#IrishFilm: Filmbase closes – The industry responds

Earlier today it was announced that Filmbase, the dedicated centre to Irish film development, education, and equipment, is to close as it enter voluntary liquidation. This is a dark day for the Irish film industry as Filmbase has been instrumental in helping emerging Irish filmmaking talent grow. Many of those that have benefited from one or more of their services have gone on to national and international recognition, with the list of filmmakers involved in short film production alone reading like a who’s who of Irish talent.

We have reached out to some of those people to get their thoughts on this devastating news.

The Irish Film Board and Filmbase have long enjoyed a mutually beneficial arrangement, with Filmbase serving as a bit of a proving ground for people who would go on to collaborate with the IFB on later projects.

Since 1986, Filmbase has been a crucial cornerstone of Irish film and has played an important part in Ireland’s cultural landscape. Filmbase has always been a place of development and nurturing for Irish filmmaking talent, and has provided a launch-pad for the careers of many creatives now working in the sector. We are incredibly sad to learn of today’s news.

I would like to sincerely thank Alan and the team at Filmbase for their unfaltering dedication to filmmaking over the years, and for leaving behind a rich legacy of creative empowerment and support for Irish film.
James Hickey – CEO  Irish Film Board

Filmbase shared its offices on Curved Street in Temple Bar with a number of other key industry bodies, including the Screen Directors Guild of Ireland who’s members were frequently involved in courses and projects there.

Many of our globally acclaimed film and television directors received Filmbase support at the start of their careers and the support they gave to emerging talent will be missed.
Birch Hamilton – Screen Directors Guild of Ireland

Filmbase was originally established in 1986 by a bunch of filmmakers with Jane Gogan as the director. Other key members included Trish McAdam, Pat Murphy, Mark Kilroy, and Lelia Doolan.

Filmbase was set up not only as a resource for emerging filmmakers but to recognise the need for filmmakers to be allowed to make films outside the industrial model, or art model for that matter, a kind of maverick approach. Yes many people associated with Filmbase have gone on to work in the film industry but that was never its only aim. The concept was also about a resource for a kind of freedom of expression that comes with lower budget. I believe this is all important to keep alive.

On a very pragmatic base I would say to all those connected to Filmbase that it would be interesting to see this just as a business model failure. It is important to save the assets and funding for this very important aspect of Irish film culture and to invent a new model that will bring it forward in an even better way. This disaster needs to be turned around quickly as an opportunity to make something even better.  Trish McAdam – Director

An early recipient of short film funding was director Orla Walsh, who made her first two short films with the help of Filmbase.

Devastated to hear of the closure of Film Base which played such a crucial role in my development as a filmmaker. Film Base was always an open place where a 20-year novice with daft dreams could walk in and meet established wise filmmakers who were so generous with their time. This support gave me the courage as a women to write and direct and Film Base funded my first two short films ‘The Visit’ (1992) about women in Northern Ireland and ‘Bent out of Shape'(1995) about homophobia. In an atmosphere of censorship about the north, women, gay rights, racism and our historical past,Film Base took risks to support a huge body of challenging short films. Also when I was involved in the 90’s it was a platform for campaigning, Film Base and its members fought for the right to tell Irish stories on film and was key to the establishment of the Irish Film Board. Film Base was a haven, a lifeline for struggling filmmakers full of debate, laughter, friendship and daft dreams and I’m sorry it won’t be around for the next generation.
Orla Walsh – Director

The organisation didn’t just fund shorts, it was instrumental in helping some features get made also. The most recent of these was 2017’s smash-hit Cardboard Gangsters.

It’s very sad to see Filmbase closing. They’ve been a huge support to me over the years as an emerging Irish Film maker. From Filmbase I was able to rent affordable equipment to shoot short films and I have availed of their many resources from casting rooms to script writing groups. They recently supported my latest feature film Cardboard Gangsters and we could not have made the film without them. Filmbase was a great avenue for emerging film makers to bring projects from script to screen but it was also a bridge between starting out in the industry and working as a professional. Where can the emerging Irish film community receive this support without organisations such as Filmbase. I hope the Irish government can intervene here to #savefilmbase
Mark O’Connor – Writer/Director

The organisation was important in the early careers of two feature Irish Oscar nominees.

