Big budget film productions could be on way back to Ireland

THE news that two major films may begin production here in the near future has again focused an international gaze on Ireland’s film industry and the possibility of big-budget blockbusters returning to these shores once more.

Big budget film productions could be on way back to Ireland

Oscar-winning film director Steven Spielberg has expressed an interest in reforming his successful partnership with triple best actor winner Daniel Day Lewis on a film about Daniel O’Connell. Discussions on the project, provisionally entitled The Liberator, are well extended according to Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan.

“Nothing is certain, but the success of Lincoln makes a stronger case as it would have an international appeal given O’Connell’s role in the anti-slavery campaign as well as in both Jewish and Catholic emancipations,” said Mr Deenihan.

At a summer school gathering at Daniel O’Connell’s home in Derrynane, historian John A Murphy underlined the historic importance of this great Irish legend. “Official Ireland has never adequately recognised its debt to Daniel O’Connell, it is the glorifiers of physical force nationalism who are always celebrated by the State and not the architects of constitutional democracy,” said Prof Murphy.

Some locations in Ireland may also play a part in the next James Bond film, due to start shooting around the world in 2015. Screenwriter John Logan, who is currently based at Ardmore Studios overseeing the filming of the gothic horror television series Penny Dreadful, said he had been “soaking up the local colour” with a view to considering Ireland as a possible location in the 007 film.

Logan, whose film credits include Gladiator and The Aviator, attended a recent Institute of Directors gathering with Barbara Broccoli, whose family have owned the Bond franchise for over 50 years.

“Ireland is gorgeous, I’d love to come here and make a Bond film,” said Broccoli, who is currently working with the Once director John Carney on another film project to be shot in Ireland.

“I hope we will come here to film whether it is a Bond or another story,” she added.

A film franchise whose trademark is exotic worldwide locations, and whose last film, Skyfall, took well over €1bn at the box office, even a minor role in the next Bond movie would guarantee a huge global exposure for Ireland.

The success of Irish actors such as Michael Fassbender at the Emmys and Golden Globes also keeps Ireland at the top of film producers’ minds

SCREEN VALUE

In 2012, the Irish Film Industry had a turnover of over €500m and employed 6,500 people in full-time jobs — an increase of 20% since 2008. The industry has grown significantly over the last decade and was recently described in Variety as “now achieving a critical mass of talent to match the kind of influence, disproportionate to its small size, that the country has always enjoyed in the fields of literature and theatre”.

Irish films now regularly feature at international award ceremonies — especially at the Academy Awards where films such as Once and Six Shooter recently won Oscars.

Similarly, The Wind That Shakes The Barley won the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival; Bloody Sunday garnered the Golden Bear in Berlin; and The Magdalene Sisters came out on top to take the Golden Lion in Venice.

In addition, acting talent such as Colin Farrell, Gabriel Byrne, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Brendan Gleeson, Eileen Walsh, Ciaran Hynes, and Michael Fassbender are frequent success stories at the Emmys and Golden Globes as well as Irish and British TV and film awards.

In terms of attracting overseas productions, Ireland continues to punch above its weight in a very competitive global market, and has played host to a number of very successful international productions over the years such as Braveheart, Saving Private Ryan, Michael Collins, Harry Potter, PS I Love You and Leap Year.

Conleth Hill will be turning his attention from playing Varys in ‘Game of Thrones’ to reprising his role in ‘Stones in his Pockets’.

UPCOMING PRODUCTIONS

2013 is already shaping up as one of the bigger years for productions around the country led by Stones in his Pockets, the Kerry-set play by Belfast playwright Marie Jones, being adapted for the screen. Starring Game of Thrones actor Conleth Hill and Boyzone singer Ronan Keating, the screenplay has been written by Jones, and her husband Ian McElhinney will direct. Filming will take place in Leitrim and Antrim on a budget estimated at €3m.

Hill, one of the lead roles in the stage version, will again reprise his character for the film. The plot of Stones in His Pockets follows Jake Quinn and Charlie Conlon, who are employed as extras in a movie being shot in Kerry, when tragedy strikes the set. Hill won an Olivier award for Best Actor in 2001 for his stage performance after a successful run in the West End and Broadway.

Penny Dreadful, Oscar-winner John Logan’s new Victorian psychosexual horror series, is currently filming at Ardmore Studios until Mar 2014.

Victor Treadaway will star alongside Saoirse Ronan and Bill Murray in a series featuring the origins of some of horror literature’s most famous characters — with recent cast additions including Timothy Dalton, Josh Hartnett, Eva Green, Billie Piper and Rory Kinnear.

Director Lenny Abrahamson will helm a film adaptation of Room, author Emma Donoghue’s best-selling novel about a small boy living in captivity in an 11sq ft shed who has no knowledge of the outside world and protected by his mother from the reality that they are prisoners. Room was shortlisted for the Man Booker, Orange, and Commonwealth Prizes; sold 2.5m copies in English and appeared in 35 other languages around the world. Abrahamson has just finished production on Frank, a quirky adventure in which the central character, played by Kerry-born actor Michael Fassbender, whose character wears a giant model head hiding his face in the film. It also stars Domhnall Gleeson and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Mrs Brown’s Boys, comedian Brendan O’Carroll’s IFTA & Bafta winning comedy series about a foul-mouthed Irish matriarch and her clan, just completed principal photography on its feature film debut on Dublin’s Moore St. Mrs Brown’s Boys: D’Movie filmed in Ireland before heading to the UK, with early scenes featuring Irish comedian June Rodgers and actor Simon Delaney in a cameo appearances.

