Irish hit town with biz agenda

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The Irish film industry is launching a high-profile drive in Hollywood this week to promote more film and TV business opportunities between Ireland and the U.S. A trade mission of key players from the Irish film industry and the Irish Film Board is arriving in Los Angeles today to begin meetings with studios and independents.

The kickoff of the campaign is timed to coincide with the official unveiling of the Irish Film Board's Los Angeles office and with the pre-Academy Awards event "Oscar Wilde: Honoring Irish Writing in Film," set for Thursday at the Wilshire Ebell in Los Angeles.

The Wilde event will honor Van Morrison, Irish director Terry George ("Hotel Rwanda") and screenwriter William Monahan ("The Departed") for their contribution to the international film industry. The Irish Film Board is among the sponsors of the event.

Al Pacino is set to introduce Morrison on Thursday, said organizer Trina Vargo, president of the U.S.-Ireland Alliance, which founded the event last year.

Jonathan Loughran, vp of the IFB's newly established Los Angeles office, said Monday, "Basically, I've been tasked with getting U.S. productions to come to Ireland and to promote Ireland as a location for both film and television production."

Ireland, Loughran said, has long been known as a location-friendly environment and was the first EU member to introduce film production tax incentives. More recently, the Irish government has committed €145 million ($188 million) to fund the Irish film industry over the next seven years. This is in addition to the existing tax incentive scheme.

"This is a very important week for us as is evident by the number and quality of Irish producers traveling over with set meetings at the studios, networks and independents." Loughran said.

Said Ardmore Studios chief executive and IFB board member Kevin Moriarty: "We hope to build on the success of 'The Tudors,' which filmed in Ireland last year, and identify more key television projects of a similar caliber to shoot in Ireland. We will also be looking to maintain our ongoing relationships with feature film producers."

Andrew Lowe from Element Pictures ("The Wind That Shakes the Barley") and his Hells Kitchen International business partner Arthur Lappin will be among those traveling to Los Angeles, using the opportunity to raise financing for their slate of upcoming films.

They and other producers also will be meeting with potential U.S. co-producers aiming to target film and television projects that potentially could film on location in Ireland.

Other film and television companies traveling as part of the trade mission include James Flynn from Octagon Films, who has produced the Jane Austen film "Becoming Jane," which will be released next month in Irish cinemas; World 2000 ("The Tudors," "King Arthur"); Parallel Films ("Breakfast on Pluto"); Grand Pictures ("Spin the Bottle"); Double Z ("Podge and Rodge"); and Tyrone Prods. ("Ros na Run"). Kilkenny-based animation company Cartoon Saloon also will be traveling to Los Angeles in an effort to promote their feature film "Brendan and the Secret of Kells" and the TV series "Skunk Fu." Paul and Bernadette Howard of Imagine Films Ireland also will be in town.

Irish Film Commissioner Naoise Barry said: "Ireland has a strong competitive edge in attracting international TV drama. 2006 was a great year, with major TV drama series from the U.S., U.K. and Germany filming here. The U.S. market has real growth potential because production budgets are so large. In economic terms, just one U.S. show is worth six from Europe. This IFB trade mission in Oscar week, coordinated by our new U.S. office, involving 15 Irish companies, aims to lure more major U.S. TV to our shores in 2007."

Among those set to attend the Wilde event are Helen Mirren, Michael Moore, Fionnula Flanagan and Ireland's own Oscar-nominated costume designer Consolata Boyle. Roma Downey is set to emcee the honors, Vargo said.

The U.S.-Ireland Alliance created the Wilde event in 2006 to foster ties between the entertainment industries in the U.S. and Ireland. The host committee includes Walt Disney Studios chairman Dick Cook, HBO Films president Colin Callender, Anjelica Huston and last year's honorees Jim Sheridan, Neil Jordan and David Holmes.
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