The making of films in Ireland proved difficult and challenging in the early years of the State. There was insufficient capital and return for Irish themed film so that an indigenous film industry never reached fruition.
The State established National Films Studios at Ardmore in Bray in the late 1950s. They were designed to attract bigger budget films. Through the 1950s, ’60s and early 1970s Ardmore competed successfully in the market for offshore film production. It provided a competitive price structure.
However, the Ardmore studios were underutilised which resulted in a legacy of indigenous and insolvency of the 1980, during which time they were both under public and private ownership.
In the mid-1980s the Ardmore studios were acquired by a large US organisation, which carried out extensive improvements and upgrading. This reinvigorated Ardmore through the 1990s and 2000s.
The Houston Report of 1968 recommended the establishment of an Irish Film Board. It proposed a move away from investing in assets and towards support for film making through a grant system for specific projects. This was ultimately implemented by the establishment of Bord Scannán na hÉireann, the Irish Film Board in 1980.
The National Broadcasting Service RTE stimulated the production of films in Ireland. However, large-scale films were largely offshore productions.
Many ex-RTE employees set up their own production companies. A certain number of Irish-based films have been produced since the 1970s. The main source of funding remained the national broadcast.
The Board, The Irish Film Board in its first incarnation, supported various aspects of the film industry through grants. It sought to reinvest monies which it earned in future film production. It part funded over twenty short films and documentaries as well as experimental films.
Due to cutbacks in 1987, the board was dissolved. After significant pressure and campaigning the Film Board was re-established in 1992 coinciding with awarding of Academy Awards for The Crying Game. The Film Board has expanded significantly since re-establishment and the film industry has grown to several thousand people. It now generates significant tax revenues with a relatively modest grant budget.
The Bord Scannán makes films on occasions with the support of the Arts Council, RTE, BBC and Channel 4. Over 100 feature films were made in the 1990s. Several TV series, documentaries and short films have been made. A number of those films have been very successful and were acclaimed internationally.
The Taxes Acts have provided significant incentives for the financing of films. See the separate section on tax and film finance.
The Irish Film Board Act still governs the present Film Board. The Act provides that the Board shall assist and encourage by any means it considers appropriate to making a film in the State and the development of the industry in the state for the making of films. It may engage in other activities, including the establishment of a national film archives.
The Board shall have regard to the need for the expression of national culture through the medium of film making. The Board may give assistance by way of grants or guarantees for making films. It may guarantee the repayment of money. It may make grants for training and other activities.
Where conditions subject of each investments, grants and loans are made are contravened the amount may be immediately demanded and may be recovered as a debt due to the Board.
The Board is appointed by the Minister for a period of four year. It may establish committee. There is a Chairman, up to seven members each appointed by the Minister.
The Board was renamed Fis Éireann / Screen Ireland in the National Cultural Institutions (National Concert Hall) Act 2015
The Board operates a number of funding program. It may provide project, relevant loans, screenplay development loans, animation development loans and international development loans. Its annual funding in 2012 was €12 million.
Screen Ireland operates under the aegis of Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media. Its annual budget is decided by Dáil Éireann and it had a total capital budget of €14.03 million in 2015.Screen Ireland provides funds for the development, production and distribution of feature films, feature documentaries, short films, TV animation series and TV drama series]This is in addition to the Boards overhead and staff of €2.4 million.
Section 481 of the Taxes Consolidation Act was revised in 2008. It provides finance for film and TV production through tax subsidies.
The Irish Film Board (Amendment) Act, 2018 increased the maximum of the aggregate amount of any investments, loans, grants or moneys provided by Screen Ireland towards the cost of making films and providing training in all aspects in the making of films from €300,000,000 to €500,000,000.