EXCLUSIVE: Simon Perry, CEO of the state film agency, expects his budget will be cut again next year “but not to the bone”. Perry tells me anything up to 15% could be sliced off the €16.5 million ($23 million) he was given this year by the Irish government. I’m also hearing 5% is the figure. This year’s budget is already 5% down on 2009’s. Like the UK Film Council, the IFB acts a hub for all Irish film activity. For example, it recently invested in Canadian/Irish co-production Mary Harron’s The Moth Diaries, starring Lily Cole and Scott Speedman, which Cinetic is handling domestically. The Irish government has warned that it’s going to have to cut public spending further. There’s a €19 billion gap between what Ireland raises in taxes and what it spends each year. On top of this the government has just announced that it has bailed out the Irish banking system at a cost of €44 billion. The country’s budget deficit is projected to equal 32% of GDP — 10 times the amount permitted under European Union guidelines. Still, at least the IFB has seen off a threat to have it abolished. A recent government report recommended scrapping the IFB and the Section 481 tax shelter. After an industry campaign, the government rejected the consultant’s recommendations and kept the IFB and the tax break intact. Perry tells me the argument’s been accepted that Irish culture is a very low-cost investment that yields a uniquely high invisible earnings return when it comes to tourism, overseas trade and improving Ireland’s image abroad – so-called “soft power.” Andrew Lowe, co-director of Irish production company Element Pictures, adds: “There is a general political consensus that the IFB is an important agency doing good work, so at worst we may be looking at a budget cut, but not the abolition of the agency.” Perry is stepping down as CEO of the IFB in January 2011. I understand that the board of Bord Scannán na hÉireann – to give it its Gaelic name – wants to concentrate on preserving its dwindling cash to encourage more big Hollywood movies to shoot in Eire.
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