Irish execs stress ‘Once’ is not enough

Film's success turns spotlight on local film

While the success of micro-budget Irish pic “Once” at the Academy Awards (for original song) gave the ceremony a heartwarming boost, Irish film industry execs wonder if the surprise hit will provide a longer-term bounce to the Irish film industry.

Certainly, there are a healthy number of local Irish pics currently in production or various stages of development. Gerry Stembridge’s thriller “Alarm,” Ian Fitzgibbon’s “A Film With Me in It” and Ivan Kavanagh’s “Our Wonderful Home” all started shooting late last year. Projects such as Brendan Muldowney’s “Savage,” Ken Wardrop’s “One Hundred to One Outsiders” as well as “The Wake Wood” from David Keating and Brendan McCarthy are also at an advanced stage.

For all the good news, however, it is too soon to start proclaiming a renaissance in new Irish cinema just yet.

” ‘Once’ definitely added a feel-good factor and highlighted the possibility of Irish film,” says Irish producer James Flynn, whose shingle Octagon Films produces TV skein “The Tudors” and forthcoming feature “A Shine of Rainbows” starring Aidan Quinn. “It’s still very tough out there, and the international presales market is very difficult for projects in the $3 million-$6 million budget range.”

Apart from a general sense that “Once” gave local film execs hope that the impossible was indeed possible, the pic seems to have had the biggest impact on those directly involved in the project.

Helmer John Carney is in production with “Zonad,” thanks to funding from the Irish Film Board and Element Films, and has lined up his U.S. feature debut with “Town House” for Fox 2000 in 2009.

“Once” producer Martina Nyland has also found the office of her Samson Films inundated with scripts ever since the pic struck gold.

“We’ve spoken to people at companies like Fox and Summit, and it’s definitely a lot easier to get them to look at our stuff, but it’s hard to develop and nurture good projects,” says Nyland. ” ‘Once’ gave a lot of people hope and encouragement, but it’s tough to be on the European scene and compete with the bigger machines in the industry.”

Samson is nurturing a number of films thanks to development slate funding from the Irish Film Board, including TV director Charlie McCarthy’s feature debut.

Element Films also has its own high-profile projects in the works besides their collaborations with Carney. The shingle is hoping to commence production on “Mary, Queen of Scots” later this year as well as Jordan Scott’s debut feature, “Cracks.”

Element is also developing another Carney project called “Fing Street,” about a kid sent to a tough school who deals with his ordeals by starting a band.

” ‘Once’ certainly helped give the Irish film industry a platform, but I never subscribed to the claim that people had suddenly become interested in all things Irish,” says Element Films’ Andrew Lowe.