Irish academic institutions respond to pic demand

Wannabe Irish filmmakers have never had it so good.

With the Irish government spending $188 million on the country’s film industry in the next seven years and encouraging movie production with tax breaks, Irish colleges and universities are responding energetically to the demand for trained labor for the burgeoning industry.

“Thirty years ago, there was little formal film education here, but that’s all changed,” says Rod Stoneman, director of the Huston School of Film & Digital Media at the National U. of Ireland, Galway. “The exponential growth in film activity since the lean years of the early ’90s has worked its way down, and there’s a real demand for film education now.”

The database of the Ireland Film & Television Net lists more than 50 institutions that provide everything from purely academic film studies courses at universities such as Trinity College to more hands-on film crafts courses at colleges such as the Galway Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) and the National Film School in Dun Laoghaire.

“Film and media training became suddenly sexy, which led to a lot of schools setting up programs,” says John Brody, head of production at Studio Solas in County Galway, which was founded by Roger Corman in 1995. “And while some of the courses are very good, there are many that are too academic to be of any use.”

Celine Curtin, a lecturer in production and broadcasting at GMIT, which graduates 30 students a year, says the better colleges respond to “real work opportunities” in the industry.

“Outside the capital city of Dublin, the west of Ireland is home to the largest number of production companies of audiovisual programs, and we have a very high rate of employment placement for our graduates,” she says.

Technically speaking

Donald Taylor Black, creative director at NFS, says he attributes the school’s success to its close ties with film professionals; it invites them to lecture and act as examiners.

“Our courses are 80% filmmaking craft and 20% academic work,” says Taylor Black. “And the school continually seeks the industry’s advice on course development. When they point out a vacuum that needs to be addressed, we are well positioned to respond.”

As a result of the relationship with the industry, Taylor Black says the demand for the school’s 600 students is so high — especially for animators — he has to persuade them not to drop out of college to join the workforce.

Making the grade

When it comes to whether Irish film programs are as good as their American counterparts — schools with multimillion-dollar budgets like NYU and USC — Taylor Black and Curtin agree that while they might not have the same name recognition, Irish school standards are every bit as high, and that the size and number of good schools are adequate for the industry that surrounds it.

And they are, as Stoneman points out, a bargain compared with U.S. college prices.

“The fees for the current academic years at the Huston School are just E6,000 ($7,800),” he says. “Americans have come here to study and would say they’ve been very satisfied.”

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