Olivia Colman and Josh O’Connor were last on screen together as Queen and Prince Charles, but since then The Crown stars have been part of an array of stars who have spent part of the pandemic in Ireland where film and television production hit an all-time high. levels.
Figures released by Screen Ireland show industry investment jumped 40% in 2021, beating previous record highs from 2019 despite Covid restrictions.
Some blame it on spillover from the UK where the industry is so busy it faces a severe skills shortage. Others, including Tristan Orpen Lynch, the producer of two new films starring Colman and O’Connor, say it’s the maturity of the Irish film industry.
“It’s amazing. There’s a kind of magnetic creative energy in Ireland for film and TV at the moment, but it’s not an overnight success. It’s taken a few decades of very hard work and government support to bring the industry to this place,” said Orpen Lynch.
He recalls that 25 years ago Ireland was attracting “one really big film a year” and everyone in the industry was working on it.
Ireland is now home to dozens of international feature films in production or post-production and a host of TV series, including a TV adaptation from Graham Norton’s Holding, Joyride (a comedy-drama set in Kerry with Colman) and Aisha, with O’ Connor and Letitia Wright, retracing the experience of a young Nigerian woman caught up in the Irish immigration system.
“Letitia is an extraordinary talent, and both Josh O’Connor are going to blow your mind with their performances, which are literally off the scale,” said Orpen Lynch.
Part of the boom is attributed to the insatiable global demand for content fueled by streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon, Disney Plus and Apple.
“It’s been so intense, it’s like a whirlwind,” said Orpen Lynch, whose company Subotica is also co-producing the six-part thriller North Sea Connection, set in Connemara on the Atlantic coast, for the Swedish platform. Viaplay.
Screen Ireland, which has supported Subotica productions, will open five film academies, including one specializing in animation, to meet the demand for talent.
“Over the last decade, the Irish film industries have doubled in size,” said Désirée Finnegan, its chief executive, attributing part of the government support that allows Ireland to regularly compete with British studios such as Pinewood.
Its largest facility, the 14-hectare (36-acre) Troy Studios in Limerick, was home to Ireland’s largest production, the Apple Series Foundation, which employed over 500 people. It was sold last year along with Ardmore Studios in Wicklow, the heart of the production business for the past 60 years previously partly owned by U2 manager Paul McGuinness, to an American joint venture.
The boom in production in such a short time has also forced sound and visual effects companies to change their business model.
“We’ve gone from trying to capture everything that comes through our door to thinking strategically about what’s happening internationally,” said John Kennedy, creative director of the audio post-production house. and Visual Windmill Lane.
“We no longer hesitate to bring in talent from around the world working remotely,” he said.
Kennedy describes how he was talking to a Netflix executive last week who had “200 shows in front of them,” which they will “cut and slice” placing production elements “around the world.”
“Ireland is taking advantage of this. We have gone from a busy stop-start industry for six months and not the next, to refusing work,” he said.
Some, however, are cautious about the explosion in the industry.
Ed Guiney, whose company Element Pictures was behind the hit TV adaptation of Sally Rooney’s bestselling novel Normal People, said his concern was developing a strong, community-minded Indigenous sector. ‘international.
“You must be wondering who controls this? A lot of what happens in Ireland, I would call offshore production, is other entities coming in to use the facilities. The real prize is when we come of age and do our own shows internationally. I think there’s a lot of hype, I would love to see the quantum leap like you see in the UK,” he said.
It produced The Favourite, for which Colman’s performance as Queen Anne won an Oscar, and has four films in production, including a new BBC film starring Mark Ruffalo and Willem Dafoe filming in Budapest and three television shows in the works, including the production of Rooney’s first novel, Conversation with Friends.
“A lot of what we make in Ireland is what other people are building, it’s a service industry. It’s my beef with all the hype around the boom. It’s very exciting, but for to have a full production industry, we need more investment in Irish talent,” he said.