Posts Tagged 'Irish film'

Irish film alive and kicking

For the fifth year running I’m at Ireland’s National Film School  for the first of three workshops in our ENGAGE film talent development programme.  Every time I visit what strikes me about film in Ireland isn’t so much that there’s more going on than in Scotland (though there is, as there’s more money, a bigger and more clearly defined audience and all the less obvious benefits that come from being an independent state) but that there’s much more of a buzz and a more tangible sense of a real community of interest than back home.  Leafing through the once monthly, now quarterly Film Ireland or visiting the Irish Film and Television Network website or the Irish Film Institute you can’t help but feel that filmmakers, critics, institutions, educators and the wider film audience are talking to each other, or at least abreast of what’s going on (or isn’t and should be), in a way that is rather lacking in Scotland.  It’s a long time since we’ve been able to support a print magazine dedicated to celebrating/debating/informing on all things screen with the production values and sense of confidence of Film Ireland.  Scottish Film and Visual Arts had a go in the 90s, Variant hosted an occasionally thought-provoking piece and Scottish Screen’s Rough Cuts, though sometimes rather cringe-inducing in its lack of discrimination or editorial quality control, was nonetheless a very important information conduit, if not really a place to debate the issues of the day.  Similarly our online media portals, good as they are (e.g. ReelScotland, David Cairn’s blog), don’t (yet) have the same reach or the same ‘must check’ quality as IFTN.

Why this should be so has long puzzled me. We don’t appear to lack for things to write/talk about and there appear to be plenty of aspirant film journalists/critics/commentators who could rise to the challenge of creating a genuinely ‘authoritative’ epublication.  From sharing experiences and publicizing opportunities to find funding or collaborators to holding institutions to account or debating the business, politics and ethics of filmmaking, we ought to be able to ‘get Scotland talking’ just as much as it seems Ireland already does.


Scots film output needs to reach Danish levels to achieve take-off speed

I can’t say I was very surprised to read that Danes have been flocking to the cinema to see Armadillo, Janus Metz’s documentary portrayal of Danish troops in Afghanistan.  The Danes, like the Scots, are a nation  of five million or so, and avid cinema goers like us, but the big difference is that they have a steady supply of Danish films to watch and watch them they do.  With Danish films averaging an impressive 27% audience share of the Danish box office only France has a bigger appetite (38%) for its own cinematic produce.

Of the many factors that might account for the popularity of Danish films on home turf, the buoyant state of production could be a primary cause or is it an effect – or both?  Either way from research that I will be presenting at a conference of (mainly) cultural economists in Copenhagen next week, there can be little doubt that there is a correlation between the two.  Or to be more precise we can see a close relationship between domestic production levels and audience share once a nation’s film output rises above the level Scotland (or indeed Ireland) currently sustain. 

Here in Scotland we make so few (typically five) films a year that the annual audience share for local films fluctuates wildly depending on the presence or absence of a single hit film.  In a good year it can be as much as 7% but on average its less than 1%.  Ireland, making around eighteen films a year, still only manages an average 5% market share.  It’s only when production regularly exceeds that level that a country appears to be able to sustain an audience share above 10%.  As production rises the market share follows (see graph) but does so more slowly, particularly above 25% (the UK level) and it takes considerably more films per percentage point of audience up to the ceiling of just under 40% found in France.

LINK TO GRAPH: Film output and market share

Perhaps the most significant point about this relationship, for Scotland at least, is the relatively steep start to the curve.  Quadrupling Scottish film production from its current average of five to around twenty a year could see the audience grow by a factor of fifteen or more and produce a much healthier return on total investment than we currently expect or get.  As, if not more, importantly it would greatly expand opportunities for new filmmakers to prove their talents and existing filmmakers to move onto their second or third film, a crucial point in career development both critically and commercially.

For many years filmmakers and commentators have spoken of a magic figure of around ten to twelve films a year as a kind of ‘take-off’ point for a sustainable (Scottish) film industry.  Well the evidence suggests this is not quite enough to get off the runway.  But get the speedometer up to twenty and things could be different.  Another task for the Creative Scotland ‘to do’ list and a challenge for all of us concerned with the fate of Scottish film to secure the stories, the finance and the distribution if we want to see ‘chocks away’.

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