Ireland's film future could be horror show

Government proposal could scrap film board, industry

LONDON -- Active film production in Ireland could be threatened by a recommendation to shut the Irish Film Board.

IFB chief Simon Perry said he's flumoxed by last week's recommendations by the Irish government's finance department to shave $52.6 million in arts and culture funding.

"Does the Irish government really want Ireland to be the only country in the developed world making no films at all?" he asked. "It's hard to imagine."

Perry said there has been exponential growth in the Irish media sector during the past 20 years, with employment rising from a few hundred to more than 6,000.

"Closure of the Irish Film Board would mean that the production of Irish films will stop completely, with the loss not just of the 17 public-sector jobs within the agency but of potentially thousands of private-sector jobs associated with Irish filmmaking," Perry said.

The board chief noted a recent survey that found nearly 50% of tourists decide to visit the country after seeing Ireland depicted in films.

The benefits generated by movies to trade and business in a globalized world "are well understood by every other country that supports its film production, including the U.S.," Perry said.

The advisory board's recommendations included transferring film board's functions to a new agency and pulling the plug on the investment fund.

"The group considers that continued funding of the Irish Film Board is not affordable at this time in the context of other more pressing spending priorities," the board said in a 300-page report.

Perry sees things differently.

"At a time when the Irish government is deeply concerned by the daily toll of job losses in the private sector, we are very puzzled by the recommendation," he said. "We suspect that the authors of the report may not be aware of the recent growth in Ireland's audiovisual sector."