Academic journal article Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies

Split Screens: The Year in Review 2013

Academic journal article Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies

Split Screens: The Year in Review 2013

Article excerpt

In seeking to get a handle on a year in the life of a national audiovisual industry, its seems practical to commence with some basic facts--how many projects were completed, at what cost and in what specific areas (i.e. film, television and animation)? Time was, one could simply flip through the pages of the annual review of screen production in Ireland prepared by the Irish Business and Employer's Confederation (IBEC) and reel off the statistics. However, in a lacuna which finds echoes in other aspects of the industry, the IBEC report has not been published since 2011. A draft 2012 version was prepared but came with the acknowledgement that, despite a nominal obligation to do so, not all projects made with Irish Film Board support or Section 481 certification, had submitted figures while those who had some were either "incomplete or clearly inaccurate". So, for the past 2-3 years our sense of the industry in quantitative terms has been based on patchy information from a variety of sources apparently using inconsistent methodologies to produce figures describing the sector.

In December 2013, the Irish Film Board produced figures suggesting that [euro]168m was contributed to the Irish economy in 2013 through "employment creation and spend on local goods and services". Furthermore this was an 18% increase on 2012 and 42% up on 2011. This seems like good news but it's hard to reconcile it with the figures from the last IBEC report, which suggested that [euro]156m was spent in Ireland in 2011. There is also some inconsistency in the Board's own statistics: on October 15 2013 (the day on which an adjustment to Section 481 was announced) the IFB released a press statement stating that screen production in 2012 was valued at 180m [euro] in terms of expenditure on local goods and services. If the 168m [euro] figure above represents an 18% increase on 2012, then the 2012 figure should have been 142m [euro] (rather than their published 168m [euro]).

It may well be that IBEC and the Irish Film Board simply adopted different bases for their calculations and that the inconsistency in the Board's own figures is down to semantic distinctions between Irish expenditure and contribution to the Irish economy. Regardless, the elusive nature of these figures not only draws attention to the difficulty of presenting a clear picture of the state of the sector but also suggests that what is happening within it is either not based on sound and coherent policies or that, in an increasingly diversified and splintered marketplace, it has become more difficult to achieve a clear and coherent picture of what's happening.

For now, no one seems to bothered as long as things are ticking along. And--absence of reliable figure notwithstanding--the general sense is that the screen industries as a whole in Ireland continue to outperform virtually every sector in the rest of the economy in terms of relative growth.

This is not to suggest however that there will be a slew of Irish films coming soon to an Arthouse/Multiplex near you. For what is most notable about Irish audio-visual production in 2013--the twentieth anniversary of the reconstitution of the Irish Film Board under order from the then new Minister for Culture Michael D Higgins--is that it has diversified into a multi-platform and highly stratified activity of enormous variety. To speak of 'Irish Film' is to attempt to corall a range of practices that include webisode internet drama like Dannan Breathnach's Cuckoo, (1) no-budget/low-budget 1 experimental and narrative films (see Donal Foreman's essay below), thriving international TV drama and post-production sectors, personally funded documentaries (eg The Irish Pub, Dir: Alex Fegan (2)) and an often struggling feature film category with one or two annual breakout hits (eg The Guard, What Richard Did, Once etc.) and a myriad of misses. On several levels we regard 2013 as a tipping point away from the 1993 ambitions to fund a national cinema centred on theatrically released feature film productions that tell 'our stories' to--primarily--ourselves while, noting simultaneously and paradoxically a mushrooming of personal and often highly accomplished moving-image storytelling that finds limited distribution through non-theatrical channels. …

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