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Take a Break: Co-Production and Maximising tax incentives

Presented by BAFTA & IFTA in association with Sargent-Disc - 22nd January 2015
6.30pm-7.30pm: Panel Event plus audience Q&A | 7.30pm-8.30pm: Drinks reception

Event Summary

IFTA and BAFTA co-hosted a panel discussion in London on Thursday, January 22nd – with over 180 producers and financial execs (including 40 Irish producers who travelled to the UK for the event) turning out to listen to an expert panel talking about maximising the tax incentives offered by Ireland’s newly enhanced and broadened Section 481 guidelines for UK producers.

The Irish Film & Television Academy’s CEO Áine Moriarty said IFTA was delighted to work with BAFTA again in highlighting the opportunities that exist for more production collaboration between the UK and Ireland and expressed her thanks to Isabel Davis and the panel of speakers who gave a very concise and informative overview of the tax and financial benefits offered within the newly enhanced Irish system.

”The crews and talent in Ireland are brilliant. Because they work on high-end drama and great films, it means you can hire the crew with the confidence that they will deliver for you " Frith Tiplady.

Chaired by Isabel Davis who is the Head of International at the British Film Institute (BFI) and in association with Sargent-Disc – the panel of producers, co-producers and accountancy experts discussed their own experiences of financing and producing across film and television drama while also offering insights into how the financing model works and how British producers can benefit from the tax incentive – which now offers up to 32% tax credit for film and television productions made in Ireland as well as being broadened to include non-EU talent.

Expert Panellists at the event were:

  • Mark Byrne – Head of Business Affairs at Element Pictures
  • James Flynn – Producer (‘Penny Dreadful’, ‘The Tudors’)
  • John Gleeson – Head of Media at Grant Thornton
  • Frith Tiplady – Head of Production at Tiger Aspect
  • Isabel Davis – (Chair) Head of International at the BFI

Speaking after the event, John Gleeson said: ‘The panel explained how the mechanism by which you access these incentives have been simplified and harmonized with how tax incentives for film and TV production work in other jurisdictions around the world through a re-payable tax credit. UK and other foreign producers can look at Ireland as an English-speaking jurisdiction located right beside the UK and offering 32% and the fact that the UK is currently operating at capacity means that Ireland is another alternative and perhaps a work split can be done between the UK and Ireland.’

Mark Byrne of Element Pictures said: ‘The other big change is the ability to include non EU talent as eligible spend which brings us in line with the UK. When you combine that with the fact that the UK have reduced their spend requirement to 10% (down from 25%) to avail of their tax credit for feature films there is great opportunity to combine the Irish S481 and the UK tax credit to maximise the benefits to producers across the two territories.’

James Flynn - MD of Octagon Pictures - agreed with Mark and John that a key subject at the event was how the UK reduction of their eligible spend compliments the Irish tax incentives: ‘One significant opportunity is the re-establishment of UK/Irish co-productions. It is hoped that this can be replicated by the UK Government for television projects and this would be a boost to the Irish sector and could also open new opportunities for Irish VFX and post industry as well.’

Mark Byrne continued: ‘Even on high end television (where the 25% spend requirement remains in the UK), we were able to use ‘Ripper Street’ as a great example of a UK show that has combined the UK and Irish incentives very successfully. The first two series were shot in Ireland and then for the third series, notwithstanding the introduction of the TV tax credit in the UK, it still made both creative and financial sense for that show to shoot in Ireland and post in the UK.’

Frith Tiplady of London-based Tiger Aspect has experience co-producing in Ireland – most notably with the Amazon Prime and BBC Drama ‘Ripper Street’. Speaking about the tax incentives, she said: ‘Fundamentally if the incentives didn’t exist, we wouldn’t go to Ireland. The Euro has been quite strong against the pound so it is quite important that its’ there to compensate for that. The fact that it’s going up to 32% also makes it a lot more competitive.’

With a production like ‘Ripper Street’ in its third season splitting production between the UK and Ireland - John Gleeson states that there is a lot more scope for large productions to do more of the same in the future: ‘Because you can only have tax credit on 80% of your total finance in the UK means that on larger studio and TV projects – they have a dead spend above 20% that they can allocate to Ireland on which they can claim up to 32%. So, there is a huge opportunity there for large television shows and feature films that are principally being shot in the UK to move some of their production to Ireland and avail of that 20% dead spend.’

The panel event generated a lot of interest amongst UK producers, with Mark Byrne commenting: ‘The fact that over 180 people turned up to the event was testament to the fact that the changes have created a lot of interest in the UK. As we all share a common language, time zone and working practises we are natural co-producing partners. UK financiers such as BBC, ITV, Film4 and BFI have also a lot of experience of working in Ireland and are comfortable with making projects here. In addition to S481 we explained there is funding available from Irish Film Board for creative co-productions and Irish broadcasters are also looking for co-production opportunities.’

Speaking about what elements of shooting in Ireland attract Tiger Aspect, Frith Tiplady’s sentiments echoed Mark’s that the two nations are ‘natural co-producing partners’: ‘We are very similar – shared history, shared language, shared cultural references. When you are making something creative, that is all very important. On top of that –the crews and talent in Ireland are brilliant. Because they work on high-end drama and great films, it means you can hire the crew with the confidence that they will deliver for you. Filming in Dublin is really easy. It has always worked really well for us with ‘Ripper Street’ and ‘Murphy’s Law’ so it is definitely somewhere that we are really comfortable filming.’

Another key talking point at the event raised the question of whether the infrastructure in Ireland would be scalable for the influx of new productions – with the country currently having just two large scale purpose-built film studios available in Ardmore and Ashford.

Mark Byrne said: ‘I would hope so as there is now a large indigenous crew base that is capable of servicing local film and TV as well as incoming shows like ‘Ripper Street’ and ‘Vikings’. Obviously there is a lack of purpose built film studios and that may present a challenge for certain projects but we still have great locations and producers have been very inventive in sourcing alternative spaces like we did for ‘Ripper Street’ which shot in Clancy Barracks. The UK has seen a large expansion in film studio space since the introduction of the tax credit and hopefully we will see the same happening here.’

James Flynn has previously spoken about the lack of available studio space in Ireland stating: ‘It’s the next big question – the next building block for this industry. We need more studio space if we are to maximise these incentives. That is something that I hope will be looked at very closely in the near future. A lot more space is needed in order not to miss out, and cope with the high volume of demand that is hopefully going to come our way. We need to strategically look at infrastructure – that is the most important item on the list now.’

Also commenting on the issue of infrastructure, John Gleeson said: ‘I think it’s something that needs to be seriously looked at. Between the lack of facilities and studio space and looking at a serious training of crew – I think that Ireland is a little bit behind the curve in our strategic thinking about how to expand the industry now that we have this huge opportunity. We need to figure out how we can address that as the rest of the world is now looking at what Ireland has to offer.’

See images from the event in the IFTA Gallery here

For further information on other IFTA London events please visits our London section by clicking here.