As Ireland's economy booms, so does production

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Galway Film Fest  turns 19

Ireland is knee-deep in green these days -- the money sort. With its economy thriving, the nation's film sector is reaping plenty of financial benefits: The government has endowed the Irish Film Board with enough cash to help bolster local and foreign production, and tax laws have been geared to permit individual investors to put money into films.

Jonathan Loughran, vp of the IFB's newly opened, L.A.-based Irish Film Commission US, praises sound fiscal planning on the part of Irish authorities for the turnaround: "Ireland has the European headquarters of every major Internet and pharmaceutical company, including Microsoft, Google and Yahoo. The spinoff has been increased economic activity -- there's more money in the economy."

Film wouldn't be taking off as much as it is without these other industries also seeing growth. The "Celtic Tiger" economy has elsewhere been bolstered by EU funds and Irish governmental organizations, including the Industrial Development Authority and Enterprise Ireland.

All of that is good news for the film industry, which benefits from direct investment by the IFB in local productions, as well as investment by individual citizens under section 481 of the Irish tax code, which affords tax relief under a scheme overseen and policed by the government.

Among the Irish films that have benefited from the setup are Neil Jordan's 2005 film "Breakfast on Pluto," 2006's Ken Loach drama "The Wind That Shakes the Barley" and Fox Searchlight's current release "Once," a charming indie about a street musician in Dublin that is earning rave reviews.

The ripple effect is being felt outside the country as well, as foreign productions are being lured in by the favorable investment structures, Loughran says. (Outside productions can benefit from section 481 only if they make use of Irish production companies.) Currently, Showtime's series "The Tudors" is shooting just outside Dublin at Ardmore Studios under the watchful eye of producer Morgan O'Sullivan.

"There's no doubt that people having more income in Ireland today is a contributing factor to the success of 481, and, in turn, the growing success of the film sector," Loughran says.
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