Speaking yesterday at the launch of the Irish Film 2015 – In the Spotlight production catalogue Chairman of the Bord Scannán na hÉireann / Irish Film Board, Bill O’Herlihy shared his priorities for the year ahead and spoke about the need for a new strategy for the IFB reflecting the needs of the industry.

“While the industry goes from strength to strength the need to improve existing measures and identify new areas for growth is important. Later this year, the Board will announce a new Five Year Strategy for the Agency following a consultation with the industry. This will not only set out a plan to build on recent success but will also put in place a blueprint for the future – setting out the priority areas for the IFB and the key opportunities for the sector both in Ireland and abroad. The overarching objective for the strategy will be to focus on the key activities and investment in Irish creative talent that we provide.”

“The IFB, like all other state agencies, has had to do more with less in recent years and I believe has successfully shown that any money invested delivers significant returns on the work Irish writers, directors and producers are creating from a cultural, employment and economic perspective. Now is the time to evaluate what more can be achieved. As the economy turns to growth we believe that the Irish film industry can play a central role in developing talent, creating jobs, attracting investment and helping to sell Ireland abroad. We are currently consulting with our stakeholders and will publish a new strategic plan in the first half of this year which will bring momentum to the sector and ensure that Irish film, television and animation plays an important role representing Irish culture, telling Irish stories, creating Irish jobs and promoting Irish talent on the international stage in the years to come.”

When providing the overview of activity already scheduled for the year ahead, Mr. Hickey welcomed the recent investment and success of Irish TV drama and the value it brings in terms of growing the talent base for the Irish film industry. Commenting further he said: “The development of TV drama is important for the sustainability of a strong film industry such as what we see in countries such as the UK, France and Denmark. The future growth of film, TV drama and animation production activity could be further increased with more investment from the broadcasters. My ambition for the year ahead is to work with my colleagues across the sector to explore how we can do more in this area. The IFB is currently the largest investor in the development of content in Ireland across film and animation. In 2015, we intend to extend this to support the development of international feature film and high-end TV drama with international sales prospects and would welcome the opportunity to work with the TV broadcasters both locally and internationally to do this.”

The Sundance Festival, taking place next week gets 2015 off to a great start, with five Irish films are set to be screened at Sundance. These include: Glassland, featuring rising star Jack Reynor; Brooklyn starring Saoirse Ronan and Domhnall Gleeson; documentary The Visit, a film about the possible visit of extra-terrestrials; Australian co-production Strangerland and UK co-production The Hallow. Following the screening at Sundance, Glassland is scheduled for general release in Ireland later this year. You’re Ugly Too a film starring Aiden Gillen is set to screen at Berlin International Film Festival in February.

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys , spoke about the new Section 481 film tax credit (replacing the investor based film and television incentive), which came into effect on 1st January 2015. The new benefit of up to 32% of qualifying expenditure which includes all persons working in Ireland will provide enhanced support for film TV drama and animation production and is a strong reflection of the Irish Government’s support for the sector.

Strong TV drama production in Ireland remains in place. Previously the IFB have successfully supported the development of inward investment from EU countries for international production. This year, with the improvements to section 481, developing inward investments from the countries outside of the EU and particularly the US will be a key objective for the agency.

The IFB has also prioritised supporting new and innovative ways in which to distribute films and reach audiences. The Guarantee telling the story of the bailout of the Irish banking system was one of the first Irish Event Cinema outings and we hope to support more events such as this. The world premiere of the film and live Q&A were screened across eighteen locations throughout the country. The IFB are also looking at supporting day and date releases across all platforms including the growth area of VOD and have commissioned audience research in this area.

Irish films broadcast on RTÉ and funded by the IFB have achieved strong audience figures. RTÉ 2, in partnership with the IFB broadcast a number of Irish films on a prime Saturday night slot. Feature documentaries were also a hit with RTÉ audiences. The award-winning documentary films The Summit, Rough Rider, One Million Dubliners and Unbreakable received record ratings when they were broadcast on Irish television this year. Highlighting how social media is becoming a more integrated part of the viewer experience, both One Million Dubliners and Unbreakable were trending on Twitter in Ireland during their broadcast.

Film production in Ireland never stops, with early 2015 seeing cameras start rolling on Jim Sheridan’s The Secret Scripture adapted from Sebastian Barry’s novel, starring Rooney Mara, Jack Reynor, Vanessa Redgrave, Eric Bana, and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor. Alan Gilsenan will commence production on his screen adaptation of the novel Unless in February with Catherine Keener in the lead role.

The first of the recently unveiled Catalyst projects Without Name is set to start in March. The chiller penned by Garret Shanley will be directed by award winning director Lorcan Finnegan. This will be quickly followed into production by The Truth Commissioner, a collaboration with Northern Ireland Screen, directed by Declan Recks and Pilgrimage, the historical epic to be written and directed by Brendan Muldowney. The eagerly anticipated The Siege of Jadotville will tell the remarkable true story of the 35th Irish Battalion of soldiers who refused to surrender and fought back against an army of Mercenaries in the Congo to be directed by Richie Smyth and starring Jamie Dornan.

Screen Training Ireland, managed by the IFB, provided thirty-five courses which were attended by over 1,200 participants. Major training events included Screen Leaders, the VXF Summit and two successful storytelling programmes for animation and live action.

Screen Training Ireland has a new and refreshed website and the IFB will be launching a new report on screen training in 2015 which will look at skills needs and the funding of screen training in Ireland.

The IFB announced the commissioning of three successful films for the new Catalyst Project scheme. Catalyst Project offered up-and-coming filmmakers the opportunity to compete for three low-budget feature film funding awards.

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