Dáil Éireann - Volume 323 - 16 October, 1980

Irish Film Board Bill, 1979: Second Stage (Resumed) .

Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Mr. Kelly: When the debate on this Bill adjourned last night I was speaking for about 15 minutes on the suspicions which the Minister's speech generated in me, [126] and I am sure in other people, yesterday when he presented this Bill and the Bill in regard to the film studio. I pointed in particular to the items mentioned in the early part of his speech. I do not want to re-hash everything I said last night but in order to bring myself back into gear let me remind the House that the Minister particularly mentioned as objects of the Bill, which is to set up an Irish film industry, the following:

Development of artistic and technological skills, promotion of tourism, promotion of cultural values and public relations and providing a potent means of presenting this country, its heritage and its people to the world and of keeping Irish people in touch with their distinctive environment.

I said last night, and I want to say briefly again, that the Irish film industry has no function at all in the promotion of tourism. We have a statutory body for that purpose. If it wants to make films to promote tourism it has ample statutory powers to do so. That function ought not to be confused with the function which is the object of the Bill in front of us today.

The very same goes for public relations. If the country is short on public relations we have a Government Information Service which shares in an Estimate and which has ample statutory powers or can be given by the Government without any extra legislation ample legal powers to make whatever cinematic material it considers necessary for spreading whatever message it thinks important to the outside world about this country.

The provision of a potent means of presenting this country, its heritage and its people to the world and of keeping Irish people in touch with their distinctive environment is again a function which may be praiseworthy, depending on what facet of the Irish people or of their priceless heritage it is intended to present to the world. I have grave doubts of what would be in the mind not of the Minister but of his seven likely nominees to this board in this regard. I say again that this has nothing whatever to do with an Irish [127] film industry. I have the gravest suspicions of what will come out of this Bill if what is in the minds of the Minister's advisers is passed on in the form of nominations to this board and if what comes out is a board of seven people who will promote those objects, among which the development of artistic skills is in my view the only legitimate one among a lot of others.

I warned the Minister last night, and I say it to him again, that the Irish film industry to be born will be strangled by its own umbilical cord if the Minister does not strike not only from his speech but from his mind and from the minds of his advisers everything to do with tourism, public relations and presenting the country in any shape or form to the neighbours and everything to do with keeping Irish people in touch with their distinctive environment. I am afraid the environment here is not distinctive enough. I often hear foreigners say that the place looks very like England. I am sorry to say that with every passing day there is more and more evidence for that, at least in the towns. I do not think there is any value in keeping people in touch with their environment. If they are not able to see their environment they are not sensitive to it. It will not make them any more sensitive about it if one puts millions of pounds into making films about it.

I have no interest whatever in an Irish film industry if it will merely produce boring documentaries of a kind associated with a couple of countries I could mention, but which I know I would give offence to if I mentioned, that one can see thrust in as fillers in cinema programmes or television programmes. They are got on the cheap because nobody will pay real money for them, boring travelogues and boring recitals of other people's cultural values. I am sorry to say that they do not suppose for a second that an audience in Canada, Australia, Bulgaria or Mesopotamia will pay one shilling to see a film which consists of Irish scenery or Irish culture, however priceless or unique it may be, however much it may mean to us.

[128] The suspicions which I have just mentioned are reinforced in the Minister's speech where he mentions that certain international features will continue to be made in Ireland either because of our natural advantages or because of a particular Irish theme. What are the natural advantages? They are not a natural inventiveness, any special budding Irish genius which only requires £4 million to bring it to fruition. The natural advantages are an unspoilt countryside, splendid scenery and so forth. We are a leprechaun country with this Bill and with this film industry unless the Minister takes to heart what I am saying and what I am certain other people will say to him as soon as the reality behind this Bill surfaces. I would not give a thraneen for an Irish film industry which was responsible for “Darby O'Gill and the Little People”. I do not want a Darby O'Gill Bill. I want the little people kept far away from the Irish film industry and everything to do with the Irish predicament which I spoke about last night, this agonising predicament which marks us out like the cross on an ass's back as being somehow different from other people, as having a ready made apology for inflicting our own conflicts and anguish on the rest of the world.

I do not see the Irish people like that. I believe they have the very same passions of a supernatural kind which everybody else has and ought to have the same adulthood to be able to express them through any artistic medium in such a way that they do not have to be dragging in by the scruff of the neck the green flag and all the anguish that lies behind it. I am very much afraid that the Minister is not clear in his mind about this. I know he is busy and I know he has a basket full of serious problems. I wish him nothing but the best in dealing with them, but I feel he has not given enough attention to this. I am very apprehensive about the seven figures. I can nearly see them already like stone men on the top of a moor. I can nearly name those seven figures which will be on this board if those are the objectives the Minister really believes in.

I said last night I was not too clear in [129] my mind about what promoting cultural values is. Is it meant by that that the Irish film industry will become a cow which can be milked by Irish cultural organisations of any kind? I am not simply speaking about Irish language organisations, for which I have a great deal more time than many of the people in this House who go through the motions of supporting them. I am not speaking merely about them. I consider that the Irish film industry should not spend a penny on a cinematic item merely to promote what it conceives of as a cultural value. If it is to be any good to us, if it is to raise our self-esteem, if it is to give the country something which it did not have before, if it is to justify itself in terms of something unique being present in the world which was not there before, it will eschew that completely and it will try to find, develop, bring on and train Irish talent, not talent painted green like a letter box but talent which is native to the country, whatever shape it may take when it comes out on the celluloid.

That is what the Swedes do, that is what the Italians do, that is what the Poles do. The Swedish cinema is a household word. We all have an impression of it. It is an impression of a slightly bleak, dry carapace bursting with primeval passions underneath. The mixture is not essentially Swedish. I have no doubt that Irish feelings could be translated into the same idiom if anybody here had ever thought of doing that. The Swedish cinema, in particular as represented by their most famous director, has got that character, if I have described it properly. We are not invited in the Swedish cinema to get a load of their pine forests, their metallurgic industry or to get a load of the natural flora and fauna of the arctic north. That is not what it is about. The reason why Sweden is justly famous for its cinema industry is because, through conditions which I do not know enough about to lecture the House about, it made it possible for a couple of geniuses, particularly directors, to come to the top and to build up around them a small corps of actors and actresses. They presumably have a national history too.