A couple of years ago, when my kids were small I felt I lost some filmmaking confidence. I did an evening course in Filmbase and it helped me get my mojo back.
Nora Twomey, Director – The Breadwinnner

It’s very sad news that that Filmbase is to close. I remember being at what must have been some of the earliest meetings, over three decades ago, and hearing the people who founded the organisation talking about what they wanted to achieve. Back then, at the end of the ’80s in the dark days before the Film Board was reinstated it was really the only place which offered help and support to people who wanted to make films.

In the years since, and with limited resources, Filmbase has largely lived up to its aims, supporting filmmakers, funding shorts and providing practical film education. I certainly borrowed equipment and used spaces there in the early phases of my career. I’m genuinely very sorry to see it go.
Lenny Abrahamson – Director – Room (speaking to the Irish Times)

Both producer Kathryn Kennedy and the late director Simon Fitzmaurice were involved in Filmbase-supported shorts in their early career, with Kennedy producer on Poxy and After, and Fitzmaurice writing and directing The Sound of People. The pair would later go on to make the award-winning My Name is Emily.

It would be hard to find any Irish film-making talent who hadn’t at some point availed of the support of Filmbase. From training courses, to short film funding, equipment rental, office space and to the high standard of filmmakers emerging from their Masters in Film course, Filmbase is a vital resource to up and coming talent in the Irish Film industry, the loss of which will leave a devastating gap in resources and facilities to those trying to launch their careers.
Kathryn Kennedy – Producer

Horror directors Lee Cronin (The Hole in the Ground) and David Freyne (The Cured) both have strong early career memories of working with Filmbase.

Whatever the circumstances that have led to Filmbase having to close, I hope a solution can be found to allow it to re-emerge in some way, shape or form. Every ladder needs a first rung, and Filmbase has given a leg up to so many filmmakers. It’s presence will be sorely missed for those embarking on their careers, or honing their skills. From a personal point of view, Filmbase gave me my first taste of production funding for a short film. This opportunity opened even more doors to me. There’s a lot more burgeoning filmmakers out there that need the type of support Filmbase offer. Let’s hope they can return stronger.
Lee Cronin – Writer/Director

At a point when RTÉ and the Irish Film Board can feel like impenetrable fortresses, Filmbase has been a vital stepping stone for young filmmakers. My earliest memories of filmmaking revolve around the centre. From running around with cases of their equipment, meeting my peers on their courses and eventually getting my first funded short film through their scheme. It’s closure is an incredibly sad day for Irish Film. Local film and arts centres are the backbone to any artistic community. We have to support them. David Freyne -Writer/Director

Savage Pictures’ producer John Keville is another who has gone on to produce huge feature films having started out with a short.

My first experience at pitching successfully was in front of the short film panel for the Filmbase award. It was for director Lee Cronin’s short film Billy & Chuck. As I type this I am sitting in Brussels in the grade completing his first film. It is completely obvious that the trust and encouragement Alan and his team in Filmbase showed Lee and many filmmakers through the years was invaluable, and whats more totally justified. It is a worrying time that these talented people and this vital institution for young Irish filmmakers will no longer exist. I want to thank them for the opportunity –  They will be sadly missed.
John Keville – Producer

IFTA-nominated filmmaker Garret Daly is just one of those who taught courses at Filmbase.

It’s a terrible shame to hear this news. Having lectured on a number of programmes there I could see the benefit first hand of providing a link to those curious about the industry and eager to get a start. The range of courses offered were very worthwhile to people and I guarantee there are many working in the industry today that benefited from attending them. That combined with their film schemes, equipment and facilities Filmbase created a hub when there was none in Dublin city. Im sorry for the staff and members who were all deeply dedicated to film. They’ve helped many people navigate their first steps in film production and their presence will be truly missed in time.
Garret Daly – Writer/Director and Filmbase Lecturer

Brendan Muldowney, who last year gave us the medieval epic Pilgrimage, made two shorts and wrote his first feature there.

