The Sunday Business Post ‘The Business Interview’ recently featured Irish film producer,Morgan O’Sullivan. I have the highest respect for Morgan O’Sullivan; he is by far the most influential producer we have in bringing major Hollywood productions to Ireland. Through out the 90’s and early 2000’s film production was booming in Ireland. Since then the number of large American/British production coming into Ireland had dropped dramatically, and it has proven difficult for many to find employment. Had it not been for Morgan’s negotiating skills in bringing The Tudors to Ireland for the past 4 years the film industry would dead in Ireland, and Camelot will keep the industry afloat for this year.
In the interview he made reference to the outdated Ardmore Studio’s which cannot accommodate more than one major productions the same time “While we’re doing Camelot, nothing else can really happen here, We take over the place “ says O’Sullivan.
Facilities at Ardmore have been an issue for many years and as construction manager I have witnessed it first hand. The studios are too small for today’s high-tech requirements and there is no room for expansion on site, and have come in for much criticism from U.S. producers. The recent construction of 75,000 sq ft warehouse in Ashford, Co Wicklow by Joe O’Connell is a start. But it will still need massive investment from one of the American studios, to turn it in to a proper sound stages with all proper auxiliary facilities.
An issue that Morgan did not speak about, and in my opinion is the “Elephant in the Room”. There are several binding agreements with craft Unions that have marred the industry through lack of reform. Most of these practices date back to when Ardmore Studios was first opened in 1958, and have no longer meet today’s rapidly changing industry. For many years tax incentives camouflaged our lack of competitiveness particularly in the construction of sets. Period film/TV production require large set pieces which are very labour intensive, and make up a substantial part of the overall budget. Foreign producers find it very difficult to understand the extremely complex penalty clauses in these agreements, which can lead to massive over runs on a construction crew on a production. Production companies in many cases must accept that some crew-members are not hired on merit but by the insistence of the Union (required or not). If the film industry is going to continue to grow and develop in Ireland reform of these work practices must be dealt with now. Currently a non skilled labour is a guaranteed €1,184.04 per week excluding overtime, meals, and travelling expenses – multiply that by a crew of 40 over a 10-12 week build and its a considerable amount. It can be a lucrative business for some but all crew are not treated the same, if you’re an assistant in the production office your wage is going to be more like €700 for the same hours and no expenses.
There has been a complete failure by all Producers including Morgan to bring about change and a balance for all workers on film. There have been token attempts to change these agreements, but every time work stoppages have been threatened and some time enforced Irish producers have backed off. Instead of tackling these issues, producers have instead reduced the wages of other departments or hired trainees to do the work or in some cases avoided building set altogether. As a consequence the overall quality of what is is been produced has declined and many trained technicians have left the industry. With the threat of Industrial relations some American and British companies, have chosen to go to elsewhere in Europe. Every country across the world has its own version of tax incentives, and most East European crews are operating at a fraction of our costs. A weak dollar and sterling in recent years which has compounded the problem. American producers love coming to Ireland and in general but we must up our game, if we want to develop an industry.
Section 481 tax incentives only go so far in encouraging filmmakers to come to Ireland. A modern film studio is essential for today’s movie making, but if we don’t bring about changes to work practices, it will make no difference what facilities we have or incentives we have. The announcement that Camelot has been secured for Ireland is welcome, but its ‘one production’ does not make a sustainable industry.
See Sunday Business Post article http://bit.ly/c8LdQj
Categories: Film and TV