27 May 2024 The Irish Film & Television Network
Derry O'Brien Hits Toronto & Edinburgh
03 Jun 2010 :
Popular documentary Gabriel Byrne Stories from Home
Co-founder of general TV distribution company, Network Ireland Television, in 1995 (along with the late Brian Waddell) Derry O’Brien has seen NITV judiciously accumulate more than 1,500 hours of programming in the last 15 years which the company sells to 100 plus broadcasters worldwide. In financial terms, this amounts to the tidy sum of over €7 million in sales revenues over the past 15 years. This year O’Brien has been invited to speak at both the Toronto Worldwide Short Film festival and the Edinburgh Film Festival to share his insights into the world of independent distribution.

As the financial recession continues independent distribution of film and TV programmes continues to prove challenging, however the NITV chief says things are on the up. Derry recently attended the 2010 MIPTV event for the 21st time in his career as one of the 1,500 exhibitors at the event, he tells IFTN he was happy at the outcome: “We were very busy compared to last year in terms of traffic and the pre-confirmed appointments that we had. We had a fairly heavy meeting schedule before we went down there and we also had some passing enquiries from some passing buyers which was a serious improvement on last year.” When IFTN enquires about particular projects that proved popular, he tells us that there was “a very positive reaction to a couple of the documentaries but one in particular that we brought down from Hotshot Films called ‘Ballybrando’, there was a very strong interest in that in terms of the number of buyers who viewed it during the two days of the market and we are following up with those as we are on the Gabriel Byrne documentary ‘Gabriel Byrnes: Stories from Home’ and the third title, Borderline Production’s’ ‘Show me the Mummy’.

As to the general atmosphere of the festival, Derry came away positive: “Buyers were looking for programming and they seem to be a bit more confident about budgets and going forward,” he explains. “They seem prepared to buy which was not the case this time last year. So we are quietly confident that we are going to close some decent sales over the next few weeks.”

The distributor does not attend the Cannes Film Festival due to the lack of documentary buyers there, explaining that “we are going to meet more of our buyers at the festivals that I am going to attend in the next month than we would at something like the Cannes Film Festival.”

One such festival that Derry plans to attend is the Toronto Worldwide Short Film festival, telling us “I have always tried to get to the festival itself because they show a wide range of new English language short films from Canadian, American and European directors. They have always featured a broad range of country programmes shorts and it is a place to go to see short films at a very early stage in their festival life. There is strong competition out there for distribution of short films and we really need to spot these films as early as we can and engage in dialogue with the producers.

The Toronto festival, which Derry has attended and participated in as a panellist for many years, has this year invited him to speak at a panel event entitled ‘Distribution 101’. The event is organised by the festival as a way for filmmakers to meet local and international distributors in a bid to getting their films on the market place. Taking place on Friday June 4th, Derry will join Jessica Parkinson from Ouat Media; Sydney Neter, from SND Films, Netherlands; Susan Petersen from the US’s Shorts International festival and Millan Vazquez-Ortiz, Co-founder of the FREAK Short Film Agency in Spain.

O’Brien is looking forward to the event. “First of all we will get a chance to give a little background on each of our companies and then we will talk about what we want in a short film - what we specifically are looking for in terms of shorts. Then there is a question and answer session and it’s really to make sure the attendees get some basics in terms of information and things they must do and must avoid doing to hopefully generate as much activity both festival and sales-wise on their film.

As a veteran participant, has Derry seen a growth in Irish involvement at the Toronto festival over the years? Most certainly, he says, “in terms of the festival itself they have always shown several of the new Irish short films and two years ago ‘New Boy’ won the top award there and then obviously went on to be nominated for the Oscars. This year, there are a couple of Irish films - like ‘Old Fangs’ one of the Frameworks animation films, in competition. Then showing in the main festival are ‘Moore Street Masala’ and ‘Dental Breakdown’ which are both the musical shorts that are out at the moment and we also have a Scottish film of ours called ‘The Elemental’, which is in a late night horror slot. So we have interest in about four of the films out there which is good. They get 4,000 entries every year so they do have the chance to pick the best short films from around the world. That’s how competitive it is and anything that gets into the last fifty or seventy films that they show during the festival it is a big achievement in itself.”

Derry is also lined up to take part in a short film seminar at the upcoming Edinburgh Film Festival which runs from the 16th to the 27th June. Having participated at the Shooting People seminar last November at the Encounters Festival in Bristol, Derry is excited at the prospect of speaking at the Scottish festival as part of a short film seminar quite aptly named Short Sighted.

“The Edinburgh Film Festival is one of the key film festivals in these islands,” he says. “I was delighted to be invited to speak. These events will provide an opportunity for me to meet both NITV's existing buyers and producers and new buyers attending these high profile events, and a chance to talk about our current short film catalogue. It also, most importantly, allows me to network with independent overseas producers and identify films that I might want to acquire for the NITV catalogue. This is particularly germane as international short film titles from the independent sector are contributing more pro rata to our company's turnover.

For more information about Network Ireland Television visit www.network-irl-tv.com/

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