only to emerge as a favoured location for award winning film and television work, it is living up to Variety magazine’s observation that "Ireland has become a capital of filmmaking" in recent years.

It has established itself as "one of the world’s most attractive production environments" through the combined benefits of the Section 481 tax incentive, and a wide creative sector which includes writers, directors, producers, casts and crew.

The Olsberg/SPI report, published last June, confirmed that 12,000 people are now employed in film, television and animation production, up from 6,000 in 2008.

James Hickey, who concluded his term as Film Board chief executive recently said: "2018 was a galvanising year for Irish film and screen content production. We saw real progress being made in our efforts to grow the strength and depth of the sector, creatively and economically.

2019 is already off to a fantastic start with Irish projects embraced by Sundance, the Berlinale and SXSW. The coming year will present a diverse slate of new Irish films from new and established talent that is sure to delight, entertain and touch audiences both at home and abroad.

Last month, Screen Ireland welcomed the approval of the Regional Film Development Uplift by the European Commission, aimed at supporting broader regional development of the audio-visual sector in Ireland.

Announced as part of Budget 2019, the uplift is available to productions being substantially undertaken in "assisted regions" - areas designated as such under the regional aid map.

To qualify for the relief, producer companies will be required to show that training and skills development opportunities are provided to individuals habitually resident in the area and that such training will address a skills deficit in the area.

The regional uplift will be phased out on a tiered basis over four years with 5% additional tax credit available in 2019 and 2020, 3% in 2021, and 2% in 2022, reducing to 0% from 2022 on.

European Commission approval has also been received to extend the Section 481 film tax credit, which will now be extended for four years, from its original end date of December 31 2020 to December 31 2024. This has been especially welcomed as providing certainty for production companies regarding the future availability of the credit.

Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan TD said: "These new regulations will support creative talent in Ireland and help to develop a vibrant creative audio-visual sector throughout the country."

However, Film In Cork, which provides production and location support services to those working in the film, television, and animation sectors, has called upon the Government to redress the exclusion of Cork from the new 5% regional uplift.

"The Cork film and television industry was shocked at the egregious exclusion of Cork City and County from the 5% regional uplift, a proposal we supported as we felt it would be of great benefit to Cork," said Rossa Mullin, manager of Film In Cork.

As a result of this exclusion, the growing Cork production sector will be at a major disadvantage nationally for the four-year period of the regional uplift, and will struggle to support production in the area.

"This will result in a loss of growth, employment, and capacity building within the industry in Cork and potentially reverse much of the investment and great work that has been done over the last number of years," she said.

Leading figures in the Cork industry added their voices to the petition, in addition to Cork City Council and Cork County Council.

"The film and television industry in Cork is thriving at the moment, with great potential to really establish Cork City and County within the industry, not only in Ireland but internationally,” said Peter Foott, award-winning director of 'The Young Offenders' television series.

"The exclusion of Cork from the regional uplift is a big worry, not only for the four years that it will be in place, but for the years to follow also. We continually need to attract and retain both talent and production in Cork. The exclusion from the regional uplift leaves Cork City and County at a clear disadvantage," he said.

Cork filmmaker Carmel Winters, writer and director of 'Float Like A Butterfly', added: "There is such a strong community within the film and television industry in Cork and the results of Cork’s exclusion will no doubt be very damaging to the industry on a local and international level.

"There won’t be an incentive for our homegrown talent to stay in Cork and it will be even harder to attract talent to Cork. If a solution is not put in place by the Government to bridge this unjust gap, Cork’s production sector will suffer immensely.

"Conversely, if a solution is put in place, I can see Cork continuing to thrive and excel as a hub of on-screen storytelling that will benefit all."

Limerick’s Troy Studios will likely avail of the new regional tax breaks with the sci-fi series 'Foundation' already in pre-production. Filming on the 10-part series, based on author Isaac Asimov’s novel, is scheduled to begin by the end of 2019.

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