In addition to focusing on the editorial and creative merits of a project, FÉ/SI's funding programmes are guided by some fundamental principles which form the basis of the decision-making process.
These principles are:
- Making Cinema
- Accessing Audiences
- Developing Talent, Cultural & Industrial Priorities
These are explained in more detail below.
Some further considerations that may influence a decision in favour of one project over another are also set out below.
Because it is the only source of public funding for feature films directed towards a cinema release, the FÉ/SI's primary objective is to encourage, sustain and promote work in Ireland that is made to be shown on the big screen. In addition, FÉ/SI also has as part of its aims and objectives the support of certain other high-quality audiovisual works.
In addition to continuing its commitment to live-action feature films, this means:
Documentaries will be rigorously assessed in terms of their potential to achieve theatrical release, stimulate interest from international film festivals or engage on new and emerging platforms. Preference will be given to visual, cinematic ‘feature documentaries'; films aimed at a one-hour TV slot or shorter, with little or no international appeal, are unlikely to be supported. Emphasis will be placed on backing directors, writers and producers whose careers to date clearly demonstrate a strong commitment to making cinematic documentaries. Besides FÉ/SI's commitment to cinema, this approach is also designed to respond to the manifest increase in theatrical audiences' desire to see documentaries.
Animation feature films and television series will be provided with funding in recognition of the importance of Irish work in this field and the very limited funding from broadcasters for animated television series. Preference will be given to original work from Irish talent that appears to be sufficiently inventive and striking to measure up to the big-screen format and/or international television and other distribution.
Television drama, whether singles or series, will be rigorously assessed and may be funded for its inherent quality in very limited circumstances, but other factors will also come into play. Strong emphasis will be placed on backing directors, writers and producers whose careers to date clearly demonstrate an ability to make dramatic works or who, in the view of FÉ/SI, are headed for a career in feature-film or high-quality television drama production. Furthermore, FÉ/SI will need to be convinced that its financial involvement is crucial to the realisation of the programme or series and that the contribution from the broadcaster is commensurate with the seat of editorial control. FÉ/SI will also expect to contribute editorially to the development of this content.
FÉ/SI is increasingly focused on ensuring that funding decisions will favour projects that are clearly targeted at the appropriate audience. This does not mean that FÉ/SI is only interested in supporting material with commercial prospects, but instead that it is open to considering projects that may appeal to a wide spectrum of viewers, be they commercial, arthouse, festival-going or on television etc. Particular emphasis will be paid to a project's potential to engage its intended audience as well as the planned approach and scale of the project.
FÉ/SI funding will be directed to supporting projects that are original and of high quality, and that bring to cinema, though the talents of Irish writers, directors, producers and other Irish personnel, a different and distinctly Irish talent-driven cultural experience. Funding decisions will favour those Irish writers and directors, producers and other personnel who bring to film a distinctive voice and a strongly individual view of the world, and who create works that give a new and/or reinvigorated sensation to that experience.
These requirements do not mean that existing forms or genres of film will be avoided, but instead that the Irish writers, directors and producers supported will bring a fresh approach and new thinking to these forms or genres of films. Given the limited capacity for market and other funding of film in Ireland, Irish talent will need to be able to work with talent from other countries on projects being funded by FÉ/SI, and originality will continue to be factored in as part of the assessment of the combined talents of all parties involved.
Developing Talent, Cultural & Industrial Priorities
Consistent with its government remit and responding to the present perceived needs of the Irish audiovisual production industry, FÉ/SI considers that certain projects, in terms of their content, provenance or benefit to the industry, represent clear priorities for its funding.
Strong preference will be given to submissions on behalf of projects which:
- are of Irish initiation in a creative sense; that is, conceived, written, produced and/ or to be directed by Irish talents
- entail new and emerging Irish talent in key creative roles, i.e. director, writer, producer, composer, principal actor
- tell Irish stories, drawing on and depicting Ireland's culture, history, way of life, view of the world and of itself
Serious attention will also be paid to submissions which:
- propose a strongly Irish project (in terms of setting, characters, etc.) that is to be directed by a non-Irish talent, where FÉ/SI regards the director's track record as an assurance of quality
- involve an Irish producer as minority co-producer of a film, documentary or drama television programme or series, where (a) FÉ/SI is convinced of the quality of the project and (b) the amount of the FÉ/SI's investment corresponds to the level of involvement of Irish personnel, elements and facilities in the project.
