Chorus of approval greets new film chief

THE long standing vacuum at the head of the Irish Film Board was finally resolved last week with the announcement that Englishman Simon Perry will take over as CEO on January 9, 2006, a position vacant since Mark Woods’ departure last April.

Perry, a former producer who was also head of British Screen Finance between 1991 and 2000, is president of Ateliers du Cinéma Européen (ACE), the Paris-based professional training initiative for European producers.

The announcement has ended a prolonged period of nerve-wracking limbo in the Irish film industry - and, it seems, in the best possible way as the appointment has met with universal approval.

Screen Producers of Ireland (SPI) chief executive David McLoughlin said the appointment has come at a critical time for the Irish film industry.

Expressing delight at Perry’s appointment, McLoughlin said: “He has a wealth of experience and first-hand knowledge of the practical realities behind key aspects of film making.

“Having worked on films such as The Crying Game, Bend It Like Beckham, Wilde and Sliding Doors, he has a great understanding of the production and financial aspects of film-making.

“His most urgent task will be to follow through with work already initiated by the Film Board to address Ireland’s lack of competitiveness and loss of status as an international location, factors which badly affected levels of production this year.”

SPI film committee chair Andrew Lowe echoed this approval: “Simon’s hands-on experience as a producer is most welcome as is his extensive track record in European film financing, in particular, his successful tenure at British Screen, where he championed many Irish films and significant British and European films too.”

Reaction was equally good from other sectors in the industry.

Cork Film Festival director Mick Hannigan said: , on hearing of the announcement, said, “I am absolutely delighted at the news. He has a splendid CV - It is a great boost to the Irish film industry to have someone of his experience, calibre and reputation heading the organisation.”

Perry, a former producer and head of British Screen Finance between 1991 and 2000, is currently President of Ateliers du Cinéma Européen (ACE), the Paris based professional training initiative for European producers.

The 61-year-old Perry has had a long and varied career in the film industry and has, at one time or another, experienced almost every aspect from the commercial to the creative to the critical.

From February 2003 to March 2004, he was director of co-productions at Ingenious Film & Television, the British tax-based investment company and he has also acted as consultant to a range of public and private agencies.

He has been a British and Irish film selection correspondent for the Competition and Un Certain Regard sections of the Cannes Film Festival and early in his career was an independent filmmaker and film critic for Variety.

As the head of British Screen from 1991 to 2000, he helped numerous high profile European films make it to the screen including Neil Jordan’s The Crying Game and Ken Loach’s Spanish epic Land and Freedom.

“For many years I have watched the rise of Ireland as an enviably vigorous European country, able to boast artistic and entrepreneurial talents in equal measure,” Perry said last week. “I am delighted at the prospect of being involved, and making a contribution to the further growth of Irish cinema.

“I would like to refrain from saying anything substantial about the task in hand until I have learned a lot more. I know a good many Irish filmmakers and producers, but I need to know still more, and know them better, before I can form useful opinions or serious plans.”

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