Sweden was a very poor, sad country [130] 150 years ago. It sent as many emigrants to the New World as we did but we are not always having our noses rubbed in their sad history. They have a glorious history too. They have a military, I might almost say an imperial, history which would well stand cinematic treatment but we are not obliged to look at that and the Swedish cinema does not sell itself as that. If there is a Swedish film board it does not suppose that the rest of the world is impatient to hear about Gustavus Adolphus. The Italian cinema has more famous directors than there are in Sweden. It might be said that the Italian cinema is an expression which calls to mind a fairly uniform conception as well. It is not because they dose us with spaghetti or scenery. They do not do that. They present, via the cinematic medium, ordinary human stories but they lend to them not a self-conscious but a natural flavour of their own outlook on the world.

That is what I would be anxious to see an Irish cinema doing. If it does not do that we might as well not have it and in this regard I am glad to see that the Bill actually does contain a reference to the permissive function of the board in spending money on training. I do not want to be niggling with the text of the Bill at this early stage but I hope I may understand the words “techniques and processes” in section 8 as including the art or capacity to direct a film and conceive a film as an artistic whole. I have no doubt the Minister would be glad if these words had the broadest possible meaning but I am anxious to make sure that when this board is set up it will not regard techniques and processes in too narrow a light and restrict it merely to, say, acting techniques or to cinematic processes in the mechanical or stage setting sense. I would be anxious to be assured by the Minister—and I hope he will not have any difficulty in assuring the House about this—that training here could include training directors, that it could include providing scholarships for young directors to work with established continental directors or foreign directors and learn some trade from them which will put them out beyond the necessity of [131] scooping up great chunks if Irish history and wrapping some kind of an old rag of a story around it and sending it out to the world and then coming back to this House looking for more money to cover the inevitable loss because people are not interested in that and the Irish will not pay money to look at it either.

There is one more thing I want to say which is mildly critical. I am not quite sure why this board is going to be called the Irish Film Board. Why can we not just call it the Film Board? It is a very small point. After all, we have the Industrial Development Authority and we have not found it necessary to call it the Irish Industrial Development Authority. We know what it is. When I find the word “Irish” used in the names of the Irish institutions which have been created by ourselves I have to ask myself are we still thinking in terms of the real metropolis of this country being across the Irish sea. I am sorry if I have misunderstood this title but I must say that, for the life of me, I cannot understand why this Bill is not simply called An Bille um an Bord Scannáin or the Film Board Bill. I cannot see the necessity for “Irish” or “na hÉireann”. The same objection does not apply in the case of the Irish Film Studios Bill because I realise the company which the Bill is intended to help already has this title.

The last thing I want to say bears on the EEC problem which the Minister very fairly and rightly brought out yesterday in connection with the representations which he has had and which, I may say, we on this side of the House have also had from interests which are closely associated with film making already. They assert that the Irish dimension should not be lost and they do not mean by that the thing I have been criticising. What I understand them to be anxious about is that this money, insignificant though it is, will not be handed out indiscriminately to foreigners who merely want to come here, make a film about anything at all—“The Blue Max” or “Lawrence of Arabia” or something of that kind—for which an Irish set might [132] be possibly visualised or strung together merely on the grounds that it is going to give employment. I completely support the point of view of those groups and I certainly hope that the Irish film industry is not going to fizzle out into a kind of hidden subsidy with nothing but employment in mind for foreign film makers. I am sure the Minister does not intend that.

The Minister said yesterday that the EEC Commission had cleared a draft of the Bill but had asked to be informed about the board's detailed modes of procedure once it had been set up. My own advice to the Minister is not to pay too much attention to what the Commission may tell him in this regard. A film industry, once one gets beyond the humblest documentary and cartoons, is something which must bear a certain national characteristic, it must bear a national stamp. To the extent that it fails to carry a certain character which that nationality imparts to it not self-consciously, not in the way I have been condemning, but naturally and automatically, it is a less valid industry, certainly a less valid area of art. That, at any rate, is how the film world has worked out up to this. Surely the Commission cannot be so philistine as to suppose that an Irish film industry can be got on its feet with absolute non-discrimination in regard to who makes what film where, who gets the money, what the nationality of directors and actors is and so on. It is not going to be of any benefit to the European Community either unless it bears a certain national stamp, and I say once again for the fourth or fifth time, not a self-conscious one but a natural and automatic one.

Unless it is something that one can point to as being the Irish cinema with its not forceful but naturally grown characteristics, it is not going to be of any real value to the European Community either. There is the Italian cinema, the French cinema, the German cinema not so much, the English cinema which, though I do not follow it up, appears to have fallen on hard times. These are three national cinematic industries, to use an ugly phrase, which are within the EEC and the EEC is the richer for them [133] being there and if they were ironed out into a pan-European cinematic industry they would be less valuable to the EEC, leave alone the countries from which they respectively originate. The Minister should put this point very strongly to the Commission and not allow the board to be pushed around by the Commission. This whole enterprise is going to be not worth a damn to us, worse than that, it will be embarrassing and shaming if it falls into the traps which I can see lurking on page two of the Minister's script. It is not going to be worth anything to the EEC either and the Minister should make absolutely certain that the Commission understands that it would be natural for a certain measure of discrimination to exist here, natural for the Bill to be so interpreted as to favour the training and financing and the bringing on of Irish directors and, since directors control everything downstream from that, actors and technicians as well and the location, if it is possible of Irish talent, if not Irish genius, in that direction. I would not be at all downfaced by the Commission. I share the strong feelings of the bodies that have made representations to the Minister and he should make sure that the board do not allow themselves to be downfaced by the Commission either. The problem is a unique one. It is a very special case and the general purposes of the EEC here must take second peace to the necessity for cinematic industry to have a strongly marked national character and it will not do that if the strict rules of non-discrimination are applied in this case.

That is all I want to say except to wish the Minister and the board he sets up every success. We on this side of the House will follow their operations with interest and with sympathy.

Mrs. Lemass: A Cheann Comhairle, may I congratulate you on your appointment and wish you well.

Mr. Kelly: I wish to do the same. I am sorry I neglected to say so.

