The Irish Film & Television Academy (IFTA) has announced the appointment of Gar O’Brien as its new Head of Film & Television.

O’Brien, who is from Clonakilty in County Cork, is recognised as one of Ireland’s leading film & industry event professionals with an extensive knowledge and passion for Irish cinema, drama and Irish creative talent.

A graduate from the Huston School of Film & Digital Media in NUIG Galway, O’Brien holds a Master’s Degree in Film, Society and Culture. He also has a Diploma in Audience Development and Marketing in the Arts from the University of Ulster. He has lectured in Film Festival Theory, Genre and Film Narratology and has taught Film Theory and Story Structure to young students and filmmakers.

O’Brien was the programme Director of the Galway Film Fleadh from 2010 until 2018, Ireland’s leading film festival, breaking audience records and growing box-office by 25% for the festival. O’Brien is a passionate supporter of Irish screen talent and has spent the last decade helping to identify, nurture, and provide a platform to showcase emerging artists. He is a strong advocate for supporting fledgling filmmakers also, through junior film festivals where he has introduced young people to cultural cinema as well as providing training and skills that support and encourage a career in film and television.

Most recently O’Brien was the industry manager for the 2019 Galway Film Fair, Ireland’s only dedicated Film Market, and was highly commended by industry stakeholders for his role in bringing leading world decision makers into Galway (Sales Agents, Distributors, Festival Programmers and Financiers), coordinating meetings between producers and writers and organising industry seminars, masterclasses and panel discussions, including a special keynote address from James Schamus, CEO of Focus Features.

As the new Head of Film & Television at the Irish Academy, O’Brien will drive the implementation of the Academy’s new 5-year Strategic Development plan (2020-2024) to be launched in the coming weeks. Key elements include expanding the Academy membership, the largest member-based industry organisation in Ireland;  coordinating the Academy’s 12 month Excellence & Learning programme including John Ford symposium events; developing strategic partnerships and funding resources for two high-calibre annual Award Ceremonies; liaising with international Academies such as AMPAS, BAFTA and Film Academies Network of Europe; and fundraising long-term for an Academy Building for members and housing the growing Irish Academy archive. 

This new position was created following the move by IFTA manager Deirdre Hopkins to London, taking up BAFTA’s head of Film role after Jim Bradshaw made the move to Netflix as Awards Manager.  

O’Brien’s appointment to the Irish Academy comes at a time when the Irish screen industry is experiencing unprecedented growth and success.  Over the last decade Irish films have secured 30 Academy Award nominations, while the country’s animation sector is also thriving with the audio-visual sector currently worth over €1bn per annum to the Irish economy. Taoiseach (Prime Minister of Ireland) Leo Varadkar, fresh from a much-publicized trade mission to L.A., announced plans to make Ireland a global centre of excellence for the audio-visual industry and a key EU production hub, doubling the level of production and investment as well as the numbers employed within the sector to 24,000 people. 

I’m beyond thrilled to join the wonderful IFTA Academy team as it embarks on this exciting new phase of growth and development and to working closely with its CEO Áine Moriarty. Over the last 15 years, I have watched the Academy work tirelessly to help grow this industry and to inspire, encourage and recognise Irish talent and achievements. As the industry has grown, the Academy has become a central hub at the very heart of Ireland’s cinematic landscape with its ever-growing membership of inspiring screen professionals. I relish the opportunity to working with them and to bringing a fresh perspective to the next five years of growth and development.

Gar O’Brien

The Academy welcomes the brilliant Gar O’Brien, and we are absolutely delighted to have him as part of our team. Gar is an exceptional leader and a dedicated professional who is passionate about this industry and the work of the Academy. There is no doubt that his knowledge and extensive experience will be instrumental in helping deliver the Academy’s vision and strategic objectives over the next 5 years and bringing new and exciting opportunities to Irish Academy members and to the industry as a whole.

Áine Moriarty, CEO – IFTA

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