Tuesday, July 27, 2010

So fare thee well, UKFC... and some capital news

The startling sudden abolition of the UK Film Council by the British Government will sharpen thinking in certains parts of our own administration. "If the Brits can do it" they will ask, "then why don't we?"

The UKFC is to be wound down, to an April 2012 deadline, and there is no indication as to how the British government intends to disperse the money it promises is still committed to UK film production.

Given the news from across the water it now seems certain that Colm McCarthy or some other advisor will recommend the Irish Film Board's abolition again this year. Some solace may be gained from the Government's Capital Expenditure Review 2010-2016, which was published yesterday. It states at 12.2.4 -

Film Sector
The strategic objective of this programme is to support the development of the film and audio-visual content industry in Ireland, creating employment in this area, developing the indigenous industry as an exporter of cultural product and also attracting inward investment from the international film industry.

This is backed by a commitment that, More than €100 million will be invested in film and audio-visual content development and production programmes to ensure existing commitments are met, leverage inward investment, build a new skills base and to promote the film and audio-visual content industries in Ireland.

The report comments, There has been substantial investment in Film and TV production projects over the last number of years through the Irish Film Board, and continued concentration in this area can build on achievements in recent years. The strategy to develop this sector will be finalised later this year, aiming to double the economic contribution of the sector within five years.

A table indicates that the IFB is to receive capital funding of €15m per annum (a cut of about 12% on this year's allocation) between 2011 and 2016. Will there be a commensurate cut in the IFB's current expenditure and might it be better in those circumstances to work towards an IFB MK3 than to keep the currently operating model?

Across the water much has been made of the UKFC's annual operating costs of £3m but since UKFC film investment funding comes for the most part from the UK Lottery its actual annual exchequer cost is a good deal less than that of the IFB.

Late yesterday the Guardian produced an interesting snapshot of the performance of 24 UKFC backed films. It is hardly comprehensive because it deals only with the films' theatrical earnings in the UK and globally, where the latter information is available. It doesn't, as far as I am aware, take account of later earnings on other platforms.

Three of the titles cited are of interest to us in Ireland -

The Wind that Shakes the Barley
UK Film Council funding: £545,000.
Total UK take: £4,870,290, total global take: £14,777,563

UK Film Council funding: £216,342.
Total UK take: £775,221, total global take: £1,744,581

The Magdalene Sisters
UK Film Council funding: £600,000.
Total UK take: £1,279,771, total global take: in excess of £5m

These are among the more successful 'small' films and knowledgeable readers will already have spotted the anomalies. The 'UK take' referred to in each case is really an Irish take since more than 80% of these grosses were earned at the box office in Ireland.

Aside from that there is the thought that were it not for the UKFC these films, which attracted substantial Irish audiences, are unlikely to have been financed. In the aftermath of the UKFC's abolition we might therefore wonder what films with Irish subjects will now not be made?

And there, actually, is the key argument for the retention of the IFB, not its French, British, Spanish, Polish or Italian originated co-productions with their spin-off work for Irish post houses.

In the meantime we have John McDonagh's The Guards to look forward to, perhaps the last of the UKFC's 'Irish' films.

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