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First report on Cultural Impact of Section 481 Tax Incentive for the Creative Screen Industry published by Screen Ireland
24 Jan 2023 : News Desk
Florence Pugh in Irish Netflix drama The Wonder.
The Cultural Dividend Generated by Ireland’s Section 481 Film and Television Incentive is the first report of its kind, and it examines the impact that Section 481 has delivered for Irish society, for audiences at home and abroad, and for professionals working in the creative screen industry in Ireland.

The cultural dividend is the collective value of the cultural impact and industry development impacts of the Section 481 film and television production tax credit incentive.  A wide range of sources were employed for the study, including surveys, focus groups, and analysis of individual film and television case study projects – and the period of focus was 2017 – 2021.

Susan Bergin, Chair Fís Eireann / Screen Ireland; said: “For the first time, this report examines the cultural dividend of Section 481 and the impact it has on our creative screen industry, and wider society. There is no doubt that Section 481 is a critical component of the creative screen industry, and it is encouraging to see that examined in detail for the first time. We were particularly pleased to see such a high percentage of projects accessing Section 481 rely on key creative Irish talent.  The success of Irish talent internationally, garnering  multiple awards or nominations in the last five years, in itself demonstrates the impact that the support yields for our creative talent and the productions they work on.”

At a glance

  • Study indicates 89% of incoming production expenditure can be attributed to Section 481
  • Production expenditure for Section 481 productions in Ireland reached a record-breaking €500 million in 2021
  • A high proportion of projects accessing Section 481 rely on creative Irish talent, with 68% of productions using Irish talent between 2017 and 2021
  • 69% of the survey respondents felt they had a future in the Irish screen sector and 54% of survey respondents working within the creative screen industry confirmed they have worked in the sector for more than 10 years
  • 11 Section 481 productions have achieved major international awards or nominations between 2017 and September 2022
  • Significant secondary benefits of Section 481 include Screen Tourism with a high penetration of projects available to stream in the vast majority of territories worldwide.
  • Recent examples such as Banshees of Inisherin showcase Irish locations globally and demonstrate the benefits of regional production activity
  • At least 50% of all projects profiled had a transmission on free-to-air television in the Republic of Ireland

Cultural value

In measuring cultural value, the report examines the different ways in which Irish film and television impacts individuals and society, from audience identification with settings and stories, pride, and awareness of Irish history and cultural heritage, as well as the power to further the promotion and recognition of Ireland and Irish identity around the world.

For example, many Irish residents valued the importance of Irish film and television content, with the majority of respondents surveyed more likely to watch a film or television series if it was Irish. Significant numbers of respondents agreed that Irish film and television had a positive effect in areas like educating society, driving debate, and educating children, while younger Irish residents were particularly positive regarding the impacts of film and television on promoting and preserving the Irish language. Respondents under 35 were more likely to say that Irish screen content encouraged people to be proud of the Irish language and made them want to learn the Irish language or speak it more frequently. 

Production

In order to research how much production expenditure and its associated impacts can be attributed to Section 481, recipients of the tax incentive, including major US producers, were surveyed to explore what production companies would have done in the absence of the incentive.   82% of the expenditure by indigenous companies can be attributed to Section 481, while 89% of inward international investment companies attributed expenditure to Section 481.

The study also found that a high proportion of projects accessing Section 481 rely on key creative Irish talent, with 68% of productions using Irish talent between 2017 and 2021.

Audiences

In audience terms, the report looks at Section 481-supported productions and their release windows, including theatrical, streaming, pay-television, and free television. In total, 43 Section 481 productions had global theatrical release information, and these productions were screened in a median of four countries per production.  Theatrical release demonstrates a particular level of quality given the third-party investment necessary for each cinema release.  In the period under review – 2017 to 2021 - at least 50% of all projects profiled had a prime window to transmission on free-to-air television in the Republic of Ireland and this increases over time as windows expire.  This means the Irish audiences gain the benefit of Section 481 on screen.

This distribution data underlines the importance of Section 481 to Irish broadcasters and the commissioning of cultural content, as well as the benefits investing in Irish content has for Irish audiences. The penetration of Section 481 productions globally is very high, with projects available to stream in the vast majority of territories.  For example, hit series Normal People was available to stream in 102 countries, Angela’s Christmas was available to stream in 89 countries, Vikings: Valhalla was available to stream in 59 countries, Irish documentary Songs for While I’m Away was available to stream in 59 countries and Herself was available to stream in 33 countries. Worldwide audiences for these projects creates increased promotional opportunities for tourism according to Tourism Ireland.

Employment

Attitudes Surveys were used to examine the value that workers place on their roles in the screen sector, and the responses indicated that Irish crew feel their work in the screen sector is meaningful and both culturally and socially valuable. Working conditions and stability are also explored in the report, with high levels of work satisfaction reported as 69% of the survey respondents felt they had a future in the Irish screen sector. 54% of survey respondents confirmed they have worked in the sector for more than 10 years, indicating a degree of continuous and sustained employment in the screen sector. Regarding compensation, using the survey data, the estimated average annual salary for all screen workers is 27% higher than the average income in Ireland. However, the issue of long working hours is raised in the report and, although characteristic of the screen industry internationally, it recommends that this is an important area should be further explored and addressed.

Another core tenet of quality employment is the opportunity for growth and development. In total, 86% of survey respondents believe that their role enables them, or sometimes enables them, to experience international best practice regarding skills and technology, including on-the-job learning. 

According to the survey, most workers in the Irish Screen sector get an opportunity to work on a variety of productions. One survey respondent noted that “working in a 'different' industry where no two days are the same” gave them satisfaction in their work.

Click here to read the full report.





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