Mrs. Lemass: I am very happy indeed to see this Film Bill come before the [134] House. It is long overdue. Indeed I had the impression that it would never get off the ground.

The film industry is unique in its own right. It is an industry and an art form and, as such, is of a special category. Because of that it warrants special treatment. That is why I am so pleased to note at least this small amount of money being given this film board to help the film industry here.

The film industry fulfils two functions. First of all we have here the Ardmore Studios, or the national film industry, and then there are the independent film makers. Both are very different from one another. Yet both need more or less money for the same reasons. They need finance for the making of feature films, for investment and for experimental and short films. The establishment of a training school would be helpful to both these branches of the film industry and a distribution office is of the essence.

As we are all aware the Ardmore Studios were bought by the State in 1973. Unfortunately at that time the Government assumed they were buying a film industry which of course they were not. They were buying what might be described as a factory, a workshop, a place where films would be made. Unfortunately again several years elapsed before there was even a management in that large factory. One might well ask what other factory site or premises could have survived for four years without capital, production or an end product. That was very short-sighted on the part of the Government and the Minister concerned. Immediately it had been taken over by the State investment should have been put into that national studio. Had that been done then I am quite certain we would have now a thriving film industry at Ardmore.

I have visited the Ardmore Studios on several occasions and was very impressed by the whole of the site there. There are to be found vast stage sets, sound proofed, control rooms, prop rooms, facilities for making and repairing props. There are all types of facilities for the making of films there. It is really unfortunate [135] that we have not made an awful lot more of those studios. At present they can be described only as a place to be rented to foreign companies coming here to make films. That is all very good and is of great help to the industry here. But foreign companies coming to Ardmore Studios bring in their own crews with them. They bring along their own producers, directors, camera men and technicians. That leaves only the lower grade of worker in the film industry who can be employed locally. However, that is not to say that such foreign companies are not welcome at Ardmore because indeed they are.

I should like to give the House some figures in relation to the amount of money brought into Ardmore for the John Boorman production of “Knights”. I believe that approximately £65,000 was paid for studio rental. Then the hotel, living allowance and location catering amounted to approximately £477,000. I think this spin-off from the film industry, so very important, was mentioned by the Minister in his introductory remarks yesterday. For example, when a film crew come here with their personnel naturally they stay in hotels locally. They must pay for their food. They are spending money here constantly, which is of great help to the country. Again in regard to the production I have just mentioned, construction materials and properties amounted to approximately £724,000. Crowd artist fees amounted to approximately £247,000. Obviously these were all people employed locally, Irish crowd workers, members of Equity, who earned money on the sets of the film in the crowd scenes. Therefore all of this is of great help to Ardmore and the country. But that is not sufficient. Ardmore Studios—or I suppose I should call it the National Film Studio—should be in the position of making their own feature films. They cannot do so without capital, something they have not had to date. Also they should be in the position of being able to purchase a percentage of an incoming film, and if that film makes a profit they would then be in the market [136] for reaping some profit on their capital. To date they have been unable to do so because they had available to them an amount of money that only kept them ticking over in respect of salaries and the like.

I would hope that this Film Bill would be of two-fold advantage to the National Film Studio. Firstly I would hope they would be able to purchase a percentage of a film coming in here and, secondly, that they would be able to make their own feature films, employing Irish people, technicians, directors, producers and actors.

I am extremely interested also in the independent film makers who have been struggling here for a long time. They are very talented people. I take issue with Deputy John Kelly when he presumes that these people will make Leprechaun-type films. These people have been struggling for years without any money and have made excellent films.

Mr. Kelly: I am sorry to interrupt the Deputy but might I just say that I did not say that. I quite agree with the Deputy in her praise of them. All I am saying is that I am afraid that the remit which this board may get may tend to lean them towards the kind of film I am talking about.

Mrs. Lemass: No matter what the board might do I do not think it would make the independent Irish film maker resort to making that type of film.

Mr. Kelly: No, I agree.

Mrs. Lemass: These people are of very high integrity and have great talent. Their aim is merely to be able to seek an amount of money which would help them make feature films. The film industry really is not like any other. To make a feature film an independent film maker must first write a script. Then he must get his crew together. He must organise the whole production, all of which probably takes one year. During all of that year the project is costing money, money is going out and yet he has not got the capital to put into that film for production. [137] If such a film maker had an initial amount of money—to be able to seed money, which is what I think they call it in the film industry—to help him get a particular film off the ground, to use their talents to the best advantage and employ Irish people who would understand exactly what they were about it would be of tremendous help to them. This is what they need and are hoping to get. It is my earnest hope that the film board, when established by the Minister, will give an undertaking to help the independent film maker.

There are a number of ways in which money can be brought into the film industry. Various methods are used to do this in other countries. For example, in some countries they use cinema box office receipts. The film makers get back a percentage of the profit on their films, which is ploughed back into the industry.

There has been some criticism of a levy or tax of, say, 10p on every cinema seat which would bring approximately £1 million a year into the film industry. No-one would object to 10p extra on the price of a cinema seat and this would be an ideal way of gathering revenue to plough back into the industry. The independent film makers do not want to be a burden on the Exchequer indefinitely but they need an initial sum to get them off the ground. They want the money to be re-cycled and they would hope that when they make a profit this would go back into the industry.

One important matter which the Minister did not appear to think that the film board could be involved in at present is the distribution of films. When a producer, director, or independent film maker, or the national film studio complete a feature film a third of what has been spent on production is needed to sell the film. It is no use making films unless they make a profit, so the distribution of films is extremely important. A small company which has engaged in perhaps a year's pre-production work cannot be expected to have the money, the time or the expertise to sell that film. A distribution office could employ someone [138] with expertise in this matter. It is a sales job and the distribution office could try to distribute a film all over the Continent or in America where, hopefully, it would pay for itself and make a profit. I hope that the Minister will reconsider the setting up of a distribution office under the guidance of the film board, or perhaps Córas Tráchtála or some other State-sponsored body could be involved in distributing Irish made films.

