Thursday, April 26, 2012

Audiences - the 'academic' aspect of Irish film?

There is an argument that once an Irish-made film is in the can it's done its job. It doesn't matter what happens afterwards. It has provided employment, given tax write-offs, and utilised agency support. The point being that it has thereby fulfilled the politically accepted purpose for our film policy.

These thoughts are prompted by the release last weekend of Lockout (formerly Section 8), a €20m film co-produced by Luc Besson's Europacorp with Windmill Lane Pictures and directed by James Mather and Stephen St Leger.

Lockout took €52,192 over the weekend from 37 cinemas and placed eighth in the weekend top ten.

€5.8m was raised in Section 481 funding for the project, at a cost (41%) of €2.378m to the Exchequer. The net benefit (28%) to the production would have been about €1,624,000 towards 'Irish' spend which I believe in the case of this project was mostly on VFX at Windmill Lane.

Other releases so far this year include -
This Must Be The Place - €47,000 box office; €500,000 IFB production loan; €35,000 IFB marketing support; €?m Section 481.
Stella Days - €80,000 box office; €720,000 IFB production and regional support; €30,000 marketing support; €?m Section 481.
Other Side of Sleep - €3,200 box office; €600,000 IFB production loan; €15,000 IFB direct distribution support; €? Section 481.
Haywire (formerly Knockout) - €407,000 box office; €600,000 IFB production loan; €20,000 marketing support; €?m Section 481.

Irish releases in the coming weeks include Albert Nobbs and A Kiss for Jed Wood (formerly A Kiss for Justin).


Anonymous said...

And? Is there supposed to be a point to this post? Irish movies fail to make back their budget, big deal? Nothing we didn't know a decade ago.

irish film portal said...

It's a question - does it matter if Irish audiences go to Irish films if the real purpose of funding them is to create employment?

Anonymous said...

Interesting post, and while I'm probably as sceptical as yourself, the various investigations, whether industry-led (AF Federation) or independent (Indecon etc.) have consistently concluded that Section 481 delivers a net benefit to the exchequer. The film board also claims multiplier effects for its "investments".

If the mathematics underlying these claims are correct, then you are right - audiences are academic and film support funds are magic beans. If not, well then the whole justification for film support will have to move back to to the original cultural argument put forward in earlier days. In the meantime, I would suggest that the real challenge is to look harder at the underlying mathematics - not an easy task but a worthwhile one.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Irish filmmakers need to make more commercial movies instead of all this science-fiction-blockbuster-shoot-em-up self indulgence. This Robert Bresson (oops I mean Luc Besson) influence is wrecking the industry's chances with the public.

Anonymous said...

The original poster either doesn't pay taxes or is happy about the (mostly) crap that's produced here and that few want to see. Keep up the good work IFP!

Anonymous said...

Right, there are other areas that would have created better employment. Video games development? We could now have thousands of people working in this area instead of our film non-industry joke. Anyway, most Irish films made to create employment are rubbish and unwatchable. King Arthur? A better question would be: Does it matter if Irish audiences go to Irish films if the real purpose of funding them is to create our own cinema identity?

Anonymous said...

Clear and to the point Ted, good post.

Anonymous said...

Does it matter if Irish audiences go to Irish films if the real purpose of funding them is to create our own cinema identity?

If we're talking about reflecting/fostering an Irish identity through cinema, well surely native audiences are necessary for that project to work. If you are talking about carving out our own cinematic identity vis-a-vis other 'national cinemas', again that implies an audience, both at home and (perhaps more importantly) abroad.

There is little evidence that the audience exists anywhere.

Anonymous said...

The way these fools go apeshit about that stupid Red camera. It's all about technique here like our films will make an impact internationally because they're well made? The WRONG people are making films in this country. Fools with nothing to say and unable to think outside the box. All brainwahshed by the film schools and short film schemes. We don't even need a Film Baord anymore. if a project is commercail enough e.g. Lockout it will find private investers. If a project is personal enough make the damn thing at home with a PC and video camera.

irish film portal said...

Interesting reactions.

I take the view that the state can spend scarce money in other areas in order to create employment more efficiently, more transparently and more accountably than it can (and does) in film and television.

So, the real purpose should be in line with a very clearly defined cultural policy which has cultural outcomes. The films and TV programmes made with public money should communicate something meaningful to audiences, or they should entertain audiences or they should challenge audiences - in an ideal world they would do all three.

Employment should be a by-product rather than the purpose of the policy.

