Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A trip down Merlin lane...

In the context of the currently unfolding Magma story I found myself giving out about corporatised film-making in Ireland the other day. It comes in the wake of Merlin, Little Bird and the various other corporate messes since 1993. Very few people, myself included, have the time, energy or motivation to follow the vast sums of money - public money - that have vanished over the years.

Vanished insofar as there is hardly any self-sustaining enterprise resulting from all the expenditure. It remains, basically, a glorified 'hiring fair' that is hugely subsidised by public money, makes a small number of contractors quite wealthy and gives a tax break to the comfortably well-off.

So, Merlin Film Group, the Concorde Anois studio, the tax relief that had to be clawed back... you can read all about it here. It doesn't get half enough attention and Boorman's involvement in the company was not mentioned at all in the extensive press release announcing his lifetime IFTA gong last year. Funny that, just one year after the judgement.

The Revenue claimed at the start of a long, tortuous legal process that a total of about €23 million in tax relief had gone awol in a number of Section 35/481 funds. This 2009 judgement, Fortune v Revenue Commissioners, followed an earlier case, Bartondale v Revenue Commissioners, in which Merlin failed to convince the court that the Revenue were wrong to withdraw its tax relief. The Revenue won both cases.

The link above is to a specimen case taken by an individual who had his tax relief clawed back because the Revenue claimed the money could not be shown to have been spent in the jurisdiction. They said money was inexplicably transferred to a Phillipines company. The film Angela Mooney Dies Again gets a mention, a film that hasn't been seen much since it was made and ironically, if memory seves me correctly, began life as a project backed by the Arts Council.

There was a great story doing the rounds at the time that Tommy Tiernan wore an un-cleared (un-licensed) Superman t-shirt in the film that later had to be air-brushed out in post production. If it's true it's a text book example of trade-mark and brand clearance issues in film.


Anonymous said...

Kieran Corrigan of Merlin Films is to work with Neil Jordan and John Boorman has to make the film 'Broken Dreams'. ????

irish film portal said...

Nothing essentially wrong with that - I presume the Revenue will deal with the project with the usual diligence if the project looks for S481 money.

While there were what might be termed 'legacy' issues with Merlin and S481 (from the time when Mr Corrigan was also a director of Concorde Anois) the company was also involved, without any issues, in films like The General.

A director of Merlin (I don't know if he is still connected to the company) was one of the original three-man Bord Snip MK1 that recommended the abolition of the Film Board some years back so it's interesting to see the company going back to the well with this project.

The genesis of 'Broken Dreams' goes back to the time of Boorman and Jordan's initial collaborations on 'Excalibur' and 'Angel'.