As I mentioned previously, different countries have different ways of bringing money into the film industry. In France the receipts from an admission tax are used to support the film industry. This fund and money from other sources amount to substantially more than £20 million per annum. The bulk of this sum is devoted to refunding producers of French films in proportion to the success of their films. This is a particularly good idea. After all, if a producer is not making good films there is no use in giving him money. The refund should be in proportion to his talent in producing the feature, commercial or other film. In Germany, the Film Promotion Institute is responsible for distributing all aid to German films. This institution obtains its funds from a seat tax and from the sale of television screening.

In the United Kingdom, about £5 million annually is raised from a levy on cinema exhibitors. The Danish film institute makes loans or arranges guarantees which are repayable from box office receipts. The Swedish film institute supports independent producers by money raised from a 10 per cent levy on box office receipts. The major portion of this fund goes to film clubs, archives, libraries and schools. Italy has a system by which money is available from government sources to directors and script writers and finance is provided by the Minister for Tourism and Entertainment for the production of Italian films and their distribution and export.

The most frequently used of these different systems is the tax on cinema seats or on box office receipts. This does not hurt the Exchequer. If people wish to avail of a cinema seat, they pay the little [139] extra to see the film and the money is used for the making of further films.

I agree wholeheartedly with Deputy Kelly that we must try to get around EEC requirements of having to give some money from our small funds to companies from abroad who might take what otherwise would be available for our own film makers. I have been told that there are at present in Ireland about 20 foreign companies who are not now operating but are waiting to avail of finance and will try to obtain some. This would be most unfair to our Irish film makers who have waited long and patiently for support. It would be a great pity, if at this stage, foreign firms were to take even a small percentage of the available money.

There could be some type of tax concession to business people who might want to invest in the film industry. If there were such concessions many firms would be inclined to put capital into the making of films by our better known directors and producers who are already in the business of making good films. Naturally, businessmen are not going to give away money for nothing and some type of tax concession would have to be made. I ask the Minister to consider this aspect at a later stage and it might be mentioned in some future budget.

We are a nation which has sent people all over the world down through the centuries. Our people are famous for literature, for plays and acting. The Abbey Theatre Company have toured America and the Continent. We are famous in all the arts but, as of yet, we have not come to the fore in the sphere of the cinema. I see no reason why we should not.

Ireland is a very cultured country and we are a very sensitive people. I believe that our people will put something of themselves into whatever films they make and it will come through to the nations of the world that they are particularly Irish films. The Swedish director, Bergman, makes Swedish films in Sweden for Swedish people but they are internationally renowned. Italian directors make films in Italian for Italian people and they are internationally renowned. Why cannot [140] Irish people make films in Ireland for Irish people, and make them in such a way that they will be accepted and seen for what they are in America, on the Continent and all over the world?

I hope the people in Ardmore will be lucky enough some time to make a film like “Star Wars”. That started out as a rather mediocre type of film, but it captured the imagination of young people all over the world and it has made, as far as I am aware, something in the region of £200 million. Can you imagine what it would do for this country if the National Film Studios or, indeed, one of our independent film makers were fortunate enough to make a film that made that kind of money?

Mr. Kelly: “Star Wars” would not qualify under any one of the criteria under which the film board will operate according to the Minister.

Mrs. Lemass: Who knows? It might. I am not saying “Star Wars” in particular. It could be any type of film. I just mentioned “Star Wars” because it comes to my mind. It made a phenomenal amount of money, out of all proportion to what it cost. The money is still coming in, and it is being shown and shown again. There is no reason why the film industry in Ireland should not be fortunate enough in the years to come to hit upon some type of film which would capture the imagination of the whole world and make a large amount of money for the industry here. People in Ireland have the talent and the capacity to think up something which would capture the imagination of the film industry and the general public and make vast amounts of money. Then, hopefully, they would not be looking for £4 million because it would be a drop in the ocean to them if somebody made a really profitable film.

There are two other points I want to make. First, I hope there will be a school to train our young people in the industry. It is rather sad to see young people in Ireland trying to break into the film industry. It is very difficult to do so because the money is not available in the small production companies. They are [141] limited in the number of people they can take and the amount of money they can spend. We should set up some type of school to train our people in the various art forms of this industry. We should be training our producers and directors, giving them some basic training so that when they join a production company they will have some knowledge of the trade.

There should be lectures in film making, cinema management, copyright problems, film distribution, script writing, visual arts, and so on. All this would help the industry, and it would help young people to have confidence in themselves. They would feel they were capable of taking part in it and making a contribution to it. The provision of film archives is long overdue. We have lost many very good films because we have no archives. They are disappearing rapidly because there is no way of collecting them or preserving them, and there is nowhere to store them. There is absolutely nowhere to preserve these films. Many have already been lost and I hope when the film board are set up one of the first things they will do will be to establish an office to save some of these films and preserve the snippets of news and information on film and to keep them for the future.

I have a tremendous interest in the film industry. I hope that they will sort out any little differences there might be between the National Film Studios in Bray and the independent film makers. The film makers are of the opinion that the work they are doing is extremely important, and so it is. We have the national film studios at Ardmore and that is important. That is the workshop, that is the factory, and I hope all the film producers will use Ardmore to the fullest extent, that they will use the facilities, the studios and the equipment available there. I hope this Irish Film Board Bill will bring all aspects of the film industry together, that it will be an incentive to everybody involved to do their very best to ensure that this industry will help the people involved in it, the artists and the creative people, and also the country. It will be a boost to us in Europe and in the [142] States. It will be a boost to the other aspects of it which will bring in money to the country, as I have mentioned, through the tourist industry.

In Dingle in Kerry the film “Ryan's Daughter” was made. It took two years to make and it brought more money to that little town in those two years than they had for the previous century. It enabled them to start little industries in the town. It brought in a great deal of money and the town has been prosperous ever since. If one film could do what that film did for Dingle I hope, that in the future other feature films will do the same for other towns in Ireland and include an artistic element. I hope our people will be conscious of the great art form film making is, which we have not appreciated up to now. We appreciate literature, painting and the theatre, but we do not appreciate the art form of film making. I hope this Bill will do something in that regard and this small amount of money will give the incentive to the industry to make something of itself in the years to come.

