17 May 2022 The Irish Film & Television Network
Minister's Speech at IFB Production Review Launch
12 Dec 2003 :
Before I begin, I would like to formally and publicly congratulate Mark Woods on his appointment as CEO of The Irish Film Board.

It gives me great pleasure to be here this evening to formally launch the Irish Film Board's latest review. - And what a year it was!

As the writer John Banville wrote recently "The cinema is the greatest art form since the classical theatre of ancient Greece". Ireland has contributed to world culture through literature, visual arts, and theatre. It is my wish that Irish filmmakers will continue to make films that contribute to our national cultural expression and to a global audience.

This cannot happen without funding, talent, stories and audiences. This year has been a truely remarkable year for Irish cinema and Irish filmmakers and producers have presented to Irish and international audiences alike funny, brutal, and brave cinema.

"Song for a Raggy Boy," explores a part of our history that some would like to forget, perhaps, but which is nonetheless part of our past, and we can ultimately only benefit from having the light shone into dark corners.

"Intermission" is very distinctively Irish, yet is an intriguing combination of humour, sentiment and hard-hitting action. This is the highest grossing film ever funded by the Irish Film Board, and by doing so very well in our home market this film demonstrated the potential audience that exists here for our own stories.

In fact one of the issues that that need addressing in the short term is how can more Irish Films be seen by more Irish audiences. In other words, I wish to see a developing strategy on film distribution and marketing of Irish films.

"Chavez - Inside the Coup," was a remarkable achievement, which came from two Irish filmmakers just happening to be in the right place when a coup started, and being the opportunist sort, they let the cameras roll. The result was good enough to be named the Best TV Programme in the World for 2003 at the BANFF Festival. Congratulations to all concerned, but don't try and get into a Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party meeting.

And there were other fine films made, "Spin the Bottle," "Mystics," "In America," " Dead Bodies," and "Goldfish Memory" among them.

In Ireland, I believe that there cannot be a question of whether it is better to promote Irish films than to attract international productions, or vice-versa, but that we must do both. Irish films reflect our own culture in a very special way, but international productions bring economic benefits, they allow our crews and technicians to work with, and learn from, the very best in the world, they showcase Ireland to very large numbers of people all around the world, and they provide invaluable career opportunities for our film professionals.

The Irish Film Board is at the centre of film activity in Ireland, from seed finance for the neophyte producer to marketing Ireland as a location for the Hollywood majors. Thankfully, I can now say that Government will continue to play its part through the section 481 scheme, which has been extended to 2008. While I believed and have always believed that there is a compelling case for a relief of this kind, I do want to acknowledge my appreciation of the open and genuine consideration given to my presentation of that case by my colleague, Charlie McCreevy, Minister for Finance.

Of course, the Minister for Finance, in his Budget speech, did draw attention to the need to minimise abuse or misuse of this scheme, and I have raised this issue myself in recent months. No-one is suggesting that the majority, or anything close to it, of producers have abused the system, but there has clearly been some sharp practice by a small number. To that small number who do not play by the rules I say: - perhaps you should really consider another line of work, because we will make things so hot for you that it will not be worth your while to stay in the business, and it is likely to cost you dear if you continue.

This may sound like a harsh line, but the reality is that a small number of abusers could very easily destroy the entire Irish film sector. This industry is just too important culturally and economically for this to be allowed to happen, and I will not readily accept it.

My Department has commenced discussions with the Department of Finance and the Revenue Commissioners to identify the adjustments to the administration of the scheme that would best address the abuse issue. The Price Waterhouse Report, which informed our consideration of the case for extending the relief, also makes some concrete recommendations in this regard, and we will of course be looking at them. Some of you may be interested to know that the full text of the PWC Report will be available on the Websites of my Department, and the Irish Film Board, with effect from tomorrow morning.

Let us not rest on our laurels or become complacent in strengthening the film Industry in Ireland, we need writers, Directors, crafts people and audiences and we need through the film board to continue to implement new strategies to remain alert and supportive of this growing Irish artform. As the writer and actor Mannix Flynn wrote about the instant gleam of cinema "We flock to see the reflections of our Island, our people, our stories, our culture. We came to Irish cinema, we saw and we were conquered. Now we want more".

Thank you very much.

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