Submissions on behalf of works to be made wholly or predominantly in the Irish language will continue to be particularly welcomed by FÉ/SI
FÉ/SI will always be vigilant in ensuring that films and high-quality drama and animation television programmes and series in which it invests entail a high volume of expenditure on Irish personnel and in the Irish industry, and this aspect of a submission is likely to play a material part in a positive decision. It will not be a decisive factor in itself, however, where FÉ/SI is not convinced by the quality of a project or where the project does not comply with any of the other priorities set out above. This is dealt with in more detail under Further Considerations below.
An essential rationale for making public money available to an industry is that it should create activity that would not otherwise occur, i.e. that the market, left to itself, would not engender. It follows that audiovisual works backed by theFÉ/SI should be those that would not be made, or would not be made with the same level of benefit to Ireland, unless enabled to do so with the support of the FÉ/SI. Such audiovisual works and the benefits that flow from them represent ‘additional' economic activity.
This does not mean that FÉ/SI is interested only in supporting material with limited commercial prospects. There is a wealth of evidence in our audiovisual history to show that the successes are frequently ground-breaking films. FÉ/SI will give energetic backing to producers who display an ambition to achieve market success and to projects that display an awareness of the market while at the same time providing a challenge to existing perceptions of what the marketplace expects.
The guiding principles described above should give applicants an insight into the way in which the FÉ/SI's executives and advisors assess a project from the point of view of its content and the creative team involved. In assessing production funding applications, other factors may come into play concerning the economic effects of the project, the financial arrangements and the prospects of reaching audiences.
Where FÉ/SI does not consider that a project adheres to any of the guiding principles, these other factors will not, in themselves, be sufficient to secure an offer of funding. But in the case of a project where the content and creative team are seen as persuasive, the following considerations may affect the outcome between the FÉ/SI and the producers as to the level of FÉ/SI's investment and the way in which the work will be financed, produced and distributed:
Track record of the Producer
- Has the producer managed and delivered audiovisual works in a professional and efficient manner before?
- Has FÉ/SI had good previous experience of dealing with the producer and the creative team?
- In a co-production, do any of the non-Irish producers involved have good professional track records?
- Are the key creative and technical positions to be filled by Irish personnel?
- In a co-production, is the proportion of these appropriate?
- Will the production offer employment to Irish personnel across all possible grades?
Spend in the Irish economy
- Will the work be made in the Republic of Ireland?
- Will the project make extensive use of Irish production and post-production facilities?
- Will the project attract inward investment into the Irish economy?
Sales and Distribution
- Is an international sales agent attached to the sale of the film or television programme or series?
- Does the film have an Irish distributor?
- Are any sales agents, distributors or broadcasters providing production finance?
- Are the proposed co-financiers of the film or television programme reliable?
- Will the proposed financing arrangements allow FÉ/SI to negotiate a reasonable recoupment position?
- Will there be reasonable transparency of accounting with regard to sales revenues, e.g. by use of a collection agent?
It should be emphasised that for a project to be offered production funding, it is not necessary for all of these questions to be answered affirmatively. But negative answers to a high proportion of them could undermine a strongly positive disposition on the part of FÉ/SI towards the creative aspects of a project. At the very least, a mix of affirmative and negative answers will provoke discussion as to the extent and manner of FÉ/SI's commitment.
Some FÉ/SI funding programmes have specific criteria of their own and are not necessarily governed by all of the principles set out above. Distribution Support is provided to Irish distributors of FÉ/SI-backed films who demonstrate that funding from FÉ/SIwill enhance the promotion of a film in the Irish market. Direct Distribution/Exhibition Support is provided to Irish producers to help defray the cost of a limited theatrical release in Ireland (including Northern Ireland) for feature films already in receipt of FÉ/SI production funding that have been unable to secure suitable theatrical distribution by a bona fide Irish distribution company but that still have clear potential to reach and engage an Irish audience.