If timing is everything, then arguably Lispopple Studios probably couldn’t have chosen a worse time to open its modern studio space in Finglas, north Dublin. “We had been planning the studio since 2006, pumped a lot of money into it and built it in 2008,” recalls straight-talking creative director Dave Byrne, “and really, as we opened the doors, the arse had fallen out of the entire industry. It was effectively the end of the Celtic Tiger, and it was tough.”
Tough is very much the market place a lot of studios and other film and television production businesses continue to find themselves in, four years on from when the recession first bit. Few, however, have survived and thrived as admirably as Lispopple.
Nestled in the Finglas Business Centre and just three minutes from the M50, the studio space run by Dave and founder Paul Flanagan, has adapted to its difficult birth and weathered the economic storm as it caters to a diverse range of clients.
On any given day you’re likely to find the company’s film and television studios populated by crews from major production companies. In the past companies they’ve worked with include Tyrone Productions, Princess Pictures, Creative Sounds and Knorr along with an eclectic mix of productions for TG4 and RTÉ.
The studio also catered for many community projects such as DCTV and Near TV in the days before DCTV built its own facility. In 2011, Lispopple Studios became a sponsor of the Fingal Film Festival, to which Dave is also the Creative Director, and the studio is currently producing a behind-the-scenes documentary for the festival, which is due to be completed in the coming weeks.
“You have to adapt to survive,” says Dave from the north Dublin facility, which boasts meeting rooms, crew facilities and free parking. “Our business model is ‘we don’t finance anything’. So the overheads are just the building and wages for staff when we need them.
”We’ve kept our heads above water over the past couple of years. We have some TG4 series in production and a project in development with RTÉ at present. We’re also hoping to develop a co-production feature film, but that’s very much in its early days.
“This week we have an independent production company in shooting a children’s series for RTÉ Young Programmes. Next week, we’ll have a corporate company in studio that wants to do online fish recipes for customers of Superquinn. So it’s a diverse client base.
Of course, the plans when we opened were to cater for big film and TV productions, which we do, but we’ve had to diversify into more of the commercial market to keep the business ticking over. A lot of that stuff has kept us afloat over the last couple of years.”
If being diverse and open to all levels of productions has helped keep Lispopple afloat, their attention to client needs are what continue to set it apart. Despite the tough climate, both Paul and Dave have been determined to keep the studio fully up to spec, ensuring that Lispopple hosts the most modern equipment for its clients.
“We will accommodate whatever people need,” Dave says. “When they come in, we give them the run of the studio. Whatever they need, they get. If they want to use the space to build sets, hold casting sessions, photoshoots or use it as a rehearsal space, that’s not a problem.
“Whatever budget they are working with, is not a problem. We’ve a very creative and imaginative team working here, so clients can have produced, high quality productions for very competitive rates,” says Dave.
They can also get the use of some fine equipment. Lispopple’s lengthy list of equipment includes a 42.5ft x 22.5ft fully air conditioned studio space, a 22.5ft x 12ft green screen stage; PDR 2000 mobile sound recording unit; a ream of Sony HDV Z1 cameras; jibs; dolly & tracks; sound desks; lighting desks and modern full-equipped post-production suites. They’ve also just invested €50,000 in a TriCaster 850 Extreme Live Virtual Studio.
This investment was made in order to offer clients the advantage of working with virtual sets rather than the costly experience of set designers, set builders etc. Interestingly, it’s a piece of equipment that reduces the number of crew required for a studio production as everything is controlled from the main desk. This machine will save production companies a fortune, as Dave explains.
“It’s basically a live production suite designed for chroma-keying. We bought it about four-weeks ago, so we’re still getting our heads around it. Everything goes in from 3D graphic inserts to live typography, all that sort of stuff. You can directly output it online or you can connect direct to a satellite uplink for live broadcast”.
It’s all quite a way from the studio’s humble origins in Lispopple, Swords, Co Dublin, where Paul Flanagan founded the company (hence its name) in the late nineties and began producing ‘Irish Paint Magic’ for TG4, which is now in its 15th season. “When I started working first of all with Paul in 2005 we were operating out of a garage space in Lispopple in Swords with a small post production space in the attic conversion of Paul’s house,” recalls Dave.
“We’d a good couple of years, producing series funded by TG4 and Sound & Vision. This money was re-invested in the studio. It was something Paul wanted to do for quite some time, which was to build a purpose-built television recording facility.
We had big plans for it and we still do. We’ve a range of new upcoming productions in development, hoping the studios portfolio will continue to grow over the coming years. If I’d one message to potential clients: the market is tough out there, we’re all in the same boat. Come and talk to us, we’ll look after you.”
For more details on Lispopple Studio see their dedicated studio profile on IFTN.