The preamble to the recently published Dept of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Statement of Strategy 2011–2014 includes this statement Access to the arts, culture, film and music and Ireland's rich heritage, including our language, are vital for preserving our national identity and helping to promote Ireland's image abroad. The aims and objectives contained in this Statement of Strategy will enable us to further develop that access.

This is later refined under Goal 1 - ...priority will continue to be given to maximising the potential in the arts, cultural and creative industries to create growth and jobs.

The 'Impact Indicator' given is Increase aggregate output of film and television production sector to €300m per annum by 2016.

It smacks of an understandable desire for outcomes that can be counted or measured in purely economic terms. This is facile, we've got to get beyond a 'results' approach to the effectiveness of our cultural policy.

So yes, audiences do matter - but not necessarily their numbers. On first release bad films often get big audiences, and good films often get poor audiences. But good films last.

Anonymous said...

Lots of great movies had no audience initially. How many Irish people went to see Once in the cinemas? Very few is the answer. Why is the State funding most of our movies? It's like a monopoly with no competition. No wonder our films are so bad. What we need is a Ryanair-type film studio making dozens of low-budget commercial films that will return a profit. Come back Roger Corman!

irish film portal said...

I take it the remark about Corman is ironic? Concorde Anois? Udarás? Merlin? The revenue commissioners?

(See an earlier post - 'A Trip Down Merlin Lane')

Anonymous said...

I don't think the domestic market is big enough to support the theatrical release of Irish films. Look at Stella Days - well-made production with credible acting talent and it makes just € 80,000 to date.

It'll be interesting to see how Lockout does overall in Europe (is it also getting a US release?). It should also do well on DVD. At least it is aimed at an international audience.

irish film portal said...

The updated figure for Stella Days is €92,061. Meanwhile Albert Nobbs has opened with €74,385 from 47 sites.

In addition to the titles mentioned the following are all due to open in the next while - Charlie Casanova, Death of a Superhero, A Royal Affair, and Shadow Dancer.

I take your comments on Lockout, Besson and Europacorp have been pretty canny with their output (Taken, Transporter(s), 22 Bullets etc , whatever one thinks of the films themselves.

The Irish theatrical market is worth about €150 million a year. Irish films should be getting 10% of that gross and aiming for above it.

Anonymous said...

Stella Days was rubbish. What kind of audience was it trying to attract? People who lived through the 1950s? They must be about 80 years old now?

Anonymous said...

Bear in mind "The updated figure for Stella Days is €92,061"
That is the box office take
take off the vat, 20k
The cinema takes 40k
leaves 32k for distributor towards cost
result return
producer = O film board =0 Media = 0
anyone else = 0

Roughly a film needs to take about 6-8 times what the film cost to make before it makes money as people need to be paid to screen it, to put it there, t promote it and then investors start to get a slice...

Do the irish film board show how much is recouped by film or tv project? This would be tranparency which is what is needed here..

irish film portal said...

I very much agree that investment and recoupment per title, per platform should be a standard (if not mandatory) part of IFB annual reports. They don't provide this info because, I imagine, they would be quickly into politically perilous territory.

The old rubric applies - just because you can make a film doesn't mean you should make a film. Because a financing deal can be put in place some films get made which (i) devalue the brand and (ii) don't succeed with audiences, either initially or over time.

But employment and other factors kick in and I suspect it's easier to greenlight those films than to turn them down. This is a Europe-wide problem and, to be fair, I'm sure it's a factor for some US studio-backed titles too. If you don't have production turnover you have nothing to bill your overhead costs to.

Is it fair to say that in Europe successful producers are thus described because they are good at putting deals together, not necessarily because the films themselves are successful?

Anonymous said...

One other thing - let's not start confusing Lockout with Irish cinema, just because the project was initiated here. The Film Board had nothing to do with its making. It was co-produced in Ireland but probably only to access Section 481 funding. Granted, the setting up of an FX factory (extension of Windmill Lane) was an interesting development. The production values put into these FX (haven't seen the film) will probably be an important factor in the film's international success.

But either way, whatever the Irish connections, it's not *really* an Irish film.

Anonymous said...

'Just because you can make a film doesn't mean you should make a film.'
Too many trained Irish directors making suff that no-one wants to see expect their egos.

irish film portal said...

On the issue of Lockout's Irishness...

I take the view that if any Irish public money is invested in a project, from whatever source, then we should ask if it justified expenditure which might have been spent elsewhere in the economy or on public services.

It comes back to public policy.