Industry body Screen Producers Ireland (SPI) has warned that many of the country's film graduates face unemployment or will have to emigrate to find work should the Irish government proceed with the abolition of the Section 481 tax incentive in December 2004.

As part of its campaign to sway Government thinking on support for the Irish film industry, on Sept 22 the SPI briefed representatives of Ireland's film schools, resource centres and training agencies on the stark choices facing their trainees should the tax be abolished.

According to SPI the impact of abolition on employment opportunities would be such that the 1,000 students enrolled in film related studies each year are faced with unemployment or emigration.

"The termination of Section 481," says SPI, "will result in Ireland exporting its most skilled film professionals. This will affect a wide variety of industry employees from production designers, sound technicians and art directors to writers, directors, producers, actors and make up artists."

"It is indicative of how highly developed Ireland's skill base is, that the following film and television productions, are currently crewing up, shooting or wrapping at locations around the country - King Arthur, Tristan And Isolde, Blackwater Lightship, Asylum, Man about Dog, Inside I'm Dancing, Bachelors Walk, The Clinic, Proof, and The Big Bow Wow. The majority of these productions are Section 481 assisted and collectively support a large number of skilled film professionals in employment."

According to Andrew Lowe, joint head of SPI's film sub-committee, the industry is deeply concerned that film course students, as well as the industry's existing skilled workforce, will be faced with unemployment or emigration if Section 481 finishes at the end of 2004.

"Ireland is now one of six preferred locations in the world for film production, due to a large extent to the positive influence of the Irish tax incentive scheme. Without a tax incentive, Ireland will no longer be considered for international film productions and Ireland's indigenous industry will suffer, which in turn will have a catastrophic impact on employment in the sector."

"The industry is now at a stage where its talent pool is sufficiently experienced to be able to support four to five feature films at any one time," Lowe added. "I would urge the Government to consider the full implications of the termination of Section 481, which would undoubtedly result not only in extensive job losses for the industry, but would also contribute to the demise of a healthy indigenous film industry which showcases some of the best of Ireland's talent internationally."