Tuesday, March 13, 2012

IFB accounts 2010

Back in February - about the 22nd if I'm not mistaken - the Film Board published its latest funding decisions (see list below). Appended to the listings are the following clarifications, I don't recall having seen them previously.

Funding decisions are announced on a quarterly basis and reflect development awards approved by the Board of BSÉ/IFB rather than applications received within the period. Please note that it takes 6-8 weeks from the relevant deadline to process development applications.
Funding decisions are announced on a quarterly basis and reflect production/distribution awards approved by the Board of BSÉ/IFB rather than applications received within the period. Please note that it takes 3-5 weeks from the relevant deadline to process production and distribution applications.

There are several connected issues here - turnaround time (are the relevant deadlines always published?), timeliness of information, and transparency.

If you were unsuccessful in an application made in August or September for development funding (which would be decided upon between October 01 and December 31) it would be mid/late February before you would learn what projects had been successful. Should it really take that long?

Those long enough in the business will recall that when the IFB was re-constituted in 1993 it was admirably clear, and prompt, about the dates of application rounds, the number of applications received in each round in each funding category, and the amount of each successful funding award. Furthermore, it was not open to members of the Board, or their companies, to apply for funding.

There were far fewer staff at the IFB at the time and, I believe, far more applications, especially for production funding, and yet the information provided was both more complete and published far more quickly than is the case today.

Somehow, despite everything that has happened in this country as a result of public agencies applying 'light-touch' regulation behind a veil of secrecy, the Irish Film Board is becoming even less transparent in its dealings. Why is that the case?

In the absence of full or timely information one begins to wonder if many loan applications are effectively approved verbally, or in principle, before the agency receives them in writing? And if many non-indigenous projects have been offered funding, in principle, before an Irish co-producer has become involved?

The IFB Annual Report for 2010 (published March 6th) does not even tell us how many applications were received in each funding category over the course of the year. It does tell us that Board Members had a direct interest (it does not report areas of indirect interest of Board Members or staff) in loan decisions amounting to €3.4m (not including an unspecified commitment amount) from a total film investment provision for the year of €12.9m.

Is it acceptable that an amount equivalent, possibly, to one third of all monies disbursed in film investments should be offered to members of the Board or companies with which they are directly associated, even if those offers are not eventually utilised?

Or that this should happen in a year when the Board met only nine times?

At least the annual report does tell us the CEO's salary in 2010 was €110,844 and that the then incumbent incurred a further €48,153 in expenses. This may be explained in part because the CEO was out of the country on IFB business for 77 days, down I believe from 98 days in 2009.

The annual report does not offer any policy basis for the €1.05m funding granted outside its core loan activity. It doesn't say why it gives €50,000 to Screen Producers Ireland (as a subscription) under a different heading to the funding it gives to the directors' and writers' guilds. Nor does it explain the virtue of offering the Volta VoD platform €225,000 under the Distribution - P&A/Marketing support subhead.

Here's the list of 'other capital' payments although, realistically, they should be called non-recoverable grants.

Film Board Loans - 31/Dec/2011
Project Director Writer Production Company Funding Award

First Draft Loans
Kidsmoke Sean Smith €12,000
RPG Niall Heery Niall Heery & Brendan Heery €16,000
Fiction Development Loans
The Gee Gees Kevin Barry Element Pictures €40,000
Death & Nightingales Allan Cubbitt Soho Moon Pictures €12,500*
The Fast & The Dead Richie Smyth Richie Smyth Perfect Weekend Ireland €20,000
Pilgrimage Brendan Muldowney Jamie Hannigan SP Films €20,000
Last Days On Mars Ruairí Robinson Clive Dawson Fantastic Films €50,000
Animation Development Loans
Curly Hare Alan Shannon Alan Brenner Jam Media €50,000
Pillage & Sons Nicky Phelan Nicky Phelan Brown Bag Films €35,000
The Wooden Sword Paul Bolger FM DeMarco Brown Bag Films €35,000

