The board's functions should be not only to foster talent and creativity but also to foster trade and entrepreneurial spirit and flair. It must become involved in productions as a major partner with sales on a global market. Most of our productions do not sell on a global market. They get a few weeks' run in the Irish Film Centre and are then confined to the archives. Distribution and marketing is critical, hence the need and importance of strategic partnerships with international producers as equal partners.
The Irish Film Board's enhanced role in encouraging television productions is welcome. The linking of TV3 with Granada Television is very exciting. Granada Television is one of the bigger global producers of drama and TV3 must be encouraged by the Irish Film Board to explore with Granada the possibility of developing international projects for an international audience. We must encourage film production, of which we are proud as a nation, for an international audience. At the same time we must realise that the best cinema sometimes may not reflect positively on our society – films such as "Angela's Ashes", "My Left Foot", "The Commitments" and "A Love Divided" certainly do not convey the typical Bord Fáilte image of Ireland, but were successful.
In her contribution the Minister said our films must reflect the culture of Ireland, but they must reflect the culture, warts and all. We must be blatantly honest in our representation of issues even if to do so is not complimentary to us as a nation.
The performance of the Irish Film Board must also be measured in a broader perspective. Irish films must travel and portray things about Ireland and the world. The board must foster talent as well as subsidising film production. Also, it is no longer good enough simply to make a film. In the USA, for example, 20% of finance goes into research and development and 40% goes into distribution and marketing the product.
We must wait for the board's five year strategy plan. The Kilkenny report recommended that section 481 of the Finance Act should be extended for seven years, but in the most recent Finance Act it was extended for only five years. By the time the board has published its five year strategy, one of the five years specified under section 481 will be over. Surely, the section should be further extended in the forthcoming budget to at least cover the period of the strategic plan. If the Kilkenny report recommendations are inter-dependent, then it is important they are all implemented as soon as possible. The thrust and intent of the Minister's speech is good but it lacks a sense of urgency to put all the elements in place. Also the film board funding should allow for inflation. Irish producers must form strategic alliances as equals and must bring to the market place something that is different and stands out. We have the scripts, the entrepreneurial spirit and a global audience to be conquered. To conquer that market, the involvement and identification and targeting of equity investors is important.
The American film industry is driven by equity investors. We have that type of climate in Ireland yet. It would be great if we could get people such as Denis O'Brien and Tony O'Reilly to invest in the film industry. There is a great deal of money around but we look at the section 481 option all the time when perhaps we should seek more equity investment as in America. A typical Irish film costs about £2 million to £3 million which is a good deal of money whereas a truly successful film internationally, apart from the exceptions such as "The Full Monty", would cost £20 million to £30 million which is almost half that provided for in the Bill. We should look at the scale of our ambition which must be put in context. We must seek to promote our cinema on the same level as that which "Riverdance" has done for dance, as U2 has done for music and as Martin McDonagh and the Druid Theatre have done for drama.
I will refer briefly to the area of training. Given the decline in the training role of RTE and the dramatic growth, interest and participation in the multi-media sector the question is whether there is enough expertise available for this buoyant sector. Perhaps the time is opportune to consider establishing a national film school – a school of expertise and excellence which would co-ordinate all the current training and education programmes and develop them further and seek to have on its teaching staff the best expertise in the world. There is no reason we could not bring in visiting lecturers, top directors, top editors, top camera people, designers, and photographers to the school. If we are to take the film industry a step further this is a type of scenario that must be considered. This centre of excellence I am proposing may be what is needed to provide the expertise to move the industry on to a higher level of excellence.
On the issue of decentralisation, bringing the screen commission under the ambit of the Irish Film Board is welcome. I am a member of County Kerry screen commission but it is difficult to do any business because of the 40 mile SIPTU rule. Where any Irish crew travels, say, 40 miles from St. Stephen's Green, it has to get overnight maintenance and travelling expenses of varying amounts with the result that it would have cost a film production company, such as Hallmark, which came to Ireland to film John B. Keane's "Durango", almost £0.5 million more to film it in Kerry. I hope the screen commission, under the ambit of the film board properly resourced, would take cognisance of the existence of county film commissions around the country. There are major opportunities to be exploited.
There are also other aspects of the film industry such as script writing. The film industry is not just happening in Dublin, it can happen all over the country and there must be a decentralisation policy to involve the whole country, to give assurances to people who are trying to write scripts on the periphery of Ireland. There are people in Dingle doing distance work with companies all over the world but that must be encouraged. I witnessed the effect of one short-cut film entitled "Most Important", about a greyhound. The impact which that film had on a small community in Lixnaw, County Kerry, was enormous. We could have 20 more such films. On one level we have to look at the national aspect but on the other hand we have to look at the local aspect.
I welcome the thrust and intent of the Minister's statement which contained many new policy proposals. The question now is to put them in place. We have a thriving industry to foster. Various elements must be put in place to ensure its potential will be realised.