by Shane Nolan, SVP Technology, IDA Ireland
The entertainment industry is in a topsy-turvy situation, with productions hugely impacted due to the impact of the coronavirus while consumer demand for streaming services and other forms of home entertainment is exploding as people stay home and look for distractions. These parallel trends are exacerbating the existing challenge in the industry to find more studio capacity as traditional organizations like Disney and Warner Bros. are joined by tech firms that have moved into the original content creation space such as Netflix, Apple, AT&T, YouTube, Amazon and others.
As these players become "media companies" rather than just studios or technology firms, they are all eager to develop or acquire the compelling films and television series that will give them market share. However, high demand for great studio infrastructure and daunting domestic real estate prices -- particularly in big filming hotspots like Southern California and New York -- are compounding the problem. Even back in 2016, the Los Angeles soundstage occupancy rate was at 96%, underscoring a problem that has only gotten much worse.
In the past, media content such as Normal People, Star Wars: The Last Jedi , Outlander, Game of Thrones, the Jason Bourne films, Jojo Rabbit and Spiderman: Far from Home were filmed and subsequently produced in Europe where there are incentives for production operations such as financially beneficial tax offerings, lower production costs, experienced crews and a growing amount of first-class studio space. One of the most promising developments for companies looking to produce content is the fact that Europe has already begun reopening when it comes to film and television shoots, with firm Covid-19 guidelines in place, of course. This is life-saving news for U.S. media companies needing to fill their expanding entertainment channels. However, a number of key factors should be considered when choosing a location for shoots, production and post-production activities.
Ireland has two major projects currently underway, which will add to its sizeable current facilities at Ardmore, Ashford Studios and Troy Studios. The Greystones Media Campus in County Wicklow is being built on an 40 acre site as a €150 million state-of-the-art film and TV center with 14 sound stages, offices and production buildings. It should be open by late 2021. Another film and TV studio project is underway in Dublin in the Grange Castle business park that will have 12 sound stages, 100,000 square feet of workshop space and 100,000 square feet of offices.
Irish industry and Irish talent supply is regularly represented amongst the nominees at the most high profile award ceremonies for the industry annually. Per capital, it could be said that Ireland has been inordinately represented at the Academy, Emmy and other award ceremonies. This year, there were four Irish nominations for Normal People at the Emmys joining other Irish nominees such as Cork’s Fiona Shaw, who was nominated in the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for her role in Killing Eve, and Andrew Scott for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for his role in Black Mirror.
The Audiovisual Media Services Directive
In recent years, the European Union has put new regulations in place to enhance security and protect citizens, among other things. The Audio Visual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) legislation has been around for a few years but an enhanced version went into effect September 2020 that international content creators as well as European production operations must follow. Besides requiring that catalogs contain 30% European content -- aimed at ensuring investment in European content production -- the enhanced regulations have been extended to include video-sharing platforms as well as putting in place various content controls regarding hate speech, child pornography, anti-terrorism and use of minors' personal data.
The impact of Brexit
Brexit will cause international productions to pause for thought in their location selection choices. While productions in the UK may be deemed eligible for the aforementioned AVMSD 30% quota (under the European Convention on Transfrontier Television), as regulatory divergence develops between the UK and the EU post-brexit, this eligibility or equivalence for UK productions may not be guaranteed. In addition, concerns about the freedom of movement for international crews and talent in and out of the UK post Brexit has caused a large increase in interest in Ireland as an alternative option. In addition, companies showing content in the 27 countries of the EU, need to have a regulator in the EU. As a result, choosing an EU country for production and regulation makes a lot of logistical sense.
To keep its film and television production industry thriving, European governments have launched aid programs to assist home-grown studios in weathering the impact of Covid-19. However, these nations are also looking forward and are providing incentives for productions to their respective studios. The typical incentives range from 20-33%. with other attractive offerings like rebates and grants. In Ireland, for example, filmmakers can avail themselves of a 32% (up to 37% in some locations) rebate on qualified spending, with 90% of the rebate available as an interim payment.
For US firms, Ireland has been a stable, predictable location and resource for over 70 years. In the media and entertainment industry, given there are so many moving parts, having a secure, reliable base from which to operate can save a lot of money and heartache in the long run.
If you are interested in Irish opportunities for filming or post production work please contact Shane.Nolan@ida.ie
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