Monday, December 19, 2011

Good Santa...

Did I hear this correctly out of the corner of my ear the other day... Producers of The Guard have sent a DVD copy of the film to every member of the Oireachtas?

Well at least the TDs and senators will know what value to put on the gift when they report it to the folks at SIPO.
[update - this may be part of a copyright protection/anti-illegal downloading campaign reported here and here. I think the problem is overstated, given the weakness of Irish broadband infrastructure, while legal online purchase (Amazon/LoveFilm etc), downloading and Sky BO business is under reported. And in these instances is VAT payable in this jurisdiction?]

Other Irish interest titles being flogged by the multiples include the following (leaving out the TV and stand-up spin-offs)...

Lots and lots of Brendan Gleeson, and interesting to see oldie I Went Down selling for twice as much as the more recent Perrier's Bounty.

On the other hand you might prefer to gift someone a stake in a new Irish film rather than trawl through the back catalogue... in which case...

Mark O'Connor's producer has been in touch to say We are going do something a little less conventional and make a really low budget independent feature next February. We are trying to fund it through the "crowdfunding" website Mark's two previous feature length films (Between the Canals and King of the Travellers) were supported by the Irish Film Board and Broadcast Authority of Ireland. Peter Coonan (Love/Hate) and John Connors (King of the Travellers) will star in the new film.

We are mounting a viral campaign with the goal of reaching €15,000 in 42 days. If we are not successful and do not reach €15,000, everyone’s contribution will not be taken from their card and we won’t receive any donations, that’s how “crowdfunding” works. This is how you donate:

· Go to our Fundit page -
· Click the green icon that says: Fundit underneath our video clip
· Set up a fundit account (very easy), agree to the terms and conditions and press create an account button
· Click on how much € you want to pledge, then enter your debit/credit card details and fire away

Happy Christmas and New Year from Irish Film Portal!!

[32,514 page views... and counting]

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Ardmore Studios

In a post during October about the Irish Film Board's other capital spending in recent years I put together a table which included payments to Ardmore Studios totalling €500,000 for operational purposes over 2006/7.

There was no public discussion of these payments at the time. Nor was there any announcement made which explained the virtue or the necessity of this money being offered to Ardmore.

The payments were not made public until the annual reports for 2006 and 2007 were published, respectively, in 2008 and 2009. The annual reports record these as operating grants rather than recoverable loans.

In a 'Sounding Off' piece for the current issue of Film Ireland I mentioned several of the pressing issues in the film business that we do not openly discuss. Nor do we encourage any wider public discourse or engagement with these issues, one of which is Ardmore Studios.

This is what I wrote, The Irish public owns a piece of Ardmore Studios [32%] but its fate is not a matter of public discussion. What’s going to happen to Ardmore when the new studios open at Ballyhenry? Ardmore has been directly and indirectly supported by the Irish taxpayer in recent years but we won’t talk about that. Is Ardmore now going to cost us more money?

Ardmore raises another serious matter that is implicit if unstated in the 'Sounding Off' article - potential conflicts of interest in the sector and the perception that decision-making could be compromised by those potential conflicts.

In the 2006 annual report the Irish Film Board provides the following information on disclosure of Board Members' interests:
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 by Board members and these were adhered to during the year. The members and the Board complied with the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies covering situations of personal interest. The members did not receive any documentation on the transactions nor did the members participate in or attend any Board discussions relating to the matters.

The report notes under the above:
Kevin Moriarty Ardmore Studios 400,000

The IFB annual report for 2007 notes:
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.

Kevin Moriarty Ardmore Studios 100,000

This is clear. What is less clear is how, for instance, a Board member who is the director of a film or TV project funded by the Board would not be part of the decision-making on that project for the reasons above. Whereas the owner or director or employee of, for example, a facility business which might benefit far more substantially (than a director) from IFB funding for a project would be permitted, as a Board member, to be involved in approving that project for funding.

In 2006, for example, an 'International Production Fund' loan of €500,000 was made by the IFB to The Tudors. Presumably this loan was a factor in the decision of the production to shoot in Ireland at a time when S481 was both less competitive and less generous than it is now. The series filmed at Ardmore.

However, the standard disclosure is not made in respect of this loan so did the Board comply with the spirit of the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies covering situations of personal interest?

