24/05/17

Speech by the Minister for Arts Heather Humphreys at the Irish Film Board networking event at the 70th Cannes Film Festival

James, Annie, Ladies and Gentlemen, good evening.

It is an absolute pleasure to join you here at the 70th annual Cannes Film Festival, to celebrate the vibrancy of the Irish film industry and to outline the Irish Government’s vision for the sector in the years ahead.

I first came to Cannes in 2015, when a film starring Colin Farrell and produced by Element Pictures was selected to screen in open competition…

As the French would say, plus ça change…

But I am delighted to be back again this year, when once again Element and Colin are leading the charge in terms of Irish interest.

When I was here in 2015, I was struck by the huge level of activity that goes on at the sidelines of the Festival.

To most of the people at home, the Cannes Film Festival is about celebrities on red carpets.

But as everyone in this room is well aware, it is a networking event, where deals are made and new business is brokered.

I am very pleased to be able to once again support the work of the Film Board here at Cannes; we had a series of very constructive meetings today with international co-production funds that I hope will lead to further opportunities for Irish film makers in the near future.

Indeed I would like to give a warm welcome to our international film industry partners who are here with us this evening.

I want to take the opportunity this evening to talk to you about the Creative Ireland programme, which is the Irish Government’s ambitious five year arts and culture initiative which will place culture and creativity at the heart of public policy.

Creative Ireland was borne out of the incredible response from the Irish people to our commemorative year and the Ireland 2016 centenary programme.

We witnessed cultural participation and engagement in unprecedented levels – and we knew we couldn’t let that go.

Through Creative Ireland I want us to create an open, inclusive space in which we can all participate, and collaborate, in making Ireland a better country: a better country in which to live, to grow up in.

In doing so we can make Ireland a beacon of cultural creativity to the world.

There are five pillars in the Creative Ireland programme – Pillar 4 is of particular interest this evening because it aims to develop Ireland as a Centre of Excellence for Media Production.

As filmmakers you understand better than most the power of storytelling, and the unique capacity of the Irish to bring a story to life on screen.

What the Government is doing through Creative Ireland is stating, in the clearest terms possible, that we value and appreciate the inherent importance of creativity.

That’s what Creative Ireland is all about – the firm belief that a flourishing cultural life and a democratic society are interdependent.

When it comes to the film sector specifically, I believe that Ireland has the potential to become a global leader in media production.

All of you here work tirelessly to make that a realistic ambition.

The Irish film sector has of course enjoyed a very successful number of years; I view the audio visual industry as a key growth sector in what is an ever expanding Irish economy.

Last year, I commissioned an economic analysis of our screen based creative industries, which is examining the economic impact and potential of the Irish film, TV and animation sector.

Preliminary findings from the study, which is being conducted by Olsberg SPI Ltd in association with Nordicity, reveal that:

  • The audiovisual sector supported nearly 15,000 full-time jobs last year (including direct and spin off jobs);
  • 6,700 Irish residents work as cast or crew in live action film and TV;
  • Ireland’s audiovisual sector attracted over €150 million in inward investment in 2016;
  • And – this is really important – the international market for Irish produced content has increased substantially with a growing capacity for significant further growth.

Just a few weeks ago I held a major workshop in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham which brought together the independent production sector, the State broadcaster and the Film Board.

It was the first time such an event had been held in Dublin, and it emphasised the significant potential for growth that exists – we just have to harness it.

So, what are we going to do about it?

By taking a collaborative approach, Creative Ireland will facilitate an industry wide plan to develop Ireland as global leader in film production, TV drama, documentary making and animation for the screen.

I would like to see much greater collaboration between the Film Board, our State broadcaster, the independent sector and indeed the third level sector – which I know is something Annie is very keen on – to ensure we develop capacity and a pipeline of talent for the industry.

Since I became Minister I have consistently increased funding for the Irish Film Board and if I am in a position to do so, I will certainly be making the case in the 2018 Budget.

Through the ambitions outlined in Creative Ireland, I would like to see an increase in Developing Funding, to be channelled through the Film Board, to ensure we are focussing on the next generation of Irish filmmakers.

We will also seek to place a specific focus on increasing the number of international productions to Ireland, and in that regard the Government’s ongoing commitment to the Section 481 scheme will be very important.

The Scheme remains extremely competitive, offering tax relief at a rate of 32%.

Major international features and TV productions to have filmed in Ireland recently include Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi which filmed along the Wild Atlantic Way, The Professor and the Madman starring Sean Penn and Mel Gibson, plus major TV series Into the Badlands and Vikings.

Turning now to this year’s Cannes Official Selection….

We are of course very proud of have The Killing of a Sacred Deer in competition produced by one of our leading film companies Element Pictures.

The film features one of our finest actors – Colin Farrell – who also stars in The Beguiled which is also in competition.

The film also features an extraordinary performance from a young rising Irish star Barry Keoghan who I am told we will all be seeing more of in the coming years.

Ireland has a huge strength and depth of production talent.

Irish producers have a wealth of experience in co-producing and we are very proud of up-and-coming major Irish co-productions such as Black ’47, Grace Jones, The Professor & The Madman, Maze, The Third Wave, The Lodgers, Good Favour and The Breadwinner.

Speaking of the last two projects, I’m delighted to see so many new films coming from Irish female directors.

We have been very focused on ensuring there are targeted policies put in place to foster and encourage Irish female talent and remain committed to enticing more Irish female writers and directors into the industry.

As Minister, I have tried to take a very strong stance on gender balance, and I would like to commend Annie and all of the Film Board members for the actions they have taken to date to ensure greater efforts are being made to address what has been a traditionally male dominated sector.

Upcoming features from female Irish talent includes Nora Twomey’s wonderful animation feature The Breadwinner, Rebecca Daly’s Good Favour, and of course the documentary School Life (In Loco Parentis) – about a children’s boarding school in Meath – by Neasa Ní Chianáin which has recently charmed audiences all over the globe from IDFA to Sundance and beyond.

But behind these well-known names are many thousands of individuals with highly developed creative skills, technical and artistic, who can make a transformative difference to the industry – and to Ireland.

The audiovisual sector is unique, because it’s an authentic expression of who we are and what we do best.

I am under no illusion about the challenges we will face – you all compete in a very competitive and rapidly changing international environment.

But with change comes opportunity and I hope I can count on your support as I seek to drive forward positive developments for the Irish audio visual sector in the years ahead.

Go raibh míle maith agaibh.

Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, 23 Kildare Street, Dublin , D02 TD30. Tel: 01 631 3800 / LoCall: 1890 383 000

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