Thursday, January 27, 2011

Distribution matters

A number of Irish titles are being released over the coming months.

The first will be Juanita Wilson's As if I am Not There (Element Pictures)which goes on release on March 4 with a '16' classification, following its first Irish screening during JDIFF.

Another title being screened during JDIFF and which has been classified '16' prior to its release is Carmel Winters's Snap (Eclipse). It does not yet have a release date.

David Keating's Wake Wood (Vertigo Films) and PJ Dillon's Catalyst project Rewind are meanwile both scheduled for a release on March 25.

Killing Bono (Paramount Pictures) will be released the following week, on April 1st. It has a '15A' classification, as has Conor Horgan's Catalyst project One Hundred Mornings (Blinder Films) which is another likely release in the coming months.

Mark O'Connor's Between the Canals is getting a release on March 18th, the same date as the latest Ken Loach film, Route Irish which, despite the title, has little to do with these shores.

Route Irish is also being shown at JDIFF but I'm only mentioning it here because of the unusual nature of its release by UK company, Artificial Eye. It is getting what they term in the trade a 'multi-platform' release.

What this means is that Route Irish will be available on March 18th in cinemas, Sky Movies Box Office, and Curzon On Demand. The film will be released in at least 20 cinemas across the UK (and Ireland?) from 18 March, the day it will also become available to Sky Anytime and Sky Movies Box Office’s 10m subscribers for two weeks only.

This will be the fourth collaboration between Artificial Eye and Sky, the previous simultaneous releases being Edge of Heaven, Julia and Life During Wartime. In addition, the film will be available day and date via Curzon On Demand, the new 'on demand' service from Curzon Cinemas, as well as via FilmFlex.

Artificial Eye and Curzon are part of the one exhibition/distribution outfit. According to Philip Knatchbull, CEO of Curzon Artificial Eye, "This is the fourth film we have co-released with BSkyB where 'Public' and 'Home' Cinema become synonymous. The inclusion this time of both Curzon On Demand and FilmFlex give added impetus in establishing this new release pattern for future films."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

JDIFF - Irish Programme

The Jameson Dublin International Film Festival launched last night. Aside from the almost overwhelming bounty of cinema from around the world there is a particularly strong Irish programme.

The Irish programme is notable for a collection of authored feature documentaries the quality of which we may not have seen gathered together before at one festival; and for the work of two new feature directors, Carmel Winters and Juanita Wilson, which may presage greater things to come.

The feature documentaries include -
Tim Robinson: Connemara / An Ear To The Earth an exploration of the work of the writer and cartographer, directed by Pat Collins.

The Door Ajar about Antonin Artaud's 1937 Irish interlude, directed by Paddy Jolley.

Living Colour about an artists' studio, directed by Eamon Little.

Build Something Modern about Irish architecture in missionary Africa, directed by Paul Rowley & Nicky Gogan.

Men Of Arlington about a London hostel housing forgotten Irishmen, directed by Enda Hughes.

Barbaric Genius Paul Duane's feature version of his documentary about John Healy

Good Cake, Bad Cake: The Story of LiR Shimmy Marcus's film about the career of Dublin band, LiR.

For animation enthusiasts there is a double bill of
Miss Remarkable And Her Career / The External World

The Festival also has a programme of Irish Films From Elsewhere, showing four of the films made with Irish Film Board funding that were filmed outside Ireland by non-Irish film-makers.

The films and the reciprocal funding policy that underpinned them will be the subject of a panel discussion with former IFB CEO Simon Perry and the producers of all the films – details to be made available on February 4th.

The films being shown are:

Essential Killing
Sat 19 Feb / Screen 1 / 8.40pm
Director: Jerzy Skolimowski

Circus Fantasticus
Sun 20 Feb / Cineworld 11 / 6.30pm
Director: Janez Burger

Mon 21 feb / Cineworld 11 / 6.30pm
Director: Ferenc Török

Lapland Odyssey(Napapiirin Sankarit)
Tues 22 Feb / Cineworld 11 / 6.30pm
Director: Dome Karukoski
[If I'm not mistaken this comedy has been a huge hit in Finland. Thanks to an anonymous commenter for confirmation here, and the film is still on release)

Tax break locked on until the end of 2015

A press release yesterday evening confirms that Section 481 Film Investment Tax Relief is to be retained until December 31, 2015.

