Speaking at the Cannes Film Festival last week, Ardmore boss Siún Ní Raghallaigh raised issues over whether the loss of UIP’s €55m budget blockbuster Dracula to Northern Ireland may have been as a result of “unfair state aid”.
Quoted in the Irish Independent Ms Ni Raghallaigh said “There was a lot of money flung at it. I’m sure they dotted all the ‘i’s, but I want to look at it.”
Negotiations had taken place at a high level with Hollywood studio UIP, and Ardmore Studios had hoped it had bagged the big budget movie for the studios in Bray. However, parallel negotiations with Northern Ireland screen and Invest NI with a government grant worth almost €2m at the 11th hour secured the project for the Titanic studios in Belfast.
Starring the Hobbit star Luke Evans Dracula is expected to go into production immediate with with a three-month shoot that will last from August to November. It will be directed by Dubliner, Gary Shore a successful commercial director for clients that include Adidas, EMI, Warner Brothers, Vogue, Nokia, the Irish Government and the Montenegro Ministry of Tourism, amongst others.
Ms. Ni Raghallaigh went on to say “Survival is the new success and we are surviving. It is difficult and things like this don’t help. Ardmore is a national treasure and we are certainly fighting the fight, but we need the support of the Government to level the playing field,”
I have written about this topic on a number of occasions on this blog, over the past 6-7 years both Irish producer and the Irish Film Board choose not to go after the larger film productions instead concentrated solely on Irish themed projects. Up to very recently the Los Angles office of the Irish Film Board was rarely visited by an Irish producer. Not so in North of Ireland, where they have been feverishly working away to secure several big projects for the North in LA. In a time of a great economic downturn investment must be all about creating jobs and that’s what is happening north of the border.
With the UK updating its own tax breaks last month to include high-end TV shows the scope for the Irish Film Board to bring TV work from the BBC and ITV is becoming increasing difficult.
Unfortunately there are many national treasures deserving support. Ardmore Studios (see my previous post) was a monopoly on the entire Island for almost 50 years and failed to reinvest mostly in the past 15 years when it was booked out all year round with large-scale productions. This period was also marked by aggressive new competition for such projects by the former Soviet bloc countries such as the Czech Republic and Hungary and more recently competition closer to home from the opening of the Titanic Studios in Belfast and the nearby Ashford Studios.
Following the end of the first season of Camelot in 2010 (scrapped by its Canadian producers Starz) Ardmore sound stages have remained mostly unoccupied since and with no new finance to upgrade to match competition. The state is unlikely to directly support Ardmore in any way as it would have to do likewise for Ashford studios, and why should it they are both owned by private enterprises. Ardmore may have been a close contender for Dracula but there are many other issues that have been long-fingered and need to be addressed by the Irish Film Board, a good place to start would be implementing the creative capital report.
Tom Dowling 2013
Categories: Film and TV