There’s a lot to be said for getting out of the big city. Most television producers and film-makers will tell you that. Asked earlier this month about starting work on his Brendan Gleeson-starring feature ‘Calvary’, filmmaker John Michael McDonagh could hardly contain his delight to be heading for Sligo to shoot a feature “that seeks to escape from the tiresome, rarefied confines of Dublin 4”.
Escape from the capital was – in part – also on Nemeton TV producer Irial Mac Murchú’s mind back in 1993. Caught in a loop of travelling to and from Dublin in order to use post-production facilities, the former journalist turned producer found himself faced with the choice of either moving to the capital or starting up his own facilities in Waterford. Almost 20 years later, Nemeton TV is thriving.
Based in the Dungarvan area of the county, Mac Murchú’s leap of faith has seen the company grow to become one of Ireland’s largest media production companies, with the company going beyond offering the skills of an independent production company to boast training facilities, outside broadcast equipment and Ireland’s first HD studio.
“All of this grew out of our own production needs,” recalls Mac Murchú from the Waterford hub. “Due to the fact that we were based in neither Dublin nor Galway, there were no television facilities down in Waterford. Even to do an edit we used to have to go to Dublin, which just wasn’t very practical.”
Practical concerns have formed the reasoning behind a number of Mac Murchú’s key decisions at Nemeton, not least the recent move to rebuild the company’s studio to the highest HD standards. After winning the contract to base TG4’s coverage of the Rugby World Cup – as well as the Heineken Cup – in the studio, Nemeton decided the time was right to rebuild the studio they’d first gradually began to build almost 15 years earlier.
Mac Murchú recalls the company began the move to establishing their own studio with the installation of their first edit suite in 1996. Five years later, in 2001, “mark one” of the facility was truly up and running to help facilitate ‘The Health Show’ for RTÉ One. In the intervening years, the studio became largely used as a training facility before TG4 and the Rugby World Cup came knocking and the studio was rebuilt to HD standards.
Now, the HD studio comes with three remote cameras as standard or up to four pedestal mounted cameras. The studio includes a full production gallery and sound supervision area with Aston graphics. It also comes complete with satellite uplink as well as a green room and hair & make-up facilities. The studio is also available for both wet and dry hire.
“We decided that there was no point in doing this unless it was future-proofed for at least the next five-years,” Mac Murchú said of the decision to rebuild. “So we decided there and then to go for an entire HD set-up and a tapeless set-up. All of our backend stuff is all on a huge server and it’s all server-based now. It was more expensive of course but it made practical sense. Nobody wants to come to use yesterday’s technology. They want the newest and most modern equipment, and they’ll get that here.”
Getting in new productions is now the next step on Mac Murchú’s mind. Although Nemeton produces more than 300 hours of television every year – and is thus one of the biggest production companies in Ireland in terms of hourly output – the need to draw in outside production companies is needed to keep the facility viable in these tough economic times.
“We built it primarily to service our own needs, but that’s not enough to keep it going,” Mac Murchú says in a matter of fact manner. “All broadcasters have reduced budgets now, so what we are targeting now are high-volume series which broadcasters need. They need more hours for less money. So our strategy is to go after that, either through in-house productions, or those that are commissioned by broadcasters. We’ve also directly quoted both TG4, RTÉ and TV3 for work to do here in our studio, which they would take from us to bring in their own productions. Because it [the studio] is brand new, we have yet to attract a high-profile production to it, but we’re working on that. We’ve many proposals out there so hopefully it’s about to take off and we’d feel it would appeal to all broadcasters.”
As well as the top class HD facility, Mac Murchú is hopeful the lure of the “sunny south-east” will attract broadcasters and producers. “They can come down here to the sunny south-east and it’s getting away from the hectic pace of Dublin where you can actually concentrate on your production and take in the area here,” he says. “That’s the major advantage really. The other advantage is that under the one roof we have edit facilities and live links so you can do a live programme from here and we’ve got very experienced technicians and production staff. Anyone who avails of the studio can avail of their expertise as well.”
For more details on Nemeton see their company profile on IFTN here.