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Irish Filmmakers Talk MEDIA Ahead of Brussels Hearing
10 Mar 2011 :
Funky Fables from Jam Media
A public hearing is to be held on Friday, March 18th in Brussels where the future of the MEDIA funding programme is to be discussed. The event, organised by the European Commission is entitled ‘Future of the MEDIAS’. IFTN spoke with several Irish filmmakers about the impact the MEDIA has had on their companies and why it is important that the programme be maintained.

The organisation of the public meeting follows on from reports that the European Commission had decided to put an end to the MEDIA programme’s independence. This initially lead to a wave of over three hundred filmmakers, including Ken Loach and Mike Leigh, signing an online petition to support the future of the programme and now filmmakers from across Europe are invited to attend the Brussels event to voice their concern and support.

In contrast to reports, in a note on March 9th from the European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso states that his group are in support of the continuation of the programme: "The field of culture is a very important one, also for the European economy, he states. ”Let me mention the programme MEDIA, related to European cinema. There were some reports saying that the European Commission had the intention to reduce it, which is completely inaccurate. On the contrary, if one thinks about something concerning this programme, it is to reinforce it, at least this is what we are going to propose.”

However, the European Commission is still planning to hold the public hearing on Friday, March 18th in their Charlemagne Building in Brussels. The programme of events will feature a panel discussion entitled Old and New Business Models for the MEDIA Programme and another entitled How to Better Engage with Audiences. The will be further speeches and Q&A discussions throughout the day and the whole event will be broadcast via webstreaming.

To mark the upcoming event IFTN spoke with Irish filmmakers who have received support from the MEDIA programme over the years. These included Cartoon Saloon’s Paul Young; Siobhán Ward from Crossing the Line Films; Grand Pictures’ Ailish McElmeel; Fastnet Films’ Macdara Kelleher; Jam Media’s John Rice; Newgrange Pictures’ Lesley McKimm and Magma Production’s Moe Honan.

Paul Young’s company, Cartoon Saloon received funding from the body for their Oscar nominated feature ‘The Secret of Kells’ and TV series, ‘Skunk Fu’. He spoke to IFTN about how a reduction in MEDIA’s funding power would affect the Irish and European animation community: “It would potentially take away essential development funding and potentially two of the most key platforms for the industry in animation, Cartoon forum and Cartoon Movie,”he tells us. “Without these events neither ‘Skunk Fu!’ or ‘The Secret of Kells’ would have launched and found their partners across Europe.”

Fellow West of Ireland animation house, Magma Productions saw feature projects such as ‘Niko and the Way to the Stars’ supported by the group. The feature has since sold to 120 countries. Head of Animation in the group, Moe Honan tells us that the company is indispensable to those wishing to make co-productions: ”[An abolition of the MEDIA programme] would create a insurmountable gap in the financing of both development and co-production and thereby affect the company's own strategic development and ability to employ people,”she explains.

Dublin-based animator, John Rice of Jam Media received MEDIA support for his company’s TV series, ‘Tilly and Friends’ and ‘Funky Fables’. He is also planning to apply to the group for slate funding in the future. He points out that Irish animation is struggling enough with the support of the programme, when he notes that: “Without Media it will be even more difficult to compete with the tsunami of non-European content available to European children.”

Crossing the Line Films’ Siobhán Ward applied successfully for funding for TV projects such as ‘Broken Tail’s Last Journey’ which went on to broadcast in the UK and US. She understands the international power the MEDIA programme carries: “MEDIA affords Irish companies the opportunity to develop and produce projects with international appeal and scope that other sources of funding within the country simply can't alone,”she tells us. ”For smaller companies like us the existence of slate funding allows us to develop ideas, we otherwise would not have the resources to.”

Grand Pictures has received MEDIA programme funding for films such as ‘Spin the Bottle’ and ‘Wide Open Spaces’ and the recently wrapped feature, ‘Superhero’. The company’s execs have also all participated in MEDIA supported training events over the years including EAVE, Screen Leaders and Arista. Head of development with the group, Ailish McElmeel describes how the MEDIA support has directly affected Grand Pictures’ growth: “MEDIA is vitally important to Grand Pictures, it co-finances much of our development slate. It has allowed the company to grow and for us to develop larger scale projects.”

MEDIA has supported features such as ‘Kisses’, ‘The Runway’ and ‘Colony’ for Fastnet Films and co-founder Macdara Kelleher tells us they have submitted a further three projects for the upcoming round of funding from the body. He echoes Siobhán Ward’s sentiments as to the body’s importance with regards to International co-productions. “MEDIA is an invaluable and essential source of funding for the development of European film which enables us to compete at an international level,”he says. ”This funding protects European cinema from being overwhelmed by the influx American cinema. Production companies throughout Europe rely on this funding to survive and develop indigenous films.”

Finally, Newgrange Pictures’ Lesley McKimm, who received MEDIA funding for recent feature ‘Happy Ever Afters’ praised the work of the group where training is concerned: “We’ve benefitted as a company and as producers from various courses that have been funded by Media, include EAVE, ACE, Screen Leaders and Media Business school. The reach and support that Media offers is substantial and it would be detrimental if there were substantial cuts and potentially disastrous if it were to be abolished,” she concludes.

The ‘Future of the MEDIAs’ public hearing will take place on Friday, March 18th in Brussels between 9:00am and 4:00pm. For more information about the event visit http://ec.europa.eu/culture/media/mundus/index_en.htm



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