The Irish Film Board (IFB) has escaped the worst of the ravages currently affecting public spending in Ireland in the wake of the global economic crisis.
Although facing a 15% cut, the national film board has now received confirmation of its budget.
The Board’s budget was cut by $4m (€ 3m) at the beginning of the year, from $27.2m (€20m) back to $23.1m (€17m) . Further cuts were expected but just before Cannes, the Board has just learned that the 2009 budget will not be reduced further.
Speaking in Cannes, Simon Perry, IFB’s chief executive, said: “The 15% cut if difficult to handle but not as bad as we had thought.”
Perry aims to spread the cuts evenly and it has escaped without job losses. He added: “We got away very luckily. Other areas of the economy are being far more fiercely cut. It’s brutal in Ireland.”
Meanwhile, the Film Board is mulling whether to set up its own international sales arm. Several Irish Film Board-backed films are represented in the Cannes market. These include Neil Jordan’s Ondine, which is handled by Paramount Vantage and expected to premiere at an autumn festival, Danis Tanovic’s Triages, sold by Hanway, Conor McPherson’s The Eclipse, a hit at Tribeca earlier this month and now handled by Magnolia) and Perrier’sBounty, also sold by Hanway.
Despite the cash crisis, The Film Board will not be turning its back on coproduction. The Irish Section 481 tax incentive, which provides 28% of eligible spend paid up front in cash on the first day of principal photography,ensures Ireland remains attractive as a coproduction partner.
Agnes Merlet, the director of Dorothy Mills, will be coming back to Ireland this summer to make The Last Furlong, scripted by Nick Murphy. The film is being produced through Fidelite. James Flynn is the Irish coproducer. Wild Bunch will be selling the film.
Meanwhile, Thaddeus O’Sullivan is due to direct Stella Days, which will Martin Sheen as a priest in Fifties Ireland who launches a cinema in a small village. Stephen Rea and Romola Garai are also attached to the project,developed by Jackie Larkin’s Newgrange Pictures.
The current cuts at the Film Board come in the wake of a record period forIrish production. In 2008, 25 new live action features, not including documentaries shot in Ireland.
To support this production boom, the Film Board dipped into its reserves, which are now almost gone. The net result is that the amount of money available for new Irish production this year is down 30% on last year. “That’svery, very dramatic – a big drop,” Perry said.
In response, the Irish Film Board is cutting the amount it invests in any individual feature. In the past, The Board would expect to invest $1m (€750,000) but this has been reduced to $817,210 (€600,000).