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Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Film Industry.

Wednesday, 8 May 1996

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 465 No. 1

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 6. Miss de Valera Information on Síle de Valera Zoom on Síle de Valera  asked the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  if he has satisfied himself that the measures in the Finance Bill, 1996, pertaining to the film industry will increase the number of films to be made in Ireland in 1996; and his views on whether such measures will assist our indigenous film industry. [9220/96]

 7. Miss Quill Information on Máirín Quill Zoom on Máirín Quill  asked the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  his views on the future of the Irish film industry; if he has satisfied himself that an amended section 35 of the Finance Act, 1987 will continue to attract major film makers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9050/96]

Mr. Carey: Information on Donal Carey Zoom on Donal Carey I propose to take Questions Nos. 6 and 7 together.

I am satisfied that the measures in the Finance Bill, 1996, which provide for the continuation of a revised section 35 [56] investment incentive scheme for a further three years until 1999, ensure the necessary level of support to the Irish film industry to secure the continued growth and consolidation of the industry. These measures also provide a substantial level of support to attract major film makers, with the possibility to raise as much as £8.25 million in section 35 funding for productions in the off-peak period October to January inclusive. The changes in the section 35 scheme were not arbitrary, but were introduced on the basis of an independent economic evaluation of section 35 carried out by the economic consultants INDECON. The INDECON report is in the public domain.

As for the position of the indigenous film industry raised by the Deputies, I am pleased that one of the major successful achievements of the Government's package to date has been the steadily increasing number and quality of projects emanating from the indigenous sector.

Sixteen indigenous productions have either recently been released or are due to be released in the next 12 months. Several indigenous films have won international awards including “Korea”, “Ailsa”, “The Hanging Gale”, “35 Aside”, “Nothing Personal” and “Joe My Friend”. All of the above films have availed of section 35 investments. They have also secured international sales including a number of very substantial proceeds from the US from the likes of Miramare, Fine Line, Overseas Group and Castle Rock. This underlines the fact that home-based producers are competing in the marketplace at the highest level.

Miss de Valera: Information on Síle de Valera Zoom on Síle de Valera I thank the Minister for his reply. Those of us present for Report Stage of the Finance Bill will remember the Minister for Finance saying that the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht is in favour of the changes to section 35, which will undermine that measure. Is there any truth in the recent newspaper reports that that Minister had to travel to America to [57] allay the fears, particularly of those in the film industry, about section 35 and assure them that it still applies to them? Does the Minister believe that because of the framing of section 35 the film industry is an investor-driven industry?

Mr. Carey: Information on Donal Carey Zoom on Donal Carey During Committee Stage of the Bill dealing with this matter there was a long debate on section 35. Part of the reason for the examination by INDECON was to find out what could be done in the future. The Ministers for Finance and Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht are anxious to avoid a repeat of the experience whereby the industry experienced almost total collapse because of over-massaging of tax incentives. The record of the industry is very good, the most impressive aspect being the uptake of indigenous industry and the increase in employment — the Minister deserves great credit for the increase in numbers by almost 500 per cent, from 438 to 2,000 in two years. There is particular emphasis on youth employment, with many young people becoming involved in the industry. I have a strong belief in the future of the industry. The steps taken to date are minor and the changes are directed towards encouraging indigenous industry. This matter was fully debated and accepted by all parties on Committee Stage.

Miss Quill: Information on Máirín Quill Zoom on Máirín Quill Is the Minister aware that the co-producer of the award winning film “Sense and Sensibility” stated at a seminar in Dublin last week that he would have liked to have used Ireland as the location but he did not do so because it would have doubled the cost of the film? Will the Minister agree that the current cost of film making in Ireland is driving potential investment out of the country? Has the Minister's Department undertaken any critical examination of that statement and, if so, what new measures do he and his Department propose to address this problem?

Mr. Carey: Information on Donal Carey Zoom on Donal Carey I presume the Deputy is [58] referring to the article by Michael Foley in The Irish Times this week in which there was a reference to Mr. Laurie Borg, one of the producers of “Sense and Sensibility”. Mr. Borg did not make any application to the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, nor did he show any interest in doing so. I am a little confused in regard to the Deputy's claim. Does she think that the costs are over-the-top? I believe Ireland is well able to compete with Britain or the United States in this regard. We have the added bonus of the tax incentive which amounts to approximately 10 per cent of the cost. The Irish taxpayer is providing a hefty cushion to any producer who wants to make a major film in this country. I would have preferred the Deputy to acknowledge the announcement made yesterday in the United States by the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Higgins, that Pierce Brosnan and others will make a major film in Ireland this year. I would have thought congratulations were in order to the Minister on making such a successful trip.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy Zoom on Robert Molloy We will leave that to the Minister of State.

