The story of getting a film made ........again!

State agency or film studio?

In this post I ponder the question is the Irish Film Board a state agency whose task it is to “enable Irish filmmakers to express their vision” or is it more like a film studio where a very legitimate dialogue can take place and you might hear something like “we don’t make those kind of films here”. It’s not so long ago when the outgoing CEO was quoted as saying “We occasionally try to ape genre film-making, I often say: You have to face up to the fact that we are making art films.'” I ask a simple question, who is “we”. If it refers to IFB, then does it not conflict with the following from IFB’s customer charter which can be found here, IFB Strategic Goals no.3 “To enable Irish filmmakers to express their vision in film and television productions. A laudable aspiration and when you think about it how could it be otherwise.

When German or French or Norwegian filmmakers make a thriller or crime drama or romantic comedy, are they aping genre film-making or respecting what has gone before yet attempting to serve up new offerings in a proven genre. Art film is a worthy and legitimate film genre which essentially throws out all the rules, thereby actually adhering to the central rule of anything but everything else. So the idea that there are no rules in art film is a fallacy. But as a film genre, it represents a very small sliver of the entire spectrum. Telling stories in the visual medium is indeed a new venture for Irish creatives and if we appear to “ape”, let’s not forget a child learns it’s life skill by this very process. To throw it out now, rather than inspiring new directions of creativity, will only serve to stunt our story telling development.

The problem can be that in order to chase funding, writers can find themselves attempting to please someone else’s requirements and when has that ever led to a good place for the creative or the work. This is not an arguement to fund everything that comes in the door, but rather to listen to the filmmaker and what he wants to say and then provide guidance, mentoring and funding to those who are obviously passionate, committed and talented, to ensure that the best film possible is made. Just a thought, what are yours?

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  1. State schemes will only fund filmmakers who ‘ape’. That’s why we’ve produced so many Withnail and I titles (two mismatched guys in a strange location). There are no risk takers working for the State schemes, they get paid to imitate not innovate. Also, very few Irish filmmakers have a ‘vision’ . A true visionary filmmaker does NOT need ‘ guidance, mentoring and funding ‘ . Filmmakers ‘who are obviously passionate, committed and talented’ will make their films regardless of State funding schemes. Another problem with Irish filmmakers is because they get caught up with these funding schemes it takes a long time to produce something and then it usually ends up lifeless. They need ‘permission’ from the State to make their films. That’s just wrong and fails to produce good cinema.

    • It’s funny you say that “State schemes will only fund filmmakers who ape”, because when you talk to IFB, they will tell you that they strive to do the exact opposite. I think they are very well aware that if we imitate, then that’s how our films will be perceived. A state agency will tend toward safe choices, not in terms of projects, but in terms of practitioners such as producers, directors and writers. Why, because they deliver. I’m sure you are aware there have been instances of films getting support and never seeing the light of day.
      It’s one thing to have a film released with the criticism that it’s no different than international offerings. It’s quite another to have backed a project and the film never gets released.

      The real question is probably, “do we have producers of real passion and commitment to fresh cinema who have the ability to recognise real talent”. Without a producer in your corner, you’ll never get past script support. But we also know that producers who operate in the rarified atmosphere of state grants, learn how to access funding which does not always translate into being a visionary producer.

      • It’s the IFB who are being funny! If they are striving to do the opposite then they have failed. Most of their productions are imitations of other country’s titles. Of course it’s as much our filmmakers’ fault as the Board’s. Even more so perhaps? There are no ‘visionary producers’ only ‘visionary filmmakers’.

        Not only am I aware of funded projects not getting made but there are also DOZENS of Film Board projects that got made but never seen! The race being a recent example. The problem with producer-selected projects is that the director is another crew member. That’s why we have so many journeymen (and women) directors who turn up for their paycheques before heading off for a career in TELEVISION. These people are not filmmakers! They are trademen who can only imitate and make technically accomplished but unoriginal films. Go through the IFB feature back catalogue and see for yourself. They get this ‘A Film by’ credit but their movie could have been made by other Irish directors and look the same!

        Look at the recent Irish horror films? Several of which were funded by our Film Board. Complete tripe and derivative rubbish. Made by people with zero interest in the genre. Voiceless, unoriginal, and forgettable. Perfect example of Irish filmmakers ‘imitating’ and doing nothing different. The kind of movies where the post-production sound technician had more influence on the film than the director!

        The way forward is the DIRECTOR AS GENRE. Relying on producers ‘with real passion’ is not the answer. We need IRISH directors making films with their own unique style. Films that only THEY can make. The Film Board can’t make this happen. Producers can’t make this happen. It’s up to the filmmakers themselves but the system is set up to reward the jobbing hacks and ignore most who feel they have something new to say?

  2. Attracting any agencies – studio or national film agency with a script of course involves

    1) developing a story with a unique take or ” wow ” factor – genre or arthouse

    2) Collabrating with a ” can-do ” team ( producer, director of photography, editor )

    3) Finally pursue all avenues ( domestically and internationally ) to get the project complete. Having the next project ready to go.

    Commitment, Patience, Networking skills and Passion needed.

    • Thanks for your comments Brian. While everything you say is true, I was really musing aloud about the differences between a state funded agency whose remit it is to “enable Irish filmmakers to express their vision” and a commercial film studio which has a completely different remit – profit and shareholders. My concern is that that division has become blurred.

  3. Well said..

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