This has been inserted into the Finance Bill since it was initially published because the only mention of Section 481 in it at that stage was a clarification of changed nomenclature in the taxation code. I wonder why it had not been inserted earlier as a matter of course, and whose influence brought about the amendment?

Announcing the decision yesterday Minister Mary Hanafin said, “The current scheme was due to expire at the end of 2012 and because of its significant and positive impact on this sector a decision was taken by the Government today to extend it in the Finance Bill.”

The scheme was last amended and extended in 2008. The amendments increased the overall ceiling on qualifying expenditure from €35m to €50m, increased the individual investor cap for those wishing to invest finance in film or television projects in Ireland to €50,000 per annum from the previous limit of €31,750 and increased the relief on that investment to 100% from 80%.

The changes resulted in Ireland being able to offer approximately 26%-28% net benefit to film and television producers, up from the previous 20%. In 2010 fifty seven projects were approved for S481 funding with an Irish spend of some €165m. Does this suggest an Exchequer or Revenue cost of €44.55m (27% of €165m)?

Minister Hanafin went on to say, “It was imperative that we afford this industry a long term growth perspective and build on the successes to date. In a week in which Irish movies are performing to rave reviews at the Sundance Film Festival and during which the short film The Crush is nominated for an Oscar, this is a vote of confidence in our film practitioners and in the sector as a whole.”

Now all the minority government has to do is get the Finance Bill passed.

The Crush on Oscar

Congratulations to Michael Creagh and the team behind The Crush, a nominee in the category of Best Live Action Short Film at this year's Academy Awards. The film was previously voted Best International Short at the 2009 Foyle Film Festival.

The Crush is distributed by Network Ireland Television who also distribute another Best Live Action Short Film nominee, Wish 143.

Creagh works under the banner of Purdy Pictures and made The Crush independently of short film support schemes.

The Crush is the latest in a long line of Irish live action short film nominees stretching back to Tim Loane and Dave Duggan's Dance Lexie Dance in 1998.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Slow Motion Governance

The Government is falling, albeit in slow motion.

Still no new CEO at the Irish Film Board, or at least not one whose appointment has been sanctioned by Government and publicly announced. It was mid-July, six months ago, when news of Simon Perry's departure was released.

The IFB's first production meeting of the year is scheduled for this coming Friday, the 28th January. If that can proceed without the involvement of a new CEO it might be argued that the agency has sufficient personnel resources for the time being and could save the cost of appointing a new CEO.

UPDATE (25/01/2011)
From the Irish Film Board, backers of five films at the Rotterdam Film Festival this week: Simon Perry in the position of IFB consultant will be attending the festival from Saturday 29th until Thursday 3rd February and IFB Production Executive Emma Scott will be attending Monday 31st January to Wednesday 2nd February.

It is likely now that there will be a new minister in charge of the Department by St. Patrick's Day. After John O'Donoghue's incumbency, and the succession of ministers who followed him, the Department's political value and status has greatly diminished.

The Arts/Culture element of the brief has been colonised and led by concerns - employment, returns on investment, multiplier effects - which are more properly the ambit of other government departments.

Expenditures on culture will, naturally, have effects that are measurable in economic terms. But those effects should not be the basis for exchequer support for culture. Nor should they be offered as a form of apology or justification for supporting cultural activity in times of financial hardship.

If these effects become the basis for that support then the cultural work that results from the State's support will be valued only in terms of outcomes that are measurable in economic or monetary criteria, rather than for the work's inherent cultural value, or lack of it.

Using these criteria the film Leap Year, for instance, is a resounding success for cultural policy. But is it?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Solas makes the news

People are beginning to ask questions publicly about the status of the Solas Picture Palace arthouse cinema development in Galway.

The questions are being asked of Galway City Council due to ongoing traffic problems caused by the development's postion on a tight hairpin bend. The road is the only westward route past the docks towards the Salthill area.

The sod was turned on the site in July 2009 but relatively little work seems to have taken place over the last twelve months. The group promoting the cinema have been asked to attend a meeting of the City Council to explain the delay.

