Does it make sense to film your next project in Ireland? That's an important question, and we'll tell you why.
The Banshees of Inisherin received eight Golden Globes nominations and won three awards (best film, screenplay and actor). As a result, a Tourism Ireland video about the making of the Banshees of Inisherin film has drawn more than 6 million views.
Now with Ireland’s An Cailín Ciúin (The quiet girl) being the first Irish language film to receive an Oscar nomination ever (Best International Feature Film), the question of whether or not you should film your next movie in Ireland, is a big one.
European locations offer interesting incentives - they can alleviate the studio space problem and add a bonus of great locations to shoot as well as eager governments willing to give incentives for filming.
We spoke with Head of US Production & Partnerships, Screen Ireland, Steven Davenport and Head of West Coast, IDA Ireland, Ivan Houlihan to get their take on the growing popularity of filming in Ireland.
PH: Why is Ireland such a growing opportunity for film and TV production?
Steven Davenport: Ireland has a long tradition of filmmaking. In fact, our history with American productions dates to the '50s, '60s and beyond. Ireland is a very popular place for coproduction – evidenced by such blockbusters as Banshees of Inisherin, Viking Valhalla, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, The Quiet Man, Disenchanted, Braveheart and Game of Thrones.
From creatives to head of development, our talent and crew is first-rate. Our actors are known globally. For US movie makers looking to Ireland, it offers locations to work from and stunning, diverse landscapes for filming.
Many of our film and TV production facilities have been expanding in the last few years. Ardmore Studios, which has been around since the 1950s, added 20,000 square feet of stage space. Ashford Studios, which was central to the History Channel’s long-running Vikings series, is under construction on phase 2 consisting of another 170,000 square feet of additional sound stages. Troy Studios in Limerick, the largest studio production facility in Ireland and home to the original Nightflyers for NBC and two seasons of Apple’s Foundation, significantly enlarged its soundstage space. The MBS Group just started construction on Greystones Media Campus, a €300m movie and TV studio scheduled to open in 2024 that will add 270,000 square feet of sound stages.
Ivan Houlihan: Some additional draws include Ireland’s tax credit for film, television and animation, our focus on skills development and training and our and first-class production studios. Overall, we’ve seen tremendous growth in this sector. The Irish screen industry quadrupled in size over the last decade, with 2022 recording €360M production spend in the Irish economy across film, television drama, documentary and animation production. 2021 recorded a record-breaking spend of €500 million – a 40% increase on the previous record set in 2019.
PH: How did the 2023 Academy Awards nominations impact Ireland’s film-making reputation?
Steven Davenport: This year’s 14 Irish Oscar nominations illustrate the expertise that a country like Ireland has in front of and behind the camera. The Banshees of Inisherin took nine nods, including Best Picture, Best Director (Martin McDonagh), Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor (Colin Farrell). Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan were also nominated for their supporting roles in Banshees. Paul Mescal of Kildare, who played a struggling father in Aftersun, is also up for Best Actor.
An Cailín Ciúin (The Quiet Girl), the first ever Irish nomination for the Oscars and highest-grossing Irish-language film of all time, was shortlisted for Best International Feature Film. An Irish Goodbye, produced by Belfast’s Tom Berkeley and Ross White, is up for Best Live Action Short. Behind the scenes, visual effects artist Richard Baneham and editor Jonathan Redmond were nominated for their work on Avatar: the Way of Water and Elvis, respectively.
What’s especially exciting is that the actors themselves love working in Ireland – some have even moved here permanently. When Covid suspended the filming of The Last Duel in 2021, newspapers reported that actor Matt Damon called his family’s lockdown time in Dalkey, a seaside resort town outside Dublin, “one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever been.” Hollywood star Maya Rudolph said she’d “fallen in love” with Ireland’s Wicklow, where most of Disney’s Disenchanted was filmed.
PH: What attracts filmmakers to Ireland?