A contact has brought an article by Gavin Daly in last Sunday's Sunday Business Post to my attention. The article is headed Ardmore in talks with Film Board and states, The issues under discussion are understood to include funding plans for Ardmore

To quote further from Daly's article, Kevin Moriarty, managing director of Ardmore, said that he was in constant contact with the film board but was "not in a position to comment" on any funding talks. "We always have discussions with the film board. We talk to them about upcoming film productions and they talk to us. That's normal," he said.
He said the studio was "very busy at the moment" despite the difficult economic environment. Filming began at Ardmore last week on Byzantium, a vampire film directed by Neil Jordan and starring Saoirse Ronan and Gemma Arterton.

It is not stated in the article that Mr Moriarty has been a member of the Film Board since 2005.

In recent months the IFB approved a production loan of €1,180,000 for Byzantium. One can only assume that Ardmore Studios will benefit substantially from this loan, and that the production would not be taking place, or would not be taking place in Ireland if this loan was not forthcoming.

One must also assume, in the ordinary course of events, that any number of facility and service providers will be contacted by producers who are pricing facilities for forthcoming productions and that this information will be part of the budget documentation that is submitted to potential funders for consideration.

One can only presume, notwithstanding the very many sound reasons for supporting Byzantium, that all necessary disclosures were made by any IFB Board member(s) who might either benefit directly or indirectly from the production, or be in competition with other providers to other productions who themselves might stand to lose out by virtue of this (or any) project being funded while others were refused.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Walking the walk vs talking the talk...

Is anyone in a position to confirm information I have received during the last week from a few anonymous sources that crew are threatening to quit a project currently shooting because of delayed payment?

Budget 2012 - Film & the Arts

There is something very strange when, this long after a Budget has been published, neither the Department or Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht, the Irish Film Board or the Arts Council has quantified and published a breakdown (current/capital) of their budget for the year ahead.

In former years there would have been a table published which set out the current and capital amounts allocated under each area of the Department's remit, inculding subsidiary boards and agencies. And those agencies would in turn have issued a press release or statement to acknowledge the funding for the following year.

But this year, so far, I can find only one account of the Film Board's capital allocation for 2012 - my own blog posting of yesterday afternoon. There seems to be no clarity on the Board's administration budget for 2012. Is it a straight cut of 5% or 11% or 15% on this year's allocation? Your guess is as good as mine. [actually it's a 4% increase - see update below]

Similarly, the budget for the Arts Council is not at all clear - there is a greatly reduced capital expenditure line with the implication that the balance is to come from Lottery funds. There is no statement of the Council's current spending budget for 2012.

Either I'm missing something or a basic and embarassing error has been made somewhere in the public service, possibly as a result of the decision to split the budget decision-making and publication between two Departments over two days. Or is it conceivable that they might still be juggling current spending allocations for next year within the D/AH&G?

If you can enlighten me, please do.

Department statement here, includes this quote: In line with reductions in the Public Capital Programme, the capital allocation for the arts, culture and film area has been scaled back. However, the current funding allocation for 2012 to the Irish Film Board at €2.54m represents a modest increase of 4% over the 2011 provision. “It is important to remember that for every €1 of IFB investment close to €10 is generated in the economy” added Minister Deenihan. [I wonder does this exclude S481 spend effects? I will revisit this question in a future post]
Arts Council statement here
Film Board statement here
Minister speaking in the Dáil

Spending overview D/AH&G (€-,000)
A,H&G---306,089--308,170---275,585 -32,585 (-10.6%)
Current-245,274--245,355----231,585 -13,770 (-5.6%)
Capital---60,815---62,815-----44,000 -18,815 (-30.0%)

You can call him Herod

Word just in that Al Pacino is going to bring his Salome project to the Jameson Dublin Film Festival in February. It's a working of Wilde's play and a meditation on the author, both as a film and as a record of its staging with Pacino playing Herod and also directing.

At a guess it's already the hottest ticket.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Budgetary Matters

You have to dig a bit into yesterday's Budget (Day 1) paperwork to find the information relevant for the film sector. Here's what I've unearthed.

While there is a general statement of intent - through focus on supporting jobs in the film and TV sector through the Irish Film Board - the Board's exchequer funding is being cut from €16m to €13.15m. This is a significant cut - somewhat over 17% - and seems to refer only to the agency's capital budget for the year, the budget from which the Board's production and development funding is drawn.