Mr. N. Andrews: I will be very brief. I do not expect to speak for more than a few minutes. I welcome this opportunity to say a few words on this Bill, which is a very important and long overdue development. It has been under discussion for as long as I have been involved with television. The Minister's speech is reasonable and welcome. It will be read with great interest and I am sure it will be welcomed by all those involved in our national film studios in Ardmore and Bray and by the independent film producers. It is a very important document and I hope it will be widely circulated in the film industry, because the people concerned have an interest in film making and in the entertainment world. I should like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Minister on making such a comprehensive speech to this House.

It was interesting that in his speech the Minister noted that only some of those involved or interested in the film industry had made submissions. He stated that perhaps he should interpret this as indicating general satisfaction with the proposals. [143] To some extent I must admit that the lack of response has surprised me in view of the 24 hour non-stop film show presented by the Association of Independent Producers of Ireland and which was held at Liberty Hall. During those 24 hours there were times when dozens of people were waiting for seats in the crowded auditorium to watch the films made by independent producers during the past 40 years. I spent many hours there and I was enthralled and fascinated by the skill and ability of Irish producers, directors, writers and actors in those early days. It was an extraordinary show and it was one of the best presentations of the history of Irish films I have ever seen. I hope that in due course the Irish Film Board will give careful consideration to this aspect of films.

Deputy Lemass referred to the lack of archives. As technology has improved it is now much more simple and less expensive to stock films in a library so that they do not become musty, worn or lost. This can be done now by a relatively simple process.

Mr. Kelly: Did RTE not scrap much of their old film material that featured Jimmy O'Dea?

Mr. N. Andrews: That was on videotape, not on celluloid. It is a different process. I think it was done in error.

Mr. Kelly: I am sure it was not done maliciously.

Mr. N. Andrews: The Deputy should ask RTE about the matter; I cannot answer for them. I know it was a quite different type of operation. The Minister dealt in detail with the background to the Bill. He gave us a comprehensive presentation of facts relating to the Irish film industry. There are a number of questions I should like to put to him. I know how the Department of Industry and Commerce got involved with Ardmore and this is the reason they are dealing with this matter now. My question to the Minister is whether it would not be wiser [144] to have these two Bills dealt with by Deputy Reynolds, Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, who deals with RTE.

Mr. Kelly: Will the Deputy not leave bad enough alone?

Mr. N. Andrews: I hope the Deputy is not suggesting that RTE are not doing a good job? Perhaps the Minister present will comment on what the Deputy has said in due course. Throughout the world major film studios have switched to location shooting. They have adapted and modified their studios to cater for television soap operas, documentaries, dramas and so on. I am concerned that the emphasis on 35mm feature film making on the scale and with the capacity we have is the wrong direction to go. We should develop the studios in Bray on the lines of the American studios, who have switched to making television films and documentaries, retaining only a small portion of the studios for interior film making. I wish to emphasise that this is not a criticism of John Boorman: quite rightly the Minister gave great credit to him and to Seamus Smith for their contribution to the development of the Irish film studios. It is merely a suggestion that, instead of concentrating on 35mm film, we should be looking at the other more modern and more commercial outlets.

We want to make Ardmore Studios a viable concern that will show a profit and that will give training to the young people, as Deputy Lemass pointed out; but I am concerned that the opportunities are not there. We are living in a two-channel, one-station television area which deals very well in 16mm videotape documentaries and films. We have some of the most talented film makers, documentary makers and artists in RTE who have not an opportunity of extending their talents and outlets. In many ways I am reluctant to refer to RTE because I was employed there for many years. The work they have done in encouraging film makers and their own staff, giving them the flexibility to get involved in film making and direction, has been wonderful. They have done a very good job in this area. Many [145] of the actors, writers, directors and producers are among the best not only in Europe but in the world, but they need the opportunity to develop their talents outside the television medium. The National Film Studios should have a look at that area.

I appreciate the studios provide work for those engaged in the theatre but it is on a piecemeal basis. I do not want to question what the Minister said about keeping people employed on a full-time basis in Ardmore, but I wonder what 60 people are doing in Ardmore working on 35mm imported facilities. There is an opportunity for the people concerned to extend their work in other directions. They have not used the opportunity but I hope they will do so.

The Bill dealing with the Irish Film Board is a great advance. It is welcomed by those directly and indirectly associated with film making. It is important for the cultural and social development of our nation. It has been on the cards for a long time. I am privileged to be in a position to stand here and speak to it. We must be one of the few countries which has not got a board of this kind. I recognise that the amount being provided may not seem generous but it is, given the economic circumstances and the flexibility the board will have.

I have some reservations about it and have made a number of representations to the Minister. I am glad to say he listened to my views and took them into consideration when framing the Bill. The Minister met the three bodies involved—the Association of Independent Film Producers of Ireland, who represent most of those people who originate, produce and direct films in Ireland, the Irish Film and Television Guild and the film industry section of my own trade union, the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union—who made representations to him. The primary function of these bodies is to foster the development of a truly Irish film industry.

Collectively they have congratulated the Minister on the introduction of this Bill and proposed some relatively minor but important amendments which they [146] state are not intended as a criticism but a genuine effort to make the provisions of the Bill better suited to its objectives. In their submissions they made it clear that the objectives of the Irish Film Board should be to assist and encourage the development of the Irish film industry which can ensure continuity of employment for all those involved in the making of films in Ireland.

I would like to mention here specifically the amount of work done by people like Tony Delaney, Tiernan McBride and their various associations. They are truly the leaders in their field. They have presented proposals to the Minister who gave them a sympathetic hearing. I know from listening to the Minister's speech, that, at this stage, their amendments are unlikely to be implemented. Perhaps the Minister has other views on that but, in my view, those who criticise the structure and the contents of the Bill ought to examine in detail the Minister's statement.

He said the indigenous film industry would produce films which would become part of our heritage and of our culture. I fully support that view which meets the requirements of one specific amendment mentioned in the submission of the independent film producers.

The Minister referred to sponsorship by private enterprise and private companies. The Government, and in particular the Minister, have given a lead in this. It may appear that not a great deal of money is being made available, but it is a lead. It is what was needed and it is now up to the Irish Film Board, when established, to look to sponsorship. They should look at the idea proposed by Deputy Lemass because 10p on a cinema ticket is not an exorbitant tax to pay for an indigenous all-Irish film industry.

