Saturday, August 20, 2011

No one shouted Cut!

I was in the process of writing a lengthy post in response to the Creative Capital report when despair got the better of me.

Suffice it to say there is no examination in the report of the profitabiltiy of Irish audiovisual companies, nor of their sustainability in the absence of State support.

Nor is there any accounting for where all the public money has gone over the last 18 years, a sum greater than half a billion Euro. Yes, it can be said that it mostly went into development and production but what value remains? A very few good films but is it, in effect, a bad loan book?

The report concludes with forty-two recommended initiatives under six headings. Only one of these initiatives is to be led by industry - IBEC is tasked with establishing a piracy prevention and policy group. The other forty-one initiatives are to be undertaken by agencies in the public sector either singly or in combination.

The entitled folks of the Irish film industry ask not what they can do for the country but what the country can do for them.

The title of this post paraphrases the title of a book written by John Healy, 'No One Shouted "Stop"'. He was writing about a period of decline in his homeplace, Charlestown, Co. Mayo and the political system which failed to address it. An irony insofar as he was very much a chorusmaster for the kind of politics which has the country where it is today.

Our film policy is no different in its deficiencies and there is remarkably little questioning of it. We are easily distracted by Sean Penn's funny hairstyle, Steven Soderbergh's action antics, Glenn Close's gender-bending, or Gerard Depardieu's shakes on a plane. It's easy to forget that we're footing the bill, whether the PR be good or bad.

At a time when industrial relations in the business have descended to something near anarchy - an outcome, in part, of gross failure to examine the effects of an overly generous co-production policy and of pursuing that policy as if the state were itself a producer - the last thing we should be doing is wasting the little money we have on profligate or hubristic policies.

The late Peter Mair's talk at the MacGill Summer School is printed in part in today's Irish Times. I'm not convinced that many people involved in film will read it and perhaps even if they did read it they might think it has nothing to do with them.

This line from his talk is as valid for our film policy as it is for so many other areas of our public spending - Partly because of the tradition of being hostile to the State and wanting to take advantage of it, we see the State as something you can milk for your own benefit, rather than something you sustain and contribute to.

Practices in the Irish film industry are, right now, as mendacious and meretricious as they have ever been. It's a veritable audiovisual milking parlour and the Creative Capital report does nothing to address the endemic problems.

Nobody wants to go on the record about bullying, intimidation and harassment, or golden co-production handshakes, or the sort of corporate sleight of hand that closes one door against creditors while opening another door to carry on business as usual with the State.

There is of course a contradiction to the title of this post. Someone did shout, Cut!. That someone was Colm McCarthy and we all recoiled in horror because it would be wrong to do away with the Irish Film Board.

It would not be wrong, however, to change the way the IFB does business, to restrict and re-focus policy, to address issues of transparency and accountability, to prevent even the perception that some applicants might be favoured more than others.

In fact it would be folly not to make these changes and contrary, therefore, to the broader interests of the Irish audiovisual sector.


Anonymous said...

Anyone got there hands on the letter sent out to all "crew members" by SPI Film & TV Drama Committee... Aka Andrew Lowe, David Collins, Des Martin, Dom Wright, James Flynn, Paul Donovan, Tristan Orpen Lynch??

irish film portal said...

When was that sent? By what means was it sent? And to whom was it sent?

Would I be right in guessing it might have something to with recent instances of alleged intimidation?

nada said...

I was also preparing some sort of reply to the report, but apathy got the better of me.

Does anyone really care?

Like you, Ted, I was horified at the lack of any real business information (figures on foreign sales?) or argument in the report.

The EUR 1 billion figure for this new monster is laughable, coming only a year after the traditional EUR 200 million 'value' of the 'industry' was bumped up to EUR 0.5 billion on the basis of... a questionnaire! (And the report that announced that quantum leap forward failed even to reveal the content of that questionnaire.) Anyone have a copy?

Partly in reaction to that earlier report, I did post an article in a dedicated blog ( on sectoral smokescreening.

Including Ted Sheehy reference.