Letter from the Chief Executive of Fís Éireann/Screen Ireland

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Letter from the Chief Executive of Fís Éireann/Screen Ireland

Posted: 10th January 2019

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

With my second term of office as Chief Executive of Fís Éireann/Screen Ireland coming to an end in June 2019, I recently advised the Board that I will not be seeking a further term. I served an initial five-year period from 2011, with an extension of three years granted in 2016 to enable me to complete certain tasks. These include the finalisation and initial implementation of what became the Olsberg SPI with Nordicity Report published in June 2018 and the establishment of the Steering Group on foot of that Report. The first recommendation of the Report has now been implemented with the extension of Section 481 to the end of 2024. I will, by June 2019, have served 8 years and believe this is the time for a transition to a new Chief Executive.

It has been an honour and a privilege for me to serve Ireland’s film production community since 2011. That year was one of the most challenging in our history with the impact of the financial crisis hitting hard. Eight years later, our capital funding has increased from €11.2m to €16.2m and for the first time ever, there is government commitment to €200m in Screen Ireland funding over the next ten years 2018-2027.

The reputation of our creative talent in film in Ireland and on the world stage has grown and strengthened over the years. Feature films such as Song of the Sea, Room, Brooklyn, The Lobster and The Breadwinner (all supported by Screen Ireland and all Academy Award®-nominated) have garnered international recognition and audiences for Irish filmmakers. Feature documentaries and TV animation have also been major successes in these years. A strong body of work has been created, which I believe better reflects the very wide diversity of Irish talent in film and screen content. The focus on gender equality and diversity will continue into the future.

Inward production has also grown over the years with major TV series such as Vikings, Penny Dreadful, and Into the Badlands being produced in Ireland and Irish creative talent being developed through that work. There have also been huge developments in terms of the regional spread of international production activity, with two Star Wars filming on location, from Kerry to Donegal and more recently, as many as five hundred people working during production on Nightflyers in Limerick’s Troy Studios. The Government has also introduced a regional uplift for Section 481 to promote the growth of production activity in the regions.

The change of name to Screen Ireland reflects the new multiplicity of ways in which Irish and international audiences view films and storytelling screen content. While remaining committed to supporting the art of cinema, Screen Ireland is also looking to the widest audience access for the work it supports across all screens. There are of course many challenges ahead. TV drama in particular is a genre to which all the stakeholders need to renegotiate their commitment. This is so that Irish writers, directors and creative producers can seize and benefit from the current opportunities and major developments within the international TV drama sector.

There are also challenges at the regulatory level including the implementation of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive. This includes a 30% quota on online services for “European works” and levies and contributions from all services to fund indigenous screen content. The promotion of Irish creative talent telling stories on screen for audiences in Ireland and across the world needs to be on the forefront of the implementation of the changes that will be needed.

I would like to thank all Screen Ireland staff across development, production and distribution funding, business affairs, marketing & communications, inward production and skills development for their unstinting commitment and dedication to the film, television and animation industry. I would like to thank all the board members, past and present, and in particular the chairs, James Morris, the late Bill O’Herlihy and Dr. Annie Doona for their guidance and support. I would also like to thank in particular the creative teams past and present, who have played a vital role in supporting Irish talent on screen. Finally, none of what was achieved could have been done without the work of Irish writers, directors, producers, animators, designers, DOPs, composers, cast and crew of all the films and screen content supported over the years, and it is them I want to especially thank.

James Hickey, Chief Executive, Fís Éireann/Screen Ireland