Are we too kind to Irish film?

A recent question posed by Donald Clarke in the Irish Times. Are we too kind to Irish Films? I believe Irish film critics overall are too sympathetic towards Irish movies, and it does not do anything for the industry. On the other hand it makes me very angry when I go into my local DVD store and find recent Irish releases like Garage and Once on the bottom shelf. Having worked in the Industry for the past 18 years have experience of working on Hollywood productions up to $40 million down to micro budget Irish jobs, and understand the need for both. Someone previously pointed out that we have no new directors coming through since Jordan/Sheridan era, this is not the case we have Lenny Abrahamson (Garage) John Carney (Once) Terry George (United 93 & Hotel Rwanda) Damien O’Donnell (East is East & Inside Im Dancing) Dearbhla Walsh (Little Dorrit) Conor McPherson (Actors & The Eclipse) although the latter would be better know as a playwright. There are two real issues as I see it.

1. The quality of Irish screen writing has not developed over the past 20 years were still either trying to rehash something from the northern trouble or inner city Dublin strife, captured perfectly direction and writing of Jim Sheridan & Roddy Doyle, but we have moved on from there. There is more that can be told about the success of Irish music acts international, our sports achievements, the  here among other issues (Garage & Once have proved there is a market out there) If we look to the UK it has a tradition of producing good British dramas for TV, because they have nurtured good script writing, this is something I witnessed first hand while working for a number of years on “Ballykissangel “which was produced by the BBC. Though TV dramas the British continue to develop new well-trained talent all the time, which then feeds into the British/World of Film.

2.The Irish Film Board have in recent years attempted to switch it emphasis more towards the development of more indigenous TV Production rather than Film, unfortunately much of that focus has been misplaced, and many indigenous production which we see on TV are of poor standard and should have never ended up on screen. The only winners on many of these productions have been the production companies, mainly because budgets for most are unrealistic, and cast & crews time and wages have to be cut to get it “produced”. This has affected the quality of scriptwriting; acting, cinematography leading to poor final production value. The quality of technical crews have diminished greatly over the past 5-6 years, as their services are no longer sought. Every time I attend the screening of a new Irish movie I go with hope rather than an expectation to see a good movie. We can all look at “Once” and say well that was a huge success and it was done for under 100k – yes it was but as the old saying goes “One swallow does not make a summer” Once hit all the right boxes for a small feel good music/love story, and it snowballed into a huge success something that is very rare.

The Film Board invests heavily in Irish Screen in my opinion much of the money has not been spent wisely and a complete review on what’s the best approach for Irish Film/TV is urgently required. As a construction manager with 18 years experience in the industry, I have not had an opportunity to work on a single production since we wrapped on The Take in February 09 and there are many other technical people who have suffered a similar fate. Currently in film we are not even attempting to adopt a “Ryanair no frills standard much of what is being produced has no standard. We can not deny that fact that we have stiff competition from Eastern European countries who studios are of a higher standard that ours and crew cost are much lower.

I believe less production of better quality is the way forward, for the past few years The Film Board approach is more like throwing money in the slots at Los Vegas – every now and then you will get lucky. Hardly the best way to develop an Industry and certainly but not best use of taxpayer’s money. We have had much success here with “The Tudors” there is no reason why we can turn out dramas written about Ireland that would sell internationally we just need to focus more on quality not volume. There is a major shift to TV series all over the world and good quality TV series sells very well through DVD box sets, and we must adapt for this new growing market.

It has not been all-bad some Irish production in recent years that can be measured against others Hunger, Intermission, Garage, Once and Adam & Paul, Omagh and In America the last 3 productions I enjoyed working on. The best way to support our film industry is produce better, then critics can tell it as it is, with no sense of guilty they are knocking our own.

Two recent Irish Times articles


Categories: Film and TV

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