Once again I congratulate the Minister on his pragmatic approach to these two bills and hope he will take some of my views into account when he is developing a truly prosperous Irish film industry. I believe we have the talent and the people.

Mr. C. Murphy: These two Bills show the earnestness and desire of the Minister [147] and the Government to provide the basis of support and encouragement for the establishment of an Irish film industry and for its growth. The Minister is to be congratulated for introducing these Bills. I support the goals mentioned by him and note that all involved in the various aspects of film making and distribution welcome this legislation.

Resulting from the shooting of various feature films and short feature educational and documentary type films, we already have considerable expertise at all levels. It is a great advantage to have producers, directors, scriptwriters, technicians, artists, editors and craftsmen, equivalent to the resources of a basic house building team, on which to establish a film industry. It is vital that new employment opportunities are made available and that further encouragement is offered for the development of artistic and technological talents and skills.

The Irish Film Board can assist and encourage the development of a film industry and are empowered to provide a system of grants, loans and loan guarantees for the making of films in this State. This country is endowed with superb vistas and contrasts to meet the location requirements of film makers. Over the years our tourist development offered the necessary support systems. As I said, we have the skilled personnel necessary to man and service film making but a vital cog was missing—an appropriate financial aid scheme. Most countries operate such schemes. This Bill confers on the board the authority to launch financial inducements. Their main preoccupation should be to boost film making in Ireland.

The inducements must be determined judiciously. There is no great advantage so far as employment is concerned by simply having a situation in which film crews that consist of from 90 to 95 per cent overseas personnel make films here. Such a situation involves a certain amount of spin-off to hoteliers and so on but that is not enough. I am aware that the Minister is very conscious of the importance of the development and utilisation [148] of available talents locally. He has stressed that the board will not be in the business of gratuitous hand-outs but will be examining each venture judiciously.

I am glad to note that in terms of the spending of the £4 million, such ventures as the production of international feature films and television films which offer good potential and training for Irish actors and technicians as well as the projects of our own film makers will be uppermost so far as the board are concerned.

There has been some criticism of the amount of money in the fund. Naturally, all concerned would like the fund to be greater but the amount available could be so organised as to attract a few major foreign productions to the national film studio. This would result in a big spin-off in jobs since the film industry is labour intensive. On the other hand, it would enable moneys to become available to finance even more low budget, indigenously made films. There should be a domestic film industry so that other people could be given a realistic view of our society. An image of Ireland, hallmarked by the creativity of Irish expertise, could emanate only by way of such an industry but such an achievement cannot be reached instantly. However, the utilisation of the film fund by native film making talent should lead to that goal being realised.

It would be remiss of me to fail to comment on the success of Irish film makers who, down through the years, have produced many excellent and varied films. Many of these people operated by way of sponsorship and encouragement both from private enterprise and from State bodies. These film makers have shown much initiative and creative talent. Their sponsors, too, are to be complimented and should be encouraged to continue with such help. It would be regrettable if these various companies should decide on a cut-off point because of the establishment of a film board.

The business of distributing films is a difficult one. Clearly, this task is a key factor in any productive enterprise. Obviously, the ideal situation would be [149] the existence of a marketing arrangement prior to the making of a film. I do not think that anybody would underestimate the difficulties involved in the successful launching of a film. As is the case in any market place, there is no soft going in this respect. It is vital that full use be made of existing contacts and experience within the distributive network. Some expertise has been acquired in this field by the national film studio and also by RTE. Section 16 of the Film Board Bill provides for the establishment of committees who would perform functions which, in the opinion of the board, could be carried on effectively by such committees but in the final analysis those who must secure and develop the necessary distributive channels are the film maker and his associates.

Representing the area in which the national film studio is located, I am very much aware of the importance economically of such a venture in terms of the area as a whole. The studio has been a tremendous asset. It has been the training ground for many people working in the film business and in allied industries. A busy studio generates wealth not only for the participants in the various productions but also for various sections of the local community. It is as difficult to assess the results of the making of a film as it is to assess the success or otherwise of tourism. There is a great similarity in both cases.

There has been a good deal of criticism in so far as the national film studios are concerned but the importance of this industry should not be belittled in any way. Usage of the studio varies considerably but, then, the history of film making has been varied. In the early years of the 19th century there was much research, invention and experimentation in this area into the various aspects of vision and motion. In 1894 Edison introduced the Kinetoscope—the coin-in-the-slot peep show. The Minister referred to the films of Sidney Alcott and to the Film Company of Ireland. It is only right that their work be remembered. Sometime later there were developments in Paris and in Venice and there followed [150] the introduction of the mobile camera. At about this time, too, the Brighton school in the UK was active. The accent then was on actuality: if it moved, it was suitable for filming.

When I visited Rosc lately the thought crossed my mind that this was “happening art”, when we saw horses arrive so that comparisons could be drawn between the motor car and horse power. In 1903 the narrative film arrived with the eight minute venture of Edwin Porter, namely, “The Great Train Robbery”. This heralded the art and industry of motion filming. Subtitles were introduced soon afterwards to explain further the illusion of reality from the black and white shadows that appeared. Edison wanted to see the linking of his camera with the phonograph and he produced several talking pictures. The interest of the public was not great, the industry waned for a while, and then we saw the development of synchronisation between sound and film. Other people developing in different areas shifted the emphasis towards recording sound directly on films. De Forest's phonofilms led on to other sound and film systems like movietone, but the Bell Telephone Laboratories still pursued their efforts to combine the phonograph and the motion picture. In the 1920's, when Warner Brothers were almost bankrupt, they grasped the idea of synchronising and putting the De Forest idea into practice. Public apathy was overcome by the appearance of Al Jolson in the famous “Jazz Singer” and the era of the silent film had disappeared. We were into a new technology and for the next number of years we simply sought to improve the technology although the techniques remained the same.

In 1952 Cinerama arrived. It necessitated sound localisation and Mr. Reaves, a sound engineer, developed his seven track sound system. Colour was being developed during that period and Technicolor arrived in 1952. This gave a major boost to the industry. A challenge that the industry had to face was the arrival of television. Television did one thing for film making in that it presented films [151] importantly. It broke the continuous performance syndrome that existed. Many studios got into difficulties because producers reacted to the economic impact of television by cutting back on the number of films they made and going for the high budget elaborate spectaculars which became very big attractions, films such as “The Robe”, “The Ten Commandments”——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Deputy is getting a little bit away from the Bills before the House.