Fiction Feature Films
An Bronntanas Tom Collins Paul Walker & Eoin McNamee ROSG and DeFacto Films Provisional Offer Of Commitment
Citadel Ciaran Foy Ciaran Foy Blinder Films €17,568
Fiction Creative Co-Production
Dark Touch Marina De Van Marina De Van Element Pictures €200,000
Fiction International Production
Loving Miss Hatto Aisling Walsh Victoria Wood Octagon Films €90,000
Cosmo Jason Tammemagi Jason Tammemagi Monster Animation & Design €300,000
The Land Of The Enlightened Pieter Jan De Pue Fastnet Films Provisional Offer Of Commitment
Silence In The House Of God Alex Gibney Jigsaw Productions Provisional Offer Of Commitment
Under The Hood Mark Byrne & Robert Dennis Planet Korda Pictures Provisional Offer Of Commitment
K2: The Summit Nick Ryan Image Now Films €15,000
Dreaming the Quiet Man Sé Merry Doyle Loopline Films €13,000

Marketing Support
Haywire Steven Soderberg Paramount Pictures €20,000
Direct Distribution
Ballymun Lullaby Frank Berry Pulp Productions €15,000

*I may come back to this - it was formerly a development asset of Little Bird.


Anonymous said...

So Paramount Pictures needs taxpayers money to market Hollywood films. Country's gone mad.

irish film portal said...

Without getting into the merits of the IFB funding distribution...
Haywire was backed by the Irish Film Board (€600k) and S481. It filmed briefly in Dublin and did a lot of VFX work at Windmill. Because it was backed by the IFB it qualified for their marketing funding.

It has taken €490,000 at Irish cinemas and so I presume it will be able to pay back the marketing loan.

Anonymous said...

Well according to the IFB website, "Marketing Support" (under which the Haywire release was subsidised) is "now available in the form of non-repayable grants, in order to accelerate the flow-through of returns from the Irish market to production investors and producers", so I wouldn't necessarily be expecting to see any recoupment of that particular 20k.

irish film portal said...

Thanks for that. I hadn't realised that the non-repayable approach (piloted in 2010) had become established practice.

This bit is hogwash - to accelerate the flow-through of returns from the Irish market to production investors and producers.

Essentially it's free money for distributors to underwrite the cost of releasing IFB-backed films, particularly where they might otherwise be disinclined to release them for commercial reasons.

If the specious logic were taken to its conclusion the IFB could up the money and give it back to itself without the films ever going near a cinema.

The Irish market either wants the films or it doesn't - no amount of marketing bribery is going to create an audience where it does not exist for bad films, whatever their origins.

Given the takings for Haywire there will be little flow-through of returns from the Irish market to production investors and producers once VAT, exhibitor share and distribution costs have been deducted.

Anonymous said...

Here's another interesting tidbit from the 2010 accounts, where Board Members are concerned: The Factory (Kirsten Sheridan is involved) was given 100k under the "Industry Development" scheme - AFAIK this 'scheme' was not supposed to be launch until 2011, and any mention of it has since been dropped from the website. (Multiple Project Development, another type of industry development scheme was also supposed to be renewed or revisited in 2011, but little has been heard of it since the various companies, some Board-related, were heavily funded in 2009 and 2010.

irish film portal said...

I was aware of that.

The issue is less that the money was made available (and to the films that were credited as being produced by CDS* from The Factory) but that the reasoning is never articulated. Perhaps there are guidelines on the IFB website for funding outside the core activity but I don't recall having seen them.

I do think The Factory is a good idea and I wish it well.

*CDS = Carney, Daly & Sheridan - The Rafters, Dollhouse etc.

irish film portal said...

I think the MPD scheme, like the earlier CDI schemes, were a mechanism to contribute to production company overhead. Whatever about internal appraisals of these schemes the agency has never published reviews of their effectiveness. They certainly haven't promoted self-sustainable businesses.

Anonymous said...

It does seem a major problem with the IFB is the creating and dumping of policy on the wing...and then the film maker or public do not have any opportunity to understand or debate why this policy was created or why it was dismissed. An example of this is the recent 'decision' to do away with 'The Regional Support Fund ' is a case in point, .not many realise that it has been dismissed and those that do can understand the thinking behind that decision.
The decision to create the policy was, I thought, to encourage production to happen in the regions, so was the decision to dismiss this policy to do the opposite ?

irish film portal said...

I suspect that the Regional Support Fund had as much to do with the political obligation to fulfill NDP (National Development Plan) capital funding requirements as it had to do with encouraging production in 'the regions'.

All too often it just meant that it covered some of the additional expense of bringing crew from Dublin - per diems, travel time, hotels etc - rather than hiring people locally.

In fact when people were hired locally on regional shoots some of the 'but we deserve a job' hard chaws protested. Maybe that's why they're doing away with it... it wasn't achieving the regional employment it was supposed to achieve.