Miss de Valera: Information on Síle de Valera Zoom on Síle de Valera I would be interested to know whether that particular film would have been made in Ireland anyway. The Minister has just said that the taxpayer provides a hefty cushion for those who wish to take part in the film industry here. In that regard, will the Minister state the amounts of money the Revenue Commissioners paid out under section 35 in the past year to individuals and to the corporate sector?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy That is clearly a separate question.

Miss de Valera: Information on Síle de Valera Zoom on Síle de Valera The Minister obviously has the answers. He referred to the hefty cushion provided by the taxpayer and in that respect I would like to have the exact figures in regard to the [59] money paid out by the Revenue Commissioners. What is section 35 costing the taxpayer?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy Surely such a question should be tabled to the Minister for Finance.

Mr. Carey: Information on Donal Carey Zoom on Donal Carey I would like to help the Deputy but I do not have that information. I have answered fairly the question put down. On the figure of 10 per cent, the existing 80 per cent tax relief is calculated to give a 10 per cent reduction. In fact, the actual figure is 9 per cent. Most of the people who spoke at the conference to which Deputy Quill and Deputy de Valera referred were strong in their praise of the major advances in film production in Ireland. It is unfortunate that the three people quoted in The Irish Times article were critical but they had a different agenda. Other people spoke at that conference who praised the industry here and they are confident it will continue to thrive. There is certainty in the new measure because, as I stated in my reply, the tax relief system will operate for a further three years to 1999 which will be of assistance to investors.

Miss Quill: Information on Máirín Quill Zoom on Máirín Quill Will the Minister accept that as an Opposition spokesperson it is not my function to either flatter or engage in fantasy? I asked a clear question. Will he accept that the co-producer of “Sense and Sensibility” is a major opinion former on the international stage? I do not give credence or otherwise to the substance of his statement but I want to know if the Minister's Department is prepared to critically examine his statement with a view to identifying the factors that inhibit the growth of the film industry in Ireland. That person and a number of other key producers highlighted the absence of a basic film infrastructure in Ireland and other matters of that nature. It is important that the Minister takes my question seriously and commits his Department to examining critically the [60] statements made at that seminar and reply in a serious fashion to the concerns expressed in my question.

Mr. Carey: Information on Donal Carey Zoom on Donal Carey I would not treat the Deputy in a trivial manner. She asked me a serious question and I made a serious effort to answer it. I did not detail at length the costs of film making in this country but I pointed out that the costs in both the UK and the United States are greater than those in Ireland. In the film industry here it has been known for the union groups to make deals and if Mr. Borg had investigated more fully the position in Ireland I am certain he could have made arrangements for the production of “Sense and Sensibility” but, to my knowledge, he did not make any query in that regard. I respect Mr. Borg's position as a leading producer but he should consult people like Morgan O'Sullivan and World 2000 who might be able to advise him in this regard because they seem to have confidence in the structure being provided.

Miss de Valera: Information on Síle de Valera Zoom on Síle de Valera As my other questions with regard to the cost to the taxpayer were not answered directly, perhaps the Minister will outline the cost to the State of subsidising American films.

Mr. Carey: Information on Donal Carey Zoom on Donal Carey I have a great deal of information to hand but I do not have the information the Deputy requested. If it is available in the Department I will supply it to the Deputy. I did not anticipate such a supplementary question.

Miss Quill: Information on Máirín Quill Zoom on Máirín Quill Will the Minister accept that the future of the film industry, indigenous and otherwise, would be better served if the Minister and his Department addressed the comments made at the seminar last weekend? If there is substance to them, certain corrective measures will have to be taken; if there is not any substance to them, they must be formally denied. Brushing them aside in an offhand manner will not serve the future of the film industry and employment in that industry, in any serious fashion. I appeal to the Minister [61] to respond formally to the points made at the seminar by the producers to whom I referred.

Mr. Carey: Information on Donal Carey Zoom on Donal Carey I have given a full reply to Deputy Quill. The matter of an individual giving his opinion that one producer is dominating costs or being adversely critical of the entire film industry should be taken up and I will ask the Department to examine that matter. I certainly do not agree with his view. Some of the producers and promoters have their own agendas. I firmly believe there is a rare opportunity for people to invest in the film industry, particularly in the indigenous film industry. The terms are very generous. I hope Deputy de Valera is not saying they are too generous. People should take advantage of it now.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob Zoom on Joe Jacob The time for dealing with priority questions is exhausted. We will take Question No. 8 in the category of ordinary questions.


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