Irish Producer and former CEO of the Irish Film Board, Michael Algar, talks to IFTN on his recent appointment as the Director of High Point Media Group, Ireland - the Irish office of independent distribution and sales agency - High Point Media Group.
In conjunction with his new appointment at High Point Michael Algar works as an independent producer and voice director as well as running the Dublin based animation company Keg Kartoonz. Michael was the first ever CEO of the Irish Film Board and between 1976 and 1982 he was Managing Director of Pan International Films, a subsidiary advertising company of McConnells. His producing credits cover factual and music videos along with feature films including 'Joseph - King of Dreams', ‘Christmas Carol: The Movie’ and the animation series’ 'Budgie the Little Helicopter' and ‘Fado Fado’.
Speaking to IFTN on his new post, Michael explains why he became involved with the sales company: “Unfortunately with a lot of Irish films, they get financed and they get made but often they don’t get picked up for international distribution. One of the reasons I got involved with High Point is that they are actively keen on looking at as many Irish films as possible to get them out there into the market. There isn’t another international sales agent in that view of the film industry here as there is no one actively trying to look for films from Ireland to put into the international market. High Point, as far as I am concerned, is the only company keen to do that.”
Explaining his role Michael says: “Essentially, High Point is based in London so I will be representing them here. I will be trying to identify the projects or read scripts and will then pass them onto High Point with my commentary and the merits that I see of the projects.”
As well as being involved in many international titles High Point Films has a built up a growing catalogue of acclaimed Irish projects including ‘Kings’ (Newgrange Productions), ‘Prosperity’ (Element Films), ‘Eden’ (Samson Films) and an upcoming Irish feature with Colm Meaney as Michael explains: “There is a film called ‘The Race’ by Grand Pictures which is in post production at the moment. High Point are planning to bring that to the market at the Cannes Film Festival. They are also looking at other several projects at the moment.”
“Because High Point is an already established company and they have quite a portfolio of projects, they are looking to see are there more Irish projects to become involved with. From an Irish producer’s point of view it means that there is a company which is interested in taking projects from here. As producers are putting their project together or even completing it but do not know how they will get the distribution, that is the perfect opportunity for High Point to start getting involved with them by trying to advise what is the best way to get international attention for it, whether to get it into festivals or to get a market screening.”
“The object of the exercise is to get more people aware of the fact that High Point are actively interested in looking at Irish projects. Because they are a sales agent they would look at a project and see does it have international potential and if it does then arrange with the company to take it on.”
Commenting on the new Irish appointment Carey Fitzgerald, Managing Director of High Point said: “We see Ireland as the gateway to Europe and not just because of the Euro-zone but also because there’s a lot of good-will towards Ireland. Government Tax incentives (Section 481) make Ireland an attractive proposition for investors.”
Michael acknowledges the challenges that the Irish film industry faces and reasons a film’s script as the prominent selling factor: “The biggest single problem, which I suppose is a problem in every country, is that most of the films feature actors are not known internationally. Therefore they have to depend on outstanding scripts and, of course, being well made, but essentially to have a really strong script to get the international attention.”
“High Point has been doing this for long time and it knows many international distributors and the kind of films they are looking for in different countries. So when a movie comes along like ‘The Race’ they will know immediately which of their international contacts would be interested in a film like that and will make a point it of saying that it would be just right for a certain territory. They can select and target international distributors and say this is right or by the same token say no this project is not right for you. International distributors like that as they like being able to trust sales agents who aren’t going to show them everything that they have and just show what that distributor is distinctly interested in.”