There is an additional budget line for income derived from the Board's own activities, ie not from the exchequer. I presume that this refers in the main to loan recoupment. This brought in €300,000 in 2011 and is expected to bring in €500,000 in 2012.

I think this means that the Board will have an effective capital fund of €13.65m in 2012, contingent on that additional €500k coming in.

It remains unclear what budget the agency will be given for administration next year. The allocation for this year was €2.431m which was a cut of 12% on 2010. I'll update this post later when that information becomes available.

Update: 6pm, Dec 6 - Having perused the budget documentation that's been published this afternoon there still is no clear indication of what the IFB's current spending (administration) allocation will be for 2012.

That said, the omens aren't great, and not just for 2012. The total budget for current spending across the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (including all headings and subsidiary bodies) will be €232m in 2012, €218m in 2013, and €205m in 2014.

There is an interesting note on performance indicators in yesterday's documentation which refers in passing to film -
“Performance indicators” or PIs are measures of how well, or how poorly, a particular programme or scheme is achieving its objectives. The indicators may relate to effectiveness (“are the stated objectives being achieved?”), efficiency (“what are the unit costs associated with the programme?”) and may be expressed in absolute terms (“how many grants for programme X were processed in year 2011?”) or in comparative terms (“what is the international competitiveness ranking of Ireland’s public service?”).
For any programme, there are many different PIs that might be chosen. The challenge is to select indicators that are useful to policy-makers, and to those whose role is to scrutinise the effectiveness and efficiency of public spending. Less useful are indicators of mere activity or process, or “qualitative” measures that are hard to verify (e.g. “continue to provide high quality advice to Minister”).

Example of potentially useful PIs include the following:-
Sector: Arts & Culture
Output Indicator: Number of Irish films produced
Context and Impact Indicator: Export earnings from Irish films

I wonder how they will define Irish films?

Funding decisions - Irish Film Board

A number of things about these listings, notified on 25 Nov 2011.

Firstly, it is the first time in a long time (if ever) that the IFB has press released a funding round (if that is what it is) which is all to the good.

Secondly, it is described as a 'quarterly' round, as if that were standard practice. Rounds were notified every two months before this, and if there were production funding decisions taken between times they were usually, but not always, tacked on to the next round's listings. That will presumably happen more often now that there is to be only four rounds notified per year.
There is still a considerable lapse between the publication of unquantified provisional offers of funding and the publication of the actual amount. We know, for instance, that Canderblinks Ltd, a production company in Northern Ireland, was made a provisional offer of production funding for Good Vibrations in June 2010. We know that a much later (Sept 7, 2011) quantified offer of €75,000 in 'Regional Support Funding' was made to the project, this time with the Dublin company Treasure Entertainment attached as co-producer. However, the main production funding loan has still not been quantified although the project has been filmed.

Thirdly, it would be interesting to know which if any of the production funding is directed primarily at post-production spend in Ireland. And lastly, is Into the West a remake?

Project Director Writer Production Company Funding Award

First Draft Loans
Shade Tom Cosgrove €12,000
The Bear On The Train Teemu Auersalo €12,000
Roll River John Butler €12,000
Fiction Development Loans
Dracula Son Of The Dragon Ciaran Donnelly Michael Scott T4 Productions €25,000
Into The West Jim Sheridan Jim Sheridan Ignition Film Productions €50,000
The Rules Of Engagement Darren Thornton Darren & Colin Thornton Calipo Pictures €20,000
She Bites Lee Cronin Lee Cronin Rank Outsiders Productions €22,000
Blue Guitar Paco Torres Paco Torres & Johnny Ferguson Grand Pictures €15,000
The Cherry Tree Brendan McCarthy Fantastic Films €20,000
The Canal Ivan Kavanagh Ivan Kavanagh Park Films €20,000
Moscow Never Sleeps Johnny O'Reilly Johnny O'Reilly Blinder Films €16,500
An Evening Of Long Goodbyes Thomas Martin Subotica Limited €24,000
The Steamroller Peter McDonald Peter McDonald & Michael McElhatton Treasure Entertainment €20,000
Byzantium Neil Jordan Moira Buffini Parallel Film Productions €50,000
The Gift / An Bronntanas Tom Collins Paul Walker & Eoin McNamee DeFacto Films & ROSG €20,000
Sligo J Conor McDermottroe Conor McDermottroe & Mark O'Halloran Florin Films €35,000
Not Cricket Robert Quinn Paul Howard Peer Pressure Productions €32,000
My Perfect Boybot Helen Falconer Telegael €9,000
She's My Dad Charlie McCarthy Charlie McCarthy Icebox Films €12,500
Tandem Kieron J. Walsh Shane O'Brien, James Walmsley & Damien Fox Blinder Films €20,000
The Sacred Island Gary Shore Jonathan & Garan Ware Darini Films €26,000
Animation Development Loans
Son Of The Sea Tomm Moore Tomm Moore & Will Collins Cartoon Saloon €17,894
Inis Spraoi Paul Shanahan Denis James Ryan Magpie6 Media Entertainment €45,000
The Wooden Sword Paul Bolger FM DeMarco Brown Bag Films €10,000
The Boy In The Bubble Kealan O'Rourke Will Collins Igloo Films €28,000

