According to the Irish Film Board, approximately twenty per cent of all tourists to Ireland in 2010 cited film as an influencing factor for their visit. And while 2013 will see significant cuts in government funding for the arts in Ireland, there was some welcome news for the film industry with the announcement that the Irish film tax incentive scheme (otherwise known as Section 481) would be extended until 2020, thereby essentially safeguarding Ireland’s position as a desirable film location for foreign investors.
This is just as well. Even placing the artistic merits to one side, the film industry is a huge contributor to the domestic economy – the audio-visual sector alone is estimated to be worth in the region of €550 million and acts as a source of employment for over 6,000 people. The number of large international productions that have been hosted here – for instance, Saving Private Ryan and, more recently, P.S. I Love You – suggest that the Irish film industry is performing well above reasonable expectations. While many, such as Tim Morris of Windmill Lane Pictures, claim that ‘the primary reason international work comes to Ireland is tax based’, there is also plenty of evidence to suggest that the profusion of domestic talent plays a vital role in securing investment too. Domestic productions such as What Richard Did, Once, and the TV series Love/Hate are excellent advertisements for the mounting confidence and quality of the Irish TV and film industry.
The importance of such aptitude cannot be overstated. According to a report by the Irish Film Board (‘Creative Capital: Building Ireland’s Audio Visual Economy’), building a solid reputation is crucial to the industry’s development: ‘Ireland’s filmmaking talent and skilled workforce are recognised the world over and are central to the strategy for expanding Ireland as an international centre of excellence for content production.’
Postgraduate courses in Film help deepen the pool of talent from which the industry draws. While many film courses are not strictly vocational in nature, they represent an excellent means through which students can develop their skills – whether analytic, communicative or productive.
The MPhil in Film Theory at Trinity College Dublin (one year full time; also available as a Postgraduate Diploma) imparts students with an appreciation of the intellectual and aesthetic concerns of film study. Among the modules on offer are Film Theory and History, Post-Classical European Cinema and Visual Culture in Ireland. University College Cork’s MA in Film Studies (one year full time) also engages critical theory and aesthetic concerns and includes modules such as Advanced Film Theory and Criticism, and Film and Cultural Memory. While essentially academic rather than industrial, studying film theory at postgraduate level is vital for a number of reasons: it animates discussion, sharpens students’ analytical and critical abilities, and helps to establish context. The resulting critical opinion subsequently helps inform the public’s awareness and appreciation of film, and so comes to play an active, if not always obvious, role in the film industry.
With that said, many courses (including the foregoing) ordinarily augment their programmes with the addition of more practical components too. Trinity’s MPhil, for example, includes an elective on the craft of Editing, while the MA at UCC has a module on Digital Video Capture and Packaging. Note that students on both programmes are assessed through a combination of coursework and a dissertation.
For students looking for greater specificity, NUI Galway’s Huston School of Film & Digital Media provides a wealth of options, with MA programmes in Film Studies, Screenwriting, Production and Direction, Arts Policy and Practice, Digital Media and Public Advocacy and Criticism (all of which are of one year’s duration). Entry requirements vary, but candidates are normally required to possess an honours primary degree as well as a genuine ardour for film. Graduates of these programmes are equipped to secure employment in areas such as research, teaching, postproduction, communication and filmmaking. They may also choose to remain in academia by opting to enrol on a doctoral programme (two options are available – a traditional, thesis-based PhD, and a practice-based one), through which they can investigate a specific area of interest in greater depth.
The MA in Film and Television Studies at DCU (one year full time, two years part time) treats the two screen industries as being interlinked, contiguous entities. The course aims to give students an insight into the inner workings of the Irish film and television industries, along with an analysis of the impact on Ireland of audio-visual policy across the globe. Core modules include Television: Structure and Policy, and Media Audiences and Consumption. There are also optional modules in Digital Video & Audio Postproduction and Screenwriting.
Another option worth serious consideration is the MA in Broadcast Production for Radio and Television run by Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology. This full-time programme runs for one year and is aimed specifically at those hoping to obtain editorial and production skills in radio and television broadcasting. It also offers instruction in a host of specialist areas, such as: editorial and scriptwriting; single and multi-camera operation; microphone and sound recording skills; production management; radio and television presentation, production and direction; and editing for radio and television. Candidates are typically expected to possess an honours primary degree and must submit a portfolio of their work (written or audio/video recordings). Shortlisted applicants will be asked to attend an interview as part of the selection process.
Graduates of the aforementioned courses often progress to find work in a variety of related and non-related fields including journalism, teaching, research and administration. While many are successful in securing positions in the TV, Film and Radio industries, doing so is no easy task and is often the preserve of the most determined. ‘The most effective way of entering the business is by deciding early on exactly what discipline you want to do,’ says Windmill Lane’s Tim Morris. ‘You should also try to build up a network of industry contacts and expect to enter at the lowest rung of the ladder.’ Following that, it’s just one step at a time.
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