Filmbase was instrumental in my career –  I made 2 shorts under the short film scheme, attended their CE scheme, took countless educational courses, used the equipment hire and short film insurance service to make independent shorts, hired rooms for rehearsal and auditions, edited films there and had many meetings in the cafe. I also served as a board member and saw the care and attention that was given to facilitating and training the upcoming film community that has blossomed today. I wrote my first feature film SAVAGE during a scriptwriting course there and Filmbase were one of the funders of SAVAGE when we went to make it. The closure of Filmbase is a catastrophic blow to the new and emerging filmmaking community, who rely on its resources to take the next step up.
Brendan Muldowney – Writer/Director

The loss has been felt throughout the industry.

It’s odd when a part of the Creative Ireland manifesto is supporting the Irish Audio Visual industry when the government just allowed the heart of the industry to be ripped out! Filmbase has kept independent film-making alive for so long when no one else was bothered. We would not have a growing industry without it’s influence and the government will rue the day that it had to close! I feel so sorry for the next generation of film-makers they will never know what they have lost.
Eleanor McSherry – Co-Chairperson at LACE: Limerick Arts and Culture Exchange

If we want to be able to celebrate Irish film successes in future there have to be more entry level routes into filmmaking in Ireland. While the tools to create film are being democratised we still need support structures to succeed, the closure of Filmbase is a step backwards in that regard.
James Doherty – Director

I definitely feel that the development of emerging talent is very much lacking here and it’s very sad to see one of the positive and encouraging avenues responsible for that now gone.
Ross Whitaker – Director/Producer

Such a sad day for Irish Film. It was my first point of call for information and courses more than 10 years ago, and I made some lasting friendships through meeting like-minded people there. My very best wishes for the future to the staff who must be devastated at this time.
Caroline E Farrell – Writer/Director

Every Filmmaker needs a place meet. A place brainstorm, to screen, to dip their toe in the water. A place to hold auditions, to meet and keep each other afloat, prop each other up. A place up skill. To advertise, to rent affordable equipment in a convenient location. Everyone needs somewhere to fail better. Everyone needs to start somewhere. Now where do people start now? The loss of Filmbase is absolutely nobody’s gain.
Paul Butler Lennox – Film Network Ireland

I had my very first audition in filmbase up stairs. It turned out it was also the first short I was ever cast in too. So that building will forever hold a strong lasting memory for me.
John Sweeney – Actor

Did my first film course there alongside several other people who are now ‘names’ in the industry. But they weren’t then – and it was a great climate where people working in the industry gave back to those hoping to learn and eventually find a place. Where are the beginners transitioning from college to ‘professional’ work in the industry going to go now? The huge amount of ‘cultural capital’ that organisations and centres like this provide in ways that are not easily measurable or countable often goes unnoticed. The unnamed ones go on to be ‘names’ if they are encouraged at the outset. Without Filmbase and centres like it the film industry will become even more elitist, exclusive and culturally impoverished. Very difficult to understand this decision from the Arts Council even with the difficulties the organisation faced. Who is going to benefit from this decision? What if anything will replace this organisation? When you are starting out – first of all you need a place to meet, to learn and to be taken semi-seriously when you say ‘I want to make films’. Without a centre like Filmbase people will rely on contacts – and those who ‘only’ have talent will not be facilitated to make the contacts that take that talent further. I’ve run auditions, attended screenings, workshops, networking events, training events, hired gear and benefitted hugely from the good sense and goodwill that the staff offer to all filmmakers.
Orla Murphy – Writer/Director

Filmbase enabled filmmakers’ dreams to become reality.
Paul Lynch – Writer/Director

First writing course, first editing course, first bit of kit rented, first meeting re first project all done there. Had my issues with the place and how it was run but it will always have a special place in my heart.
Gavin Kilduff – Writer

Terrible news about Filmbase, one the best resources Ireland has ever had for everyone involved or wanting to get involved in filmmaking. Very sad that with all the success of Irish filmmaking and actors on a world stage, a door into that world has been slammed shut on up and coming filmmakers and actors due to money. How!? Creativity needs to be supported, not just for reasons of prestige, but for grassroots filmmaking and art to flourish, which makes for a better and fairer society. The ladder needs to be extended. Art is not separate from the “real world”. It tells the story of the real world, expands its horizons, brings light into darkness, and in Ireland, brings very dark things to light. Creative endeavour and creative communities save lives, starting with our own.