Fiction Feature Films
Standby Rob & Ronan Burke Pierce Ryan Black Sheep Productions €600,000
Mister John Christine Molloy & Joe Lawlor Christine Molloy & Joe Lawlor Samson Films €350,000
Honeycomb Imogen Murphy Matt Reynolds Samson Films €500,000
Run & Jump Steph Green Ailbhe Keogan Samson Films €600,000
Byzantium Neil Jordan Moira Buffini Parallel Film Productions €1,180,000
Your Girlfriend & Me Brendan Grant Brendan Grant Fastnet Films Provisional Offer Of Commitment
The Ranger PJ Dillon PJ Dillon Fastnet Films Provisional Offer Of Commitment
Fiction Creative Co-Production
Controra / Midday Demons Rosella De Venuto Rosella De Venuto Ripple World Pictures €200,000
Nicholas North Annti Jokinen A. Jokinen, M. Wilder & E. Rochford Subotica Limited €300,000
Fiction International Production
Dancing On The Edge Stephen Poliakoff & Jim O'Hanlon Stephen Poliakoff Octagon Films €250,000
Vexed II Ian Fitzgibbon & Kieron J. Walsh Steve Coombes Newgrange Pictures €150,000
Ripper Street Richard Warlow & Declan Croughan Element Pictures €475,000
The Adventures Of The Young Marco Polo Paul Shanahan Tony Loeser Magpie6 Media Entertainment €200,000
I'm A Creepy Crawley Andrew Crotty Maria O'Loughlin, Richard Keane & Gerald Murphy Monster Distributes €80,000
Astrid Silverlock & The Staff Of Virtues Boulder Media €300,000
The Polish Plumber Boris Despodov Boris Despodov Loopline Films €80,000
The Deadly Housewife Alastair Cook & Rob Davis Rise Films €100,000
Stuffing the Tiger Donald Taylor Black Poolbeg Productions €90,000
The Life Of Anton Corbijn Steve Benedict Fastnet Films €45,000
The Londoners Nobody Knows Mark Isaacs Crow Hill Films €50,000
Yemen's Reluctant Revolutionary Sean McAllister Underground Films €40,000

Completion Fund
Eliot & Me Fintan Connolly Fintan Connolly Fubar €40,000

First Stage Documentary
The Drunken Irish Shimmy Marcus Let's Not Lose It Productions €5,00
The Generation Game Andrew Gallimore John Kelleher Media €10,000
Why Men Have Babies Darragh Byrne Ripple World Pictures €10,000
A Captured Face John Corcoran & Rossa Mullin Poolbeg Productions €5,000
Roller Punk Laura McGann True Films €10,000
Circus On The Road Dieter Auner Ikandi Productions €10,000

Print Provision
The Lactating Automaton Andrew Legge Andrew Legge Restoration Films €2,000
Marketing Support
Parked Darragh Byrne Ciaran Creagh Element Distribution €44,000
Sensation Tom Hall Tom Hall Element Distribution €44,500
Perfect Sense David MacKenzie Eclipse Distribution €5,000
Direct Distribution
Congo: An Irish Affair Irena Maldea Akajava Films €4,960
The Pier Gerard Hurley Gerard Hurley Black Equus Productions €13,000