Steven Davenport: For US film and television producers, our expertise and location options are multi-faceted and diverse. We're open to productions of all sizes and types, from small independents to big-budgets. Our range extends across every genre, from horror, action and romance to period drama, comedy and animation. We have a lot of local productions that originate in Ireland and share our Irish stories and rich Irish culture. One milestone came in 2021, when we saw a 42 percent increase in local Irish-originated production.
We are also well accustomed to being a destination for international projects of all sizes and genres. Blockbusters such as Saving Private Ryan, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and P.S. I Love You accessed Irish crews while filming against the backdrop of Ireland’s landscape.
PH: How about productions outside of movies?
Steven Davenport: Many TV drama and streaming series have also filmed in Ireland, including Vikings Valhalla for Netflix. Showtime’s original series, Penny Dreadful was filmed here, as was NBC’s original Nightflyers and two seasons of Apple’s Foundation. MC shows like Into the Badlands and Moonhaven have chosen to locate shows in Ireland, even though they’re not set in Ireland.
We’re also seeing an increase in companies coming to Ireland for their VFX post-production. Animation/VFX is a strong growth area and something we do extremely well in Ireland.
Ivan Houlihan: Online video and electronic gaming development shares similar needs to the film & media industry. US digital gaming companies can access high-level designers, programmers, publishers, engineers and developers. Blizzard and Riot Games have operations in Ireland, and a host of others companies choose Ireland because of its health supply of talent.
Banshees of Inisheerin location at 2-Achill Island, County Mayo
PH: What are some of the benefits of filming and post-production in Ireland?
Ivan Houlihan: One big advantage is our strong tax credit and the government’s consistent commitment to supporting the industry. Ireland’s tax incentive is worth 32% with an additional 2% regional uplift – and one of the best in Europe. These tax credits apply to video game development as well.
Steven Davenport: In addition to expanding our physical infrastructure and production space, we have a growing number of training opportunities. We have recently launched a hub of National Talent Academies, three of which are focused on film production crew – one on the West Coast, one in the south in Limerick, and one on the East Coast in Wicklow– all training the next generation of crews or upskilling individuals to that next level. ADAPT Research Centre, based at Trinity College Dublin, is generating a reliable supply of skilled workers in AR/VR, AI and other new technology areas.
Ireland is also English-speaking, which is important for US companies not only at the contract level but also while working with locally based crews and producers. And the time difference between Ireland and the US is also advantageous – LA is eight hours behind Ireland and New York only five hours behind, which is the closest in Europe.
PH: Can you share any secrets for filmmaking in Ireland?
Steven Davenport: My advice is don’t limit your location search. Explore everywhere in Ireland. Ireland is a small country – only two hours east to west on the motorway – so it’s not a daunting commitment. Stay open because there is such diversity. It’s easy to limit your search to the Dublin-Wicklow side of the country, but first-class space like Limerick’s Troy Studios offer equally amazing crews and country sides. As well, we have other financial supports there.
PH: How can US film makers get in touch?
Steven Davenport: If you are interested in Irish opportunities for filming or post production work please contact Steven.firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Ivan Houlihan: To get in touch with IDA email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
More about Steven
LA-based Steven Davenport is head of US Production & Partnerships with Screen Ireland, where he is responsible for assisting international producers and studios to locate production in Ireland and the promotion of Irish talent internationally. Davenport worked as a nationally and internationally recognised line producer, production manager and location manager with 25 years’ experience across the Screen Industry.
More about Ivan
Ivan Houlihan heads up the Western US Territory for IDA Ireland and is based in Silicon Valley in California. He oversees activities in 11 Western states and a team of 14. During his almost 20 years with IDA Ireland, he has also been Vice President of IDA’s Boston and Atlanta offices, and a business development executive in IDA’s offices throughout Ireland including, Dublin, Galway, Limeric.
Main photo: Banshees of Inisheerin location at Keem-Beach-Achill-Island
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