Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Work in Progress...

In a post at the beginning of the month (here) I said I would write a post about multiple offers to individuals/companies in the same Irish Film Board funding rounds and take a look at the perception that Board members are somehow connected with an undue proportion of projects funded by the agency.

Well, I'm beginning to wish I hadn't because it's turned into an excel file that looks very like a minefield. There are more questions than answers.

If you've been around this business long enough in what is, after all, a very small country, you will know many of the personal and professional connections between people. But one-time joint directors of a company may no longer be on speaking terms. A former producing-directing partnership may have irreconcilable differences.

And, even if there is a connection, direct or indirect between individuals or between individuals and companies and any state funding agency, one cannot necessarily infer that the connection constitutes what might be termed an 'interest'.

It would be useful to know how the IFB defines such an 'interest'.

And again, when it comes to the disbursement of public funding, an offer of a development or production loan does not in itself mean that the money has been given over.

Might it mean, however, that other applications were turned down or not considered because scarce resources were already committed?

And what of those circumstances where loans are provided to projects submitted by third-party companies that then hire companies or individuals who, being paid subsequently for work or services, might be perceived to have benefited, indirectly, from decisions they had a part in? Might that be construed as an 'interest'?

It may be that this is just a matter of perception. Let's see what is on the record. Here is the relevant passage from the Irish Film Board's latest annual report (for 2008):

Board Members - Disclosure of Transactions
In the normal course of business the Irish Film Board may approve assistance to film projects and enter into other contractual arrangements with undertakings in which Board Members are employed or otherwise interested. The Irish Film Board has adopted procedures in relation to the disclosures of interests by Board members and these procedures were adhered to during the year. In 2008 the following loans were approved in which a Board Member was employed or had an interest:
Lesley McKimm Newgrange Pictures
Happy Ever Afters (Production) 250,000. Newgrange Pictures also received three unquantified offers of assistance for the production of Stella Days (Feature Film), Killing Time (Documentary) and Population (Documentary) in 2008.
James Morris Treasure Entertainment
The Eclipse (Production) 850,000
Tristan Orpen Lynch Subotica Entertainment
La Mula (Production) 500,000, Advance Party (Development) 15,000, An Evening of Long Goodbyes (Development) 25,000, Bernadette (Development) 30,000, Tillsonburg (Development) 21,000, Unless (Development) 25,000
Kirsten Sheridan Blindside Films
Some Rain Must Fall (Development) 20,000

Total €1,736,000

1. The actual loan figure given for Happy Ever Afters in the accounts is €1,000,000, perhaps €750,000 was committed in 2007? Also 197,500 is credited to Newgrange in the accounts under the Multiple Project Development scheme, perhaps the decision predates the appointment of the then Board, or the full value of the MPD scheme was accounted for in an earlier report?
2. A further €325,919 for Treasure Entertainment is in the accounts under the Multiple Project Development scheme, perhaps the decision predates the appointment of the then Board, or the full value of the MPD scheme was accounted for in an earlier report?
3. It is stated in the report, inter alia that the IFB will pay "serious attention" to submissions or applications where, "the amount of BSÉ/IFB’s investment corresponds to the level of involvement of Irish personnel, elements and facilities in the project." Should we presume that members of the Board absent themselves from decisions regarding projects which result in the hiring of "personnel, elements and facilities" with which they may be associated? Would the particular involvement of Irish personnel, elements and facilities be known at the time a project is submitted?
4. In 2008 the IFB had just over four production loan applications for feature films per month (51), of which about half were successful.
5. Approximately 60 fiction development loan applications were successful in 2008, giving a 'success' rate of about 25%.
6. How does the IFB provide financially for "unquantified offers of assistance"?
7. If the total quoted above - €1,736,000 - is accurate, what percentage does it represent of total production and development loans in 2008? Is that percentage higher or lower than in previous years, and how do 2009 and 2010 compare?
8. Should a funded production run into difficulties, may any Board members associated with the project be involved in decisions concerning that project?

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