I have heard anecdotally that flooding of the site had created difficulties after heavy rainfall in late 2009. Any possibility of ongoing flooding would be a major concern since a 176-seat cinema is to be built undergound in the complex.

Other (perhaps related) matters that have reportedly arisen are damage to neigbouring property, and unforeseen difficulties encountered with the pile-driving for the building's structural supports. Health and safety concerns have also been mentioned as as a possible factor.

I took these pictures in June of last year and I don't believe there has been much progress on the site since then. Meanwhile the Eye Cinema received planning permission in July 2009 to open four additional screens (500 seats), a development that might cause competitive/supply problems for Solas.

[click photos to enlarge]

With the closure of the Kino Cinema in Cork, apparently due to debt of around €100,000 incurred in trying to redevelop the cinema, it seems that prospects for cinema diversity, or 'cultural cinema' as it is officially called, are taking a bit of a hit.

The sources of funding I am aware of for the Galway project include, so far -
€2,000,000 ACCESS II (Dept Tourism Culture & Sport, 2007)
€ 1,960,000 Site value, 15 Lr Merchants Rd (Galway City Council, 2009)
€ 750,000 Cultural Cinema Consortium (Film Board/Arts Council, 2005)
€ 650,000 (loan) Western Development Commission, Investment Fund
€ 75,000 Irish Film Board (2007)
€6.5m (approx total)

(i) As of Nov. 2010 Solas had been paid €720,468 in 2009 and €143,642 in 2010 by the Dept. TC&S, presumably as instalments of the €2m ACCESS II capital grant;
(ii) the Arts Council annual accounts for 2008 show capital development grants under the Cultural Cinema heading of €70,000 for Solas Galway Picture Palace and €672,500 for Galway City Council.
(iii) An EC MEDIA Consultation (Oct/Dec 2009) on cinema digitisation states: For example, in Galway, the local authority invested €2m in the purchase of a site to facilitate the building of a 3 screen arthouse cinema. The Arts Council and the Irish Film Board invested €1.25m; and the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism invested €2m. These investments were for the development of the cinema including fit-out and digital projection equipment.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Some further thoughts on the IFTA Nominations

There seems to be something of a calendar issue that the IFTA awards haven't quite got to grips with over the eight years of their more recent incarnation.

I suspect that this is because the awards are caught between, on the one hand, applauding successful work and, on the other, marketing new Irish films so that they can be sold to cinema audiences as IFTA winners. The two aspirations don't quite fit together comfortably in the same awards context.

It could be that the backers of the awards, the Broadcasters and the IFB, place different demands on IFTA. A scan of the TV nomination lists reveals nothing that has not been broadcast whereas several of the Irish feature films have been shown only to very limited audiences at one or two festivals.

With one exception (a performance in an Irish film) the international nominee categoies all relate to films that are already distributed - even the King's Speech gets in by a whisker.

If one compares the Dublin Film Critics Circle top ten Irish titles of 2010 with the IFTA nominations (see below, I've italicised the documentary titles) there seems to be an unusually small amount of overlap.

Perrier's Bounty (four IFTA nominations) didn't make the critics' top ten, nor did Swansong (five IFTA nominations) and some of the films on the critics' list - like Savage and Zonad - were nominees at last year's awards, before they were released.

I don't believe that this accounts for one particularly glaring omission from the IFTAs, Ivan Kavanagh's The Fading Light, or for the absence of All Good Children which was released before the year end. Unless no submissions were received for either film, which would itself raise a plethora of other questions.

Dublin Film Critics Circle Best Irish Film 2010
1. His & Hers
2. Savage
3. The Fading Light
4. The Pipe
5. Zonad
6. All Good Children
7. Pyjama Girls
8. Eamon
9. Foxes
10. Colony
[numbers in bold refer to IFTA nominees last year]

I have been a jury member at the IFTAs and I believe they are a very positive development for the film and TV industry. They give credit where credit is due, and it comes from where it's most welcome - one's colleagues. That said, a little clarification about calendar and submission criteria would go a long way.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

IFTA Noms, 2011

The Irish Film & Television Academy Award nominations have just been announced for 2011. I have asterisked the titles that may have received festival screenings in Ireland but have yet to be released theatrically here.

This can be contrasted with the nominations in the 'international' categories, all of which apply to films which I believe have been distributed here.