Personally I did many things over the years in Filmbase; attending countless masterclasses, having some of my first scripts rehearsed and read by actors at The Attic Studio, being part of the Writers Guild Screenwriting Group for 2 years, screenwriting classes with Stephen Walsh which got me writing again, filming acting classes, developing projects, and many many more days I’ve long forgotten. Filmbase and everything creative that was drawn there was what I needed to find a way into film and make many friends and collaborators.
Michael Dwyer – Driftwood Doll Films

My main memory of the place is going there looking for actors a few times in 2010 and 2011 before the cafe was built and the masters course started and it was empty, a ghost town. I was directed upstairs and leafed through these enormous dusty books full of actors, that were just piled up one on top of the other waiting for someone to move them somewhere, anywhere. I peeped into the books and looked all these actors and and ancient headshots and their likely extinct landlines and that went back to the eighties from all over the country. I knew I had come too late to the party. It was a cool place and now probably it’ll be just another clothes shop which is a shame, the city needs places like filmbase.
Thomas Andrew Quain – Writer/Director

Another of the early members was Liam O’Neill who is still actively making short films.

I’ve been kind of reeling in shock from the news. Although I haven’t been active in Film Base for some time I’ve kept up my membership. I was unaware that the Arts Council had cut Filmbase’s funding to that extent. I was on the Board myself for some time in the late 80’s and early 90s and chaired the Board for four or five years while we made the transition from the dilapidated Quakers Meeting House to what seemed at the time space and freedom. During my time on the board, the yearly funding application to the Arts Council was always nerve wracking.

When I joined Film Base after graduating from what was then the new film and TV course in IADT – there was nowhere else to turn. The nascent industry had been decimated by the closure of the IFB and the imposition of an advertising cap on RTE. I’m not sure if people remember those dark days but even in the run down facility that was the old Quaker Meeting House in Temple Bar, Film Base was a place to meet like minded people and to feel – even tenuously – that it was possible to make films. Without Film Base, and the people involved in it, I would’ve left Ireland.

When, after repeated submissions, they finally selected our short script The Barber Shop for support I was elated. The imprimatur of the award helped us get a sound stage in Ardmore and deals from other facility houses that would otherwise have looked askance at a bunch of scruffy wannabes. The finished film traveled the world and opened many doors for me. It was also a validation for me, and many of the crew who worked on that film, that we were good enough to make films that could compete internationally. I think the short film scheme still serves the same purpose. It will be sorely missed.

So, it’s terrible news that Film Base has gone into liquidation. One may say, with the IFB now flourishing, with digital equipment easier to access alongside the advent of crowdfunding, that Film Base has passed it’s sell by date. I don’t agree. It still serves as a valuable resource for those starting and developing their careers. People who aren’t on the IFB radar – and won’t be until they get something on screen. The FB/RTE film awards have helped countless individuals – both behind and in front of the camera – to get a foot on the ladder of a career in film and TV. And – bonus point – it has birthed some terrific short films. Film Ireland was and is still a valuable resource of news and information. The physical presence of Filmbase in Dublin city centre is a powerful symbol of the cultural value of film makers to our society. Filmbase is, of course about making films, but more importantly it is about developing film makers. Was/is it perfect? Of course not. But you don’t starve a valuable cultural resource of funds – especially in a time of economic recovery – unless there is a good reason to do so.
If there is one I haven’t heard it. If Film Base disappears it will truly be a loss to the film making community and a slap in the face to diverse voices in the industry and to the broader culture of our country.
Liam O’Neill – Writer/Director