Irish Film Board could reopen LA office

The Irish Film Board could reopen its office in Hollywood, with its CEO saying the plan is under active consideration.

The Irish Film Board ran an office in Los Angeles from late 2006 until 2012, the plan having been announced at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006 by the then arts minister, John O’Donoghue.

The one-person office closed in late 2012 amid huge funding cuts to the Irish Film Board, which subsequently reconfigured its personnel, with an inward production manager working alongside chief executive James Hickey in visiting LA a number of times a year pitching Ireland as a location for Hollywood productions.

Recent years have proved fruitful in that regard, spearheaded by the use of Irish locations in the new Star Wars trilogy, the second film of which, The Last Jedi, will open next month.

In an interview with the Irish Examiner, Mr Hickey said that reopening an office in LA is now being actively considered as a way of further capitalising on Ireland’s position as a destination of choice for film and TV production.

“It is something we would be beginning to consider, given the improvement in our funding over a recent period of time,” said Mr Hickey.

He referred to the years of the recession as “not an easy time for the world, not just Ireland”, with cutbacks impinging on big-budget productions. He also cited a cut in funding to the Irish Film Board in 2011 as a significant factor in the decision to close the LA office in 2012.

Mr Hickey said the improving domestic economy, demand for content from around the world, and improvements to tax incentives on offer made Ireland an attractive option and that having a permanent office in Los Angeles would help maintain and expand contacts that have been built up over a number of years.

Mr Hickey and his team have visited Hollywood twice this year, including just last month. “What is important very often is reminding people again of what is there,” he said.

“The more that can be done to promote Ireland the more the opportunities will be there to grasp if we want to do it. The more promotion that is done, the better.

“If people come to us we will talk to them about all the possibilities that are available throughout the island of Ireland.”

Last month the Hollywood Reporter referred to The Last Jedi as “just one example of the foreign investment that has begun to pour into Ireland’s film and TV industry”.

The Force Awakens ended with dramatic shots captured on Skellig Michael, which will again feature prominently in The Last Jedi. Mr Hickey said the island’s use as a possible location “was something that came up” in discussions with director JJ Abrams and the trilogy’s producers and that it was “tremendous” that it was featuring so prominently in the films. However, he said the Irish Film Board was “very conscious of the delicate fabric that is Skellig Michael”.

He said Brexit presents both challenges and opportunities and that other areas of potential growth include visual effects and animation.

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