Mr. C. Murphy: It is possible to link up effectively television and film making. Many films are made for television and these are of a low budget type. It guarantees the distributive factor also.

A film studio is open to criticism by virtue of its nature. When it is busy it has a vital role to play in job spin-offs. As the Minister said, when it is ticking over it normally gives employment to about 50 or 60 people. I hope that the establishment of the Irish Film Board and the implementation of the National Film Studios of Ireland Limited Bill will give a boost to the industry. I welcome the Bills. I am pleased with the content of the Bills and with the fact that the Minister entered quite a round of talks with interested parties. I met quite a few of these people and I am indebted to them for the information and advice they gave me for consideration of the Bill. I wish the Irish Film Board well and compliment the Minister on introducing it at this stage.

Minister for Industry, Commerce and Tourism (Mr. O'Malley): I thank Deputies who have spoken, most of whom supported these two Bills.

Deputy O'Toole suggested that the number of members of the film board should be increased from seven to nine and suggested that this would allow representation to be given to every interest involved. With all due respect to the Deputy, my experience is that boards that go out of their way to represent every individual interest within an industry are boards that are usually heading for disaster [152] because the board spends most of its time haggling as between the various interests concerned rather than taking the kind of overall positive view that ideally a board involved in commercial activities should. It is my experience that seven is about the maximum optimum number of people who should sit on a board particularly where they are involved in the making of commercial decisions and judgments on behalf of the State or the taxpayer, as is the case here. I do not imply that the board will be unrepresentative. Obviously it must include, and will include, people who are knowledgeable about the various aspects of this rather diverse industry. It would not be in the public interest to have a board in which every possible interest was represented and enabled to engage in perhaps internal conflicts with other conflicting interests. This is an industry in which there appears to be conflicting interests. They show in the reactions to the Bill and in some of the suggestions that have been made to me. I feel that seven will be enought. It should be remembered that the board will essentially be a financing body and it is important to have people capable of analysing and assessing potential film projects in a professional and objective manner.

Deputy O'Toole, with other Deputies, mentioned the fact that perhaps the fund of £4.1 million was relatively modest. I do not deny that. I covered that aspect fairly well in my opening speech. I repeat that the state of the Exchequer currently is not such that one could disburse large sums to activities that many people feel would not be of top priority where State spending is concerned.

The other point that is perhaps not fully appreciated by the Deputies who spoke is that this will be an evolving fund. One would hope that not long after its fourth injection, assuming an approximate injection of £1 million per year, it would be a self-sustaining, evolving fund and that the profits of some of its investments and activities would be sufficient to equal or outweigh the losses it will obviously incur in some of its other activities. One would hope that the fund could [153] be maintained at at least this level and, hopefully, at a higher level.

In the course of my speech I mentioned that a similar type of fund started in Britain as far back as 1948 with a modest amount of money has remained in existence since then. I hope that the board, once they are established, will look at other means of raising finance for film making as well as the use of this evolving fund. One envisages, perhaps, sponsorship of shorter films by industry and other commercial interests, as happens at present. One would like to encourage actual equity risk investment in film making by private institutions. It is worth remembering that in the past year substantial risks were taken by a group of Irish businessmen in the making of the television feature film “The Cry of the Innocent” which, happily, has been a commercial success. It has been shown twice this year on a nationwide network in the United States. The risks they took were considerable and they might have lost a great deal of money. One would like to acknowledge their entrepreneurship in making that film and to express the hope that they, and perhaps others like them, will in the interests of the Irish film industry be prepared to take those risks again in the future.

A number of Deputies referred to the question of distribution. I dealt with that matter fairly fully in my opening speech and I do not wish to go into it in detail again. There is a great danger that if the board were to set themselves up as a distributing board also and take over responsibility for distribution they would have landed on their doorstep many films which may not be easy to distribute in the difficult world of film distribution. In such a case if a film was not distributed successfully the board would be blamed. Film distribution is not like selling an ordinary commodity; it is a very specialised and narrow area which is controlled worldwide by a small number of companies. It is not the kind of area in which an Irish semi-State body would necessarily be successful for quite a while. Some good advice was given by Deputy Murphy and others to film makers [154] about the necessity for distribution and trying to ensure that, as far as possible, such arrangements are made in advance. A fine film could lie unseen and unscreened for years, perhaps for ever, if distribution arrangements are not made. I believe that over the years the NFSI and RTE developed some limited expertise in this area. I have no doubt that that will be at the disposal of the board in their efforts to help film makers who need such assistance. Even though it is a difficult and important area, it would be wrong to think that the board could take over sole responsibility in such a tricky commercial field. While undoubtedly the board will have to devote time, effort and, perhaps, money to it. I doubt if they will want to see themselves as a major distributor and have that responsibility thrust upon them.

A number of Deputies expressed the anxiety, as I did, that independant Irish film makers would be assisted by the board. I have no doubt that they will. In so far as I have had any problem it is that I found myself unable to agree with the suggestion put to me rather forcefully that the board should be given a direction by statute that at least 80 per cent of the funds available to it should be expended on assisting the work of independent Irish film makers. I could not accept that. I do not think the board, or any other concern about to operate in the commercial field, should be tied down by statute in a very specific way. I have tried in the Bill—as is demonstrated in sections 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8—to give the board as broad and as flexible a set of objective powers as possible and not to tie them down with detailed statutory instructions as to how they should carry out their function.

Many of the things urged on me here, and in submissions from outside the House, could more properly, and profitably, be urged on the board when they are established. To a great extent they are matters of day-to-day commercial judgment which I will have to entrust to the board. It would be foolish of me or any Minister to seek to make an advance for them without knowing the circumstances [155] on any occasion particularly in a matter that is as volatile and personal as a film. It is usually a work of art in one form or another. It would be extremely foolhardy in my view to lay down prior conditions as to what way specific films should be made. The board must be in a position to assess each script individually and decide what is wisest in all the circumstances. What I have said in regard to flexibility and not being specific in regard to the powers, judgements and decisions of the board applies not just to the question of whom they should support; it applies to many other aspects of their activities. I am anxious in this respect to give them the maximum freedom possible.

