The nations’ facilities are a draw for international productions, says Matt Mueller.
Crews and facilities have improved substantially in the nations in recent times. Wales is home to state-of-the-art post-production facility Dragon DI, and the Wales IP Fund incentivised both Steve McQueen’s Hunger and Valhalla Rising to do post at the facility. “I was surprised how good they are,” says Rising’s Danish producer Johnny Andersen. “It was remote but it was worth going there.”
“The cost of running an office in Belfast is significantly lower than in London is attractive”
Richard Williams, Northern Ireland Screen
Valhalla Rising’s sound post was done at Glasgow-based Savalas, also earning a sterling reputation among producers. It is housed with picture-post outfit Serious Facilities and David Mackenzie’s Sigma Films at Film City Glasgow.
A $5.7m (£3.5m) co-production between Denmark’s Nimbus Film and Scotland-based La Belle Allee, Valhalla shifted its entire shoot to Scotland after plans to part-film in Louisiana hit a financial roadblock. The producers asked Scottish Screen to increase its investment and the agency ended up providing its then maximum $810,000 (£500,000) investment, “The biggest amount ever given to a co-production,” notes Andersen.
In 2004, French animation director Sylvain Chomet moved to Edinburgh from Paris to set up his new animation studio Django Films, partly inspired by the enthusiastic reception The Triplets Of Belleville received at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Django’s first project since making Scotland its base is The Illusionist, based on an unproduced script by Jacques Tati and financed by Pathé.
“As an international city, Edinburgh was a great recruiting tool for animators working on the film,” says The Illusionist’s Edinburgh-based producer Bob Last. “We’re taking advantage of the UK-wide tax credit but there are no local subsidies of any kind in the film.”
In Northern Ireland, post-production facilities are more limited. Generator uses Belfast-based Yellow Moon but goes to London for visual effects.
However, the province is trying to woo a visual-effects player to its shores.
“The economic downturn is pretty disastrous generally but it’s throwing up a number of opportunities,” observes Northern Ireland Screen’s Richard Williams. “The fact that the cost of running an office in Belfast is significantly lower than in London is attractive.”
As Belfast’s The Paint Hall gears up for two major productions in 2009, there are no plans to build a major studio in Scotland. “At the moment, it may not be useful to build a purpose-built studio,” says Scottish Screen’s Sheridan. “There’s the issue of sustainability. You don’t want to end up with a building that isn’t used for part of the year.”
In Wales, Dragon International Studios — launched with great fanfare in 2003 with Richard Attenborough as its industry cheerleader — stalled when administrators were called last year. But plans are afoot to revive the project, sources at Creative Business Wales say, pointing out how much overseas interest it has received.
With Northern Ireland bullish and Wales buzzing, one development that has observers puzzled is the intention to fold Scottish Screen and the Scottish Arts Council into a wider umbrella arts organisation called Creative Scotland. Although the intention is to reduce overheads and so free up more money for product, film producers have yet to be convinced by the plans. The new structure is due to come into being in April 2010.
“The concern is that we can’t afford to lose a dedicated film office in Scotland. But if more money is released into getting projects off the ground, that’s a great thing,” says Claire Mundell, the Glasgow-based producer of Crying With Laughter. “We’ll have to wait and see if that’s how it works out.”
Regional Money Pots
$4.4m (£2.7m) for 2009-10, capped at $635,000 (£400,000) per project, down from $800,000 (£500,000) last year. Also gives out slate funding, investing $925,000 (£570,000) across five companies. No cultural criteria but must show economic benefit to Scotland. The agency looks for spend at three to four times its investment.
GLASGOW FILM OFFICE
No production support to subsidise use of local facilities. Has a small support fund for productions considering the city as a location.
WALES SCREEN COMMISSION
Under the umbrella Creative
Business Wales, the Wales Screen Commission does not have production cash but offers locations, infrastructure, crew and facilities advice and support. Small fund for location scouting.
FILM AGENCY FOR WALES
Funded by the Arts Council for Wales, the UK Film Council and Creative Business Wales, it has $1.6m (£1m) annually to support Welsh talent shooting anywhere in the world, capped at $320,000 (£200,000) for British-qualifying features.
WALES CREATIVE IP FUND
Managed by Finance Wales on behalf of the Welsh Assembly government, the fund had an initial outlay of $11.3m (£7m) topped up annually by $3.2m (£2m). Equity investment available as gap financing. Maximum investment is $1.3m (£700,000) per project and requires a spend of 1:1 in Wales.
NORTHERN IRELAND SCREEN
Invest NI granted Northern Ireland Screen $14.6m (£9m) in 2007 over three years, up for renewal in 2010. It invests $240,000-$1.3m (£150,000-£800,000) per project up to 25% of the overall budget. Projects must have 65% of funding in place to apply for the fund (a repayable loan).