Cullen Wants Irish Film Board

28th September 2009 by Maura McHugh

The Irish Times reported on Friday that Minister for the Arts, Martin Cullen, has come out in support of retaining the Irish Film Board as an independent body.

Mr Cullen agreed with Labour arts spokeswoman Mary Upton that a merger would mean the film board “will be gobbled up and become a non-entity. It will have no defined or separate role, which is very important for the film industry”. She added that it earned net profit of €303 million last year, even allowing for tax breaks.

The Minister said there was a “strong rationale for the retention of the Irish Film Board because it is delivering jobs and is a positive international marketing message for this country”.

Some 6,000 people are employed in the industry and “this success guides me in stating that the board should be retained as it is and with current functions. It is achieving the goals we set out for it.”

Fine Gael arts spokeswoman Olivia Mitchell agreed that a merger with the Enterprise Board would be “inappropriate” but made noises about the need for the board’s office in both Galway and Dublin, and a need for it to become more competitive.

“Is there a way to ensure that the board will become super-efficient in order that the entire industry might be more competitive when the good times return?”

She warned that the board should not be supporting “uncompetitive practices”. Ireland appeared to be “extremely uncompetitive” in trade pay rates and “it costs more to make films here than it does in any other country”.

Ah yes, those mythical good times that everyone foresees ahead of us. How about dealing with the difficult present time, which is going to be made more difficult with the slew of budget cuts facing us? Plus, apparently, those of us working in film have uncompetitive pay rates – compared to whom? Perhaps those residing in countries with lower wages and cost of living?

So, I guess they’ll be asking for wage cuts next. A concept that will be met with grim amusement from Irish screenwriters, who are woefully underpaid already. Perhaps we should compare our pay rates with those in the UK or the USA? I think we’ll discover then what market runs the cheapest bargain when it comes to screenwriting.

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