Esther McCarthy: Oscar nominations proof of Ireland's astonishing global reputation

A record-shattering 14 nominations for the Irish at this year’s Oscars is the culmination of years of planning and building
Esther McCarthy: Oscar nominations proof of Ireland's astonishing global reputation

Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan in 'The Banshees of Inisherin'. The film's director Martin McDonagh is one of many filmmakers who has praised the quality, consistency, and experience of Irish crews. Picture: Searchlight

As Kevin Costner’s Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella so memorably said in Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come.” 

And they have. 

A record-shattering 14 nominations for the Irish at this year’s Oscars is no mere fluke, but the culmination of years of planning and building, buoyed by an extraordinary level of raw talent and a touch of movie magic.

As a small country, Ireland’s position as a key hub in film and TV production and animation is astonishing and is now being recognised all over the world. 

But in industry circles, it has long been respected.

Our five Oscar-nominated actors are among the busiest and most in-demand in the business, having learned their trade working up through a strong and mature indigenous film industry.

Home-grown stories such as Once, Garage, and Brooklyn have long signalled the amount of talent and potential on the ground, both internationally and among Irish moviegoers.

What has developed through that in recent years is a sense of confidence and a can-do attitude among filmmakers, storytellers, and breakthrough onscreen talents, such as Paul Mescal, Jessie Buckley, Niamh Algar, and Barry Keoghan, all landing prolific work through their sheer force of talent.

Internationally, the country has a reputation for its screen talent but also its technicians and crews, which have become an enormous draw for international productions. 

The Banshees of Inisherin director Martin McDonagh is one of many filmmakers who has praised the quality, consistency, and experience of Irish crews.

Our locations, too, are a huge bonus — just look at the West of Ireland scenery in The Banshees of Inisherin, or the landscapes that so beguiled filmmaker JJ Abrams that he decided to shoot two Star Wars movies here. 

The fact that Ireland is compact also makes it practical for filmmakers to work here — you can shoot a city screen one day, and easily travel to a remote coastline the next.

Element Pictures, whose first major film was The Guard back in 2011, has grown into a major international production company, with award-winning features such as Lenny Abrahamson’s Room and Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite, along with global TV hit Normal People.

The growth in demand for Irish stories and storytellers has exploded in recent years. 

Irish TV drama production has tripled since Screen Ireland, formerly The Irish Film Board, extended its role to include funding for TV production in 2019.

Our sturdy and widely respected animations industry — which has led to many Oscar nominations over the years — continues to flourish, with a growth of 27% last year amid increasing international demand.

Perhaps one of the greatest developments in recent years has been the establishment of the Cine4 funding scheme for Irish language films, set up by TG4, Screen Ireland, and the BAI in 2017. 

It was the primary funder to the wonderful An Cailín Ciúin, which secured a stunning Oscar nomination for Best International Feature in a hugely competitive field. 

The film’s director Colm Bairéad and producer Cleona Ní Chrualaoi have long credited the scheme with helping them to make the film, about a young girl from a troubled family who stays with relatives over a life-changing summer.

Screen Ireland has set up several schemes to support new entrants and upskillers in recent years. 

Key among them is a skills development requirement as part of its 481 tax credit, which has already enabled work-based learning for more than 1,700 people.

There is much more to look forward to. 

TV series Bad Sisters, Kin, and Smother will be back on our screens having drawn audiences at home and abroad.

Movies and shows that recently filmed here include Bodkin, the first series from Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company, filmed in West Cork. 

Stars such as Russell Crowe ( The Pope’s Exorcist) and Antonio Banderas ( Clean Up Crew) are among those who have recently filmed in Ireland.

Other releases on the way include John Carney’s ( Sing Street) Flora and Son, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Eve Hewson, currently screening to rave reviews at the Sundance Film Festival.

It’s simply more evidence of the sheer strength and depth of Irish moviemaking, TV, and animation which is leading a green charge on the world stage.

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