Film and TV production in Ireland has doubled over the past five years, as the industry focused on building studio space and skills training for crew. Now the country is establishing itself as an attractive destination for TV, as evidenced by the success of projects including Element Pictures’ Normal People, shot in County Sligo and Dublin’s Trinity College.
“It’s been one of those things — a perfect synthesis of the right show at a particular time, a captive audience, and also, maybe it’s that the sensibilities of the show chimed with people,” said Ed Guiney, co-founder of Element Pictures.
Steven Davenport, inward production manager at Screen Ireland, believes the country has much to offer in a competitive time for the screen industries. “Everybody has tax credits but our 32% is one of the higher ones,” he says. “It’s a boots-on-the-ground tax credit. Once people are here working, they qualify for the tax credits.
“Our Georgian and Victorian architecture in Dublin and in Limerick lets us play other cities as well.”
Davenport identifies the next stages of growth to be increasing capacity and training crews to fill any skills gaps, as Ireland increasingly becomes a year-round international production hub. “We used to be very seasonal,” he points out. “December until March was a downtime. But in the last couple of years, we’re seeing very busy starts to the year.”
Dublin-based Macdara Kelleher of Fastnet Films, whose credits include Apple TV’s Foundation, says Ireland is well placed to take advantage of a global demand for stories. “We have the crew, we are English speaking, direct flights to Los Angeles, [and] you’re an hour from London,” he says. “We’ve a good infrastructure so it’s possible to have multiple large-scale projects going at the same time.
Kelleher points to the need for more studio space to attract even more large-scale productions and for greater collaboration with Northern Ireland. “I would like to see more interaction between the north and the south,” he says. “There are some possibilities there.”
Section 481 is Ireland’s main tax credit at a rate of 32%, as well as a regional uplift of 5%. This equals incentives of 37% in regional areas. The Wrap Fund provides funding and support for projects filming across the western counties of Galway, Limerick, Mayo, Clare, Donegal, Roscommon and Sligo. Recent projects supported include Nick Rowland’s UK-Ireland co-production Calm With Horses.
As Ireland eases out of the Covid 19 pandemic, facilitated by a new set of guidelines drawn up by Screen Producers Ireland, a number of large-scale productions are set to resume. These include Foundation at Troy Studios in Limerick following the construction of a fourth soundstage. Vikings spin-off Valhalla, a historical drama for Netflix, is to resume production in County Wicklow. And Ridley Scott’s period epic The Last Duel, starring Matt Damon, Jodie Comer, Adam Driver and Ben Affleck will shoot in several locations across the country.
The film was in pre-production for Walt Disney and 20th Century Studios when the Irish lockdown came into effect in late March, and Damon and his family chose to stay put in Dublin, much to the delight of the Irish press.
According to Fredrik Wikström Nicastro of SF Studios, Ireland’s crew remains one of its greatest assets. “High-quality crew was a priority in what we were looking for and the flexibility to work with cast and crew from other countries if needed — which is exactly what we have found,” he says. “Additional pros are the beneficial rebates and closeness to the rest of Europe and the US.”
The industry is now planning ahead in a bid to optimise the growth in global demand for content. “We are seeing huge demand for international content,” says Steven Davenport, inward production manager at Screen Ireland. “The rise of SVoD has changed the landscape dramatically and there are no signs of it slowing down. Production activity in Ireland has doubled in the last four years.
“Training is also a huge focus for us and we are working across developing our skills base further. Screen Skills Ireland recently published an action plan for the next number of years and is consulting regularly with key industry stakeholders to ensure courses are provided that reflect the ongoing skills needs of the sector,” he adds.
“We want to ensure that we stay on top of global changes, new technology and are in a position to identify and meet any skills shortages that may arise very quickly.”
Ardmore Studios in County Wicklow offers five soundstages, the largest spanning more than 2,130 square metres. Ashford Studios, 42 kilometres from Dublin city centre, offers three soundstages totalling 5,295 square metres. Troy Studios on the outskirts of the mid-western city of Limerick offers 32,515 square metres under one roof and 6,500 square metres of soundstages. Other studio facilities include Telegael in County Galway, Kite Studios in County Wicklow and Popup Studios in Dublin.
Greystones Media Campus is also seeking planning permission to develop a 14-studio film and media campus in County Wicklow, Ireland.
First person to contact: Steven Davenport firstname.lastname@example.org