Deputy O'Toole made the point that key positions were not held by Irish personnel on the sets of feature films produced at the studio. I do not think that statement is true. Certainly it is not true to the extent it was made. It should be remembered that finance for these films, by and large, comes from abroad and there is no obligation on the companies concerned to fill key positions with Irish personnel. However, in two recent films which were made partly at the studios in Bray, “Hard Way” and “The Cry of the Innocent”, a big number of the key positions were filled by Irish personnel. In the case of the film I mentioned last night, John Boorman's “Knights”, which was completed recently and was by far the biggest budget film ever made here, Irish personnel were used in all departments during its production. A great deal of credit for that happy situation is due to Mr. Boorman and to the very positive and helpful attitude he takes towards this country and our film industry.

Deputy Quinn was critical of the delay in progressing with legislation. It is almost 11 months since the Bills were published, but there were many years in which nothing was done in legislative terms at all. A previous Bill was introduced by Deputy Lalor when he was Minister for Industry and Commerce in 1970 but that went out of date with our accession [156] to the Community and in any case it lapsed on the dissolution of the Nineteenth Dail in 1973. Between 1973 and 1977 no steps whatever were taken in legislative terms. When I assumed office in 1977 I decided we had better get on with the job and that I should try to adapt the 1970 Bill, the latest effort at legislation, but I found it was really unsuitable and had gone out of date. I asked Messrs. Little to advise me on what might be done. Having considered their advice I made some fairly fundamental changes including the making of the film board a totally independent body. Although there were great pressures at the time that it should be a subsidary of the existing company which was in the business, I thought it best to have them quite independent. If I had not done that, today one would be subject to the suggestion that the interests of the studio would be paramount and the interests of the independent producers not properly taken into account.

I tried to hold a balance between them in this respect and to give each a fair crack of the whip. Each of them is entitled to a fair crack of the whip but neither is entitled to dominate the other. For that reason I must resist efforts of either to dominate the other. Therefore, I would not propose to write in statutory percentages that must be devoted to one or to the other. The board in its independent commercial and artistic judgment—that is obviously very relevant also—will have to make those decisions. It is much better that such a board should make them rather than a Minister or the Oireachtas who decide arbitrarily on certain percentages in advance in a matter of this kind.

Deputy Quinn also made the point that the NFSI is not the Irish film industry. That is the very point I have been making and by separating the board from the NFSI I think I have demonstrated that I am conscious of the existence and rights of those who are not attached to the studio.

On the question of amendment, as I indicated in my opening speech, I am certainly prepared to make some amendments [157] to this Bill—for example, an amendment to section 8 which I mentioned last night and which I think would meet the point that Deputy Kelly, among others, made about training. I would consider any other reasonable amendment. That has always been my position. I think it was Deputy O'Toole on another Bill who complimented me on my readiness to accept amendments. I shall not be any different in this case but I shall not accept them if they are not worth while or if I consider they would actually be harmful. I think some amendments that have been suggested would not be helpful.

As regards film archives, I dealt with that matter in some detail last night and I need not go into it again. I regard it as a matter of some importance, and no doubt so will the board, but I also regard it as a relatively ancillary matter. I do not think, for example, that the Bill should be amended to impose on the board a statutory obligation straight away to establish and maintain film archives. It is something that should happen. But I think the way in which the Bill is drafted is preferable, giving them very broad powers enabling them to do these sorts of things but not compelling them to do them all at once. If they are to be compelled to do all these relatively ancillary things at once they will lose track of their main purpose which I suggest—and I am sure the House will agree—is to get films made.

Deputy Kelly may think that some of the motives for getting films made are a little unworthy but nonetheless I think that is what these Bills are all about. Therefore that is the principle function of the board. I thank Deputy Kelly for his contribution although I do not agree with much of the philosophy which he espouses in regard to why we should make films, what sort of things an Irish film industry should portray. For me, it was worth while listening to him because of the beautiful phrase in which he warned me that he thought I had a wrong impression of what certain foreign images of Ireland were when he said that perhaps I might have listened to “some half-lettered innkeeper in the Peloponnese”. Deputy Kelly's speeches are always [158] worth listening to it they incidentally drop jewels of that kind.

Although he complained very bitterly about the use of certain tragic aspects of Irish history as the locus in quo for some of our finest dramatic works, I made the point that I thought O'Casey's three best plays were set against the background of the War of Independence and the Civil War and that the emotions which they portrayed were surely universal. I think he conceded that point but then he went back to develop his own point all over again. I fully accept that we as a country, I suppose, try to broaden the boundaries within which we convey certain aspects of dramatic art whether in the cinema, on the stage or elsewhere; nonetheless, I do not think it fair to criticise the methods which O'Casey used to express what he did express so extraordinarily well. It should be remembered that nowadays one does not even have to play O'Casey in a Dublin accent or even in English; he is widely played in Russian, Japanese and Chinese with considerable success and great benefit to the audiences who have the privilege of seeing his plays.

Deputy Andrews suggested that television films should be regarded as more significant here now than in the past, and that brings me back to the commercially and artistically successful film I mentioned earlier, “The Cry of the Innocent”. That type of film is made in a different fashion from the typical cinema feature film. It is made much more quickly, it has much less studio content. It tends to be made on location without an enormous number of retakes and with relatively few staff, using very modern cameras, films and other equipment.

This is an area in which one can see a great future and I hope film makers in Ireland will consider the possibilities here, particularly because of the world market for such film material. The appetite of the American networks for anything new or unusual is particularly voracious. Anybody who goes to America from time to time, as I do, will have noticed that from early morning until late at night every time you switch on a television programme you will see some kind [159] of John Wayne 1935 classic being shown for the 111th time on CBS. Anything new or fresh for that enormous market would be welcome. We have great opportunities——

Mr. Kelly: Plenty of cowboys, anyway.

Mr. O'Malley: This country has as good a chance as any to avail of these opportunities. I hope the film makers here will not feel that unless they make an epic costing millions of pounds they are not really engaged in a worthwhile exercise in the film world. I hope I have dealt with all of the points made. Any of them I have missed can be picked up on Committee Stage.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 28 October 1980.