Jimmy’s Hall, written and directed by The Wind the Shakes the Barley team, Paul Laverty and Ken Loach, started principal photography last August in Leitrim and Sligo for an expected cinema release in 2014. The cast features Barry Ward and Simone Kirby in the lead roles, and includes Jim Norton, Brían O’Byrne, Andrew Scott and Sorcha Fox. The story centres on Jimmy Gralton, who built a dance hall on a rural crossroads where young people could come to learn, to argue, to dream and to dance — much to the ire of the authorities of the day. The film is set in 1932 and follows events when Jimmy returned from a decade in New York to open his ballroom of romance.

The Vikings returned to Ireland earlier this year to film a second season in Wicklow and Dublin. Following the massive success of The Tudors, this is an international co-production between Ireland and Canada, and was developed and produced by Irish producers Morgan O’Sullivan and James Flynn’s company Octagon Films, bringing the series to a global audience. About 8.3m total viewers watched the series premiere when it was broadcast on the History Channel. Vikings follows the adventures of Ragnar Lothbrok, played by Travis Fimmel, a man constantly seeking new worlds to conquer, but against the wishes of his local chieftain, Earl Haraldson, played by Gabriel Byrne. The first series contributed an estimated €20m to the Irish economy in terms of spend on local goods and services.

NEW GENERATION

Part of the new generation of Irish actors making an early global impact, Irish actress Ella Connolly won two awards for Eliot & Me at the 12th China International Children’s Film Festival: the International Jury Award for Best Performance by a Child Actress and the Award for the Children’s Favourite Child Performer. The international jury and singled out Connolly’s performance as “compelling and authentic, with a naturalness rare in child acting”.

The festival, the biggest of its kind in China, is held every two years. More than 500,000 children watched the films in the weeks leading up to the festival, with Eliot & Me the first Irish film to be selected for the festival and the only English language film screened in the competition.

Funded by the Irish Film Board and RTÉ, the film tells the tale of 10-year-old Lucy and her efforts to find her missing dog. Ella, aged 13, was competing with young actors in films from Belgium, Holland, Germany, Sweden, Russia, Canada, Switzerland, Iran, India, Singapore, Korea, Japan, Indonesia, and China.

“So many kids’ films have young boys as their central characters and I wanted to create a story that had a young girl as the hero for a change. I think the audiences like this,” said director Fintan Connolly.

TAX BREAKS

In 2008, the Government introduced new measures through Section 481 to strengthen the Irish tax incentive for film and television production. In an industry where strong competition from New Zealand, Eastern Europe and Asia competes to attract major film projects, the new incentives have dramatically increased Ireland’s competitive position as a location for international film and TV productions.

The new improvements, in place until 2020, mean the ceiling on qualifying expenditure for any one film is increased from €35m to €50m. Qualifying expenditure includes all EU personnel and purchases of goods and services in the State. The main benefits of Section 481 are: worth up to 28% of Irish budget; is available to both film and television productions; and its value is determined at the outset. Section 481 also allows individuals to invest up to €50,000 in a tax year by means of share acquisition in a qualifying production company and can deduct this investment from their taxable income for that year

WIDER HORIZONS

Irish filmmakers are nowadays casting their net wider in search of finance and co-production partners for their fledgling projects. With the strong Irish-American community an obvious possible source of backing, establishing a foothold in major film centres such as New York and LA has opened up wider horizons for emerging producers and directors.

At this year’s Irish Film New York festival, a number of Irish movies will feature, including Run & Jump, When Ali Came to Ireland, Silence, Made in Belfast and King of the Travellers. Established in 2011 by Emmy Award-winning producer and director Niall McKay, the festival has continued to broaden its appeal to the wider Irish American audience.

“When Ali Came to Ireland, a documentary about Muhammad Ali’s visit to Ireland in 1972, should play very well with older audiences,” said McKay. “Many Irish and Irish-Americans would remember that period of time, when Ali was at the peak of his career, and want to see it.”

McKay has produced documentaries for the American PBS channel and RTÉ, as well as promoting international co-productions. He is also founder of the San Francisco Irish Film Festival and co-founder of the Los Angeles Irish Film Festival.

At its first festival, IFNY presented a three-day, six-film screening series at New York University’s Cantor Film Centre attended by over 1,000 people. In 2012, IFNY hosted a screening of Oscar-winning short films at Lincoln Centre attended by President Michael D Higgins, who also took part in a panel discussion on cinema in Ireland.

“IFNY aims to foster partnerships between Irish and US-based film institutes, producers and directors, and to hold screenings, panel discussions and filmmaker events that share the best of Irish film with US audiences. There is a great demand in the US for Irish film,” he said.

“Increasingly, America is playing a greater role in helping Irish filmmakers find finance for their projects. Whereas in the past, American studios went to Ireland to shoot their films, it has now turned around with Irish filmmakers coming over here to tell their stories.”

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