I have only listed the film and film/television categories. For the full list check Interesting to note that the 'Actress in a Lead Role' category is an award across both film and television, whereas their male colleagues have separate awards for each platform. Might that be ascribed to an absence of roles, a dearth of good performances, or a shortage of submitted performances?

Title No. of nominations
*As If I Am Not There 6
*The Runway 5
Swansong: Story of Occi Byrne 5
*Rewind 4
Perrier's Bounty 4
*Parked 4
*My Brothers 4
*Sensation 3
Inception 3
The Way Back 2
The Social Network 2
A Prophet 2
Burma Soldier 1
Chloe 1
*Circus Fantasticus 1
*Essential Killing 1
*Lapland Odyssey 1
Pyjama Girls 1
*Snap 1
Tamara Drewe 1
The Ghost 1
The Kids are All Right 1
The King's Speech 1
The Next Three Days 1
The Pipe 1
Toy Story 3 1
What We Leave in Our Wake 1
Winter's Bone 1

Best Film
As If I Am Not There - James Flynn (Octagon Films)
Perrier's Bounty - Alan Moloney (Parallel Film)
Sensation - Katie Holly (Blinder Films)
Swansong: Story of Occi Byrne - Edwina Forkin (Zanzibar Films)
The Runway - Macdara Kelleher (Fastnet Films)

Director Film
PJ Dillon - Rewind (Carbon Films)
Tom Hall - Sensation (Blinder Films)
Ian Power - The Runway (Fastnet Films)
Juanita Wilson - As If I Am Not There (Octagon Films)

Script Film
Will Collins - My Brothers (Rubicon Films)
Conor McDermottroe - Swansong: Story of Occi Byrne (Zanzibar Films)
Mark O'Rowe - Perrier's Bounty(Parallel Film)
Juanita Wilson - As If I Am Not There (Octagon Films)

Actor in a Lead Role - Film
Martin McCann - Swansong: Story of Occi Byrne (Zanzibar Films)
Colm Meaney - Parked (Ripple World Pictures Limited)
Cillian Murphy - Perrier's Bounty (Parallel Films)
Liam Neeson - Chloe (Element Pictures Distribution)

Actress in a Lead Role - Film / Television
Ruth Bradley - Love/Hate (Octagon Films)
Orla Brady - Mistresses (Ecosse Films for BBC Wales)
Amy Huberman - Rewind (Carbon Films)
Sarah Flood - Fair City (RTÉ)
Charlene McKenna - RAW (Octagon Films / Ecosse Films)

Actor in a Supporting Role - Film
Pierce Brosnan - The Ghost (Element Pictures Distribution)
Colin Farrell - The Way Back (Exclusive Films)
Brendan Gleeson - Perrier’s Bounty (Parallel Films)
Cillian Murphy - Inception (Warner Bros.)

Actress in a Supporting Role - Film
Kerry Condon - The Runway (Fastnet Films)
Marcella Plunkett - Swansong: Story of Occi Byrne (Zanzibar Films)
Saoirse Ronan - The Way Back (Exclusive Films)
Eileen Walsh - Snap (Samson Films)

The George Morrison Feature Documentary Award
Burma Soldier - Julie le Brocquy (le Brocquy Fraser)
Pyjama Girls - Maya Derrington (Still Films)
The Pipe – Risteard Ó'Domhnaill& Rachel Lysaght (ScannáinInbhearTeo)
What We Leave in Our Wake - Pat Collins (Harvest Films)

Anam an Amhráin - Sean O Cualain (Sónta/Cartoon Saloon)
The External World - Ines Schiller, David O'Reilly
Head Space – Barry O’Donoghue (Barley Films)
The Octonauts - Darragh O'Connell (Brown Bag Films)

Short Film
Deep End Dance – Conor Horgan (Wildfire Films)
Noreen - Juliette Bonass (El Zorrero Films)
Pentecost - Peter McDonald (EMU Productions)
Small Change – Cathy Brady (Cherry RED Pictures)

International Film
A Prophet (Element Pictures Distribution)
Inception (Warner Bros.)
The Social Network (Sony)
Toy Story 3 (Walt Disney Pictures)

