By John Daly
Despite the Brexit threat and our corporate tax structure facing challenges, one Irish industry has begun 2018 with a decidedly optimistic fanfare.
Amongst the nominations for the 2018 Academy Awards announced last week, the Irish film community garnered an impressive five placings in key categories on March 4.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri leads the way with London-Irish writer/director Martin McDonagh picking up nominations for Best Screenplay and Best Film, alongside Cartoon Saloon’s The Breadwinner, Consolata Boyle for Costume Design, and Irish actress Saoirse Ronan for her performance in Lady Bird.
Such a remarkable performance is priceless in raising the profile of an industry in competition with international heavyweights like the US, France, Germany, and the UK.
In addition, two Irish documentaries were selected for the prestigious Sundance Festival, as well as four films screening in Official Selection at the Berlinale.
There was a time not so long ago when one Irish nomination would have made headlines. The fact that Irish films now regularly compete at the highest global tables speaks volumes for an industry still gathering an upward momentum.
Underpinning the Oscar news, the Irish Film Board (IFB), the national development agency for the Irish film, television, and animation industry, last week launched Irish Film 2018, the slate of IFB-supported productions coming to audiences this year.
The line-up so far includes 16 Irish feature films, five creative co-productions, five TV animations, 13 documentaries, and 21 short films, alongside one major international TV drama series. This vibrant picture for the coming 12 months follows a further successful year for the industry in 2017, which saw IFB-supported production output of €84m — a 58% increase on 2016.
A massive thank-you to everyone who came to the launch of our 2018 Production Catalogue and Irish Shorts 2018 DVD last night in @smockalley! We were delighted to see so many familiar faces in a night that celebrated #IrishFilm and #IrishTalent 🎞 pic.twitter.com/lZT3RjcfKB— Screen Ireland (@ScreenIreland) January 26, 2018
The IFB continues to drive growth of an industry now employing up to 15,000 through a commitment of €6m for Irish animation over the next three years; new initiatives to support female talent; and an increase in regional production spending to facilitate developments such as Game Of Thrones-creator George RR Martin’s Nightflyers at Limerick’s Troy Studios, as well as productions in Cork, Galway, Roscommon and Kilkenny.
IFB CEO James Hickey said: “2017 was another great year for the Irish film, TV, and animation with a significant uplift in overall activity. It has already been a great start to the year with the five Oscar nominations, which keep Ireland and its talent top of mind amongst international audiences, and we also remain focused on supporting and nurturing existing and emerging creative filmmaking talent.”
Tourism will also benefit significantly from the high profile of the Irish industry — specifically the set-jetting likely to accrue from the latest Star Wars film, The Last Jedi, and its lengthy sections filmed on Skellig Michael and along the Wild Atlantic Way. While set-jetting was previously seen as a niche market for film fans, it has now moved mainstream, with popular films or TV series proven to increase tourism to prominent locations anywhere between 25% to 300%.
The Harry Potter films are estimated to have driven a 50% increase in tourism to all filming locations across the UK, while Frozen prompted a 37% increase in tourism to Norway.
Closer to home, the Game of Thrones television series has brought a major tourism dividend to Northern Ireland, its principal filming location. NI Screen, which helps fund the series, estimates it has brought almost £150m into the local economy since production began in 2010.
“Three years ago, there were three operators promoting Game of Thrones experiences, whereas now we have well over 25, and with more in the pipeline,” said Judith Webb, Tourism NI’s experience development officer.
“We can see already that businesses are growing on the back of the series. People come for Game of Thrones and stay for Northern Ireland. There are people in China who don’t know where Northern Ireland is, but they know Titanic and they know Game of Thrones, and we need to capitalise on that.”