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New UK tax relief a ‘threat’ to Irish film industry

Oscar-nominated film producer Ed Guiney says a new tax relief scheme introduced in the UK this week could pose a threat to Ireland’s booming film industry.

UK Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced a new 40% corporate tax relief for film and TV studios during his budget speech on Wednesday and Guiney, who heads up production company Element Pictures, thinks the move could draw business away from Ireland.

“It is it is a threat to us. If we don’t do something similar, I think we may see productions drift up the road to Northern Ireland,” Guiney said.

The UK plan also includes a new tax credit for independent films shot in the UK that have a budget of less than £15 million (€23 million).

“I think a similar incentive scheme here would be incredibly useful,” Guiney said.

Guiney was speaking to Fran McNulty from Los Angeles for an interview that will air on Prime Time on RTÉ One at 9.35pm. Dubliner Guiney is in LA ahead of the Academy Awards on Sunday evening.

The Element Pictures-produced Poor Things is nominated for 11 awards on the night, including Best Picture.

A best picture nomination can add as much as $20 million onto the box office take, with a win in that category potentially adding many multiples of that. Screenwriters, directors and producers can expect a lot more interest in their work and an easier route to financing their projects.

“We had our film in about 500 cinemas before the nomination. After the nomination we expanded to two and half thousand. It’s what powered the film to cross the $100 million mark in cinema receipts worldwide.

“It’s incredibly important. In a way, the nominations are the most important thing in how they impact the film’s success. They reassure audiences and tell them this is a quality film,” Guiney said.

The Irish film industry’s recent success on the world stage was “30 years in the making” according to Guiney and has been helped by major investment and schemes similar to the one announced in the UK this week.

“You can track it back to the establishment of the Irish Film Board by Michael D Higgins in the early 90s. It’s a result of the investment over 30 years. Having been given the opportunity to flex our muscles in film and television, we’ve taken to it like ducks to water,” Guiney said.

After last year’s record-breaking number of Irish nominations, Ireland is once again in contention. Cillian Murphy is widely expected to leave this Sunday’s awards ceremony with the best actor statuette for his turn in Oppenheimer.

Colm Bairéad, wrote and directed An Cailín Ciúin, which was nominated for Best International Feature Film at last year’s awards.

It was the last film read out at the nominations and Mr Bairéad told Prime Time that it was one of the most nerve-wracking moments of his life.

“It was just complete elation and disbelief, I just felt so proud. I still get nervous just watching the video itself. It’s just an amazing moment for myself and all of the crew and the cast.”

The Academy Awards provide the climax to what has come to be known as “awards season” and while all of these awards are important to filmmakers, none can change their fortunes as quickly as the Oscars.

“I’ll never forget the day when the nominations were announced. Once we were nominated, more distributors were interested in buying the film. It’s an added boon in that they can now have on all their publicity materials that this is an Oscar-nominated film,” Bairéad said.

Indigenous films like An Cailín Ciúin will be key to the continued success of the industry here according to Ed Guiney who says we should guard against becoming overly reliant on international productions.

“What we need to do is invest in Irish storytellers, Irish filmmakers, because relying too much on large-scale overseas things coming into Ireland is not very sustainable.

“We are a nation of storytellers. I know that’s a cliche, but I think it also may be true,” Guiney said.

It’s a sentiment echoed by Colm Bairéad who says the nomination of An Cailín Ciúin helped give him confidence that there’s an audience for Irish language films on the international stage.

“There’s a realisation that there is actually an appetite for this and that it’s something that makes our national cinema even more distinctive. We’re starting to show the world that we have this other side to us and we have this other voice that we can speak with,” Bairéad said.

There has been much to celebrate for Ireland’s filmmakers over the last few years and Sunday will be a chance for Guiney and his colleagues to reflect on another memorable 12 months.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to celebrate with the cast and to toast the success of the film. We’ll enjoy it and are very grateful for it.”

Fran McNulty’s interview with Ed Guiney features in the Thursday 7 March edition of Prime Time, broadcast on RTE One television at 9.35pm.

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