International Actor
Russell Crowe - The Next Three Days (Lionsgate Films)
Leonardo DiCaprio - Inception (Warner Bros.)
Jesse Esienberg - The Social Network (Sony)
Rahar Rahim - A Prophet (Element Pictures Distribution)

International Actress
Annette Benning - The Kids are All Right (Universal)
Helena Bonham-Carter - The King's Speech (The Weinstein Company)
Jennifer Lawrence - Winter's Bone (Artificial Eye)
Natasha Petrovic - As If I Am Not There (Octagon Films)

CRAFT / TECHNICAL CATEGORIES (across film and television)
Costume Design
Joan Bergin - The Tudors (World 2000 Entertainment)
Consolata Boyle - Tamara Drewe (Ruby Films)
Joan O'Cleary - Swansong - Story of Occi Byrne (Zanzibar Films)
Susan Scott - Cup Cake (Wee Buns)

Director of Photography
PJ Dillon - The Runway (Fastnet Films)
Tim Fleming - As If I Am Not There (Octagon Films)
Donal Gilligan - Love/Hate (RTÉ)
Owen McPolin - The Silence (Company Pictures)

Dermot Diskin - Love/Hate (Octagon Films)
Guy Montgomery - Parked (Ripple World Pictures Limited)
Nathan Nugent - As If I Am Not There (Octagon Films)
Emer Reynolds - My Brothers (Rubicon Films)

Make Up & Hair (Sponsored by MAC)
Jill Brennan – Swansong: Story of Occi Byrne (Zanita Films)
Caroline McCurdy - Na Cloigne (ROSG)
Tom McInerney, Dee Corcoran - The Tudors (World 2000 Entertainment)
Louise Myler - Parked (Ripple World Pictures Limited)

Original Score
Niall Byrne - Parked (Ripple World Pictures)
Ray Harman - Na Cloigne (ROSG)
Lance Hogan - Lapland Odyssey (Ripple World Pictures)
Gary Lightbody & Jacknife Lee - My Brothers (Rubicon Films)

Production Design
Ray Ball - The Runway (Fastnet Films)
Tamara Conboy - Sensation (Bl!nder Films)
Tom Conroy - The Tudors (World 2000 Entertainment)
Susie Cullen - The Silence (Company Pictures)

Circus Fantasticus - Daniel Birch, Robert Flanagan (Fastnet Films)
Essential Killing - Robert Flanagan, Michelle Cunniffe, Fiadhnait McCann (Element Pictures)
Rewind - Patrick Hanlon, Ken Galvin, Niall Brady (Carbon Films)
The Silence - Karl Merren, Ken Galvin, Peter Blayney (Company Pictures)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Room at the top

Since we have yet to hear confirmation of an appointment of a new CEO by the Irish Film Board we'll have to presume that it does not have a CEO at present, given that Simon Perry's contract ended on December 31st. It may be safely assumed that the Deputy CEO, in the parlance of the Irish civil service, is 'acting, up' in the interim.

Meanwhile, it may have escaped folks' notice that the Department of Tourism, Culture & Sport has been looking for a new Secretary General (head of the Department) since December 17. The deadline for applications is later this week, January 13, and the position is open to candidates from outside the civil and public service. That said, it is most likely to go to an internal candidate.

The job specification makes for interesting reading and, given that there's likely to be a new Minister at the helm in a matter of weeks, we are entering a period during which policies for culture and film may be reinvigorated by fresh blood at the helm.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Mary Poppins is... Irish film, who'd have thought it!

Replete with leftovers and in a semi-coma I was watching Mary Poppins during the holiday break when I was roused from my torpor by the word amadán uttered, I was sure, by the animated fox on the screen.

Yes, it definitely had said amadán. Neither idiot, nor fool, nor simpleton but amadán, a word in the Irish language that fondly conveys the meaning of all three English words, and then some.

So I looked up Mary Poppins and what did I find but that its two producers - Walt Disney and Bill Walsh - were of close Irish extraction. Walsh, whose mammy was from Ireland, also has a screenplay credit.

So whatever about the source material Mary Poppins is an Irish film, diasporically speaking, and even contains a word in the Irish language to prove it.

For illustrative purposes I may in future refer to 'Irish' films that qualify as Irish in this way as amadán films, or scannáin amadach.

Agus ath-bhlian fé mhaise duitse, freisin.