Our Friend in Ireland: Agnes Cogan

Our Friend in Ireland: Agnes Cogan

Wednesday, 24th August 2022
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Agnes Cogan
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Agnes Cogan identifies a possible future Oscar winner as the Irish screen sector adds new production capacity.

For more than two years, the scene here in Ireland has been dark and gloomy. The pandemic has cast its pall across the landscape, particularly over the fields of entertainment – theatre, film, TV and video.

Now we are emerging, blinking, into the sun again and, very quickly, all is busy, busy, busy. Celebrities such as Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe, Bill Murray, Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker have been spotted across the island but, for sheer glittering global star power, nothing can beat the Obamas, whose latest production, Bodkin, is shooting in West Cork, Dublin and Wicklow.

Described as “a darkly comedic thriller”, it is the first scripted TV series from their production company, Higher Ground, and one of several shows it is making for Netflix.

On the film scene, all the buzz surrounds An Cailín Ciúin (The Quiet Girl), Colm Bairéad’s beautiful and moving film based on a short story by Claire Keegan. It has been described as “an instant classic”. According to one insider, it marks a turning point in the Irish film industry, especially for productions in the Irish language.

It is also a success story for TG4, Ireland’s Irish-language channel, whose film offshoot, Cine4, is a major funder. This will be Ireland’s entry for the International Features category at the next Oscars. We have great hopes for this one.

On the television front, both TG4 and Virgin Media have launched new TV channels: Virgin Media’s is a general entertainment channel, while TG4’s is for children.

To support all this extra programming and production, planning is under way for two major TV and film studios – in Mullingar, in the Midlands, and in Greystones, a seaside resort in County Wicklow, about 30km south of Dublin. Each claims it will be the biggest studio complex in the country. We’ll see.

In any case, these initiatives will provide more work for crews and technicians, and added capacity for production companies, all of which will be very welcome.

As befits a scene emerging from the shadows, many of the productions underway have a supernatural aura: The Pope’s Exorcist, starring Russell Crowe, is seeking extras; Sanctuary deals with present-day witchcraft and is a co-production with AMC and Monument TV, among others.

At the other end of the scale, in Galway, as part of the summer’s Galway City of Film Festival, 10 teams competed to write, shoot and edit a five-minute film in just 48 hours. Sponsored by TG4, this was the fifth year that the 48-hour challenge has been held. 

In other news, Paul Mescal, breakout star of Normal People, has been kept busy. His latest film, God’s Creatures, also starring Emily Watson, was selected at Cannes, and will be shown in cinemas at the end of September.

The crime series Kin, Ireland’s most successful TV drama of 2021, starring Aidan Gillen and Ciarán Hinds, has been given the go-ahead for a second and third series. These are being shot back to back this year, and provide lots of welcome work for local actors, technicians and production staff.

All this and an announcement by the redoubtable Sir David Attenborough, now 96, who is to present a nature series for BBC One, Wild Isles, on the wildlife of Britain and Ireland. 

The programme will be filmed here and in Britain over three years and will feature “extraordinary animal dramas and wildlife spectacles” to demonstrate the challenges to nature and the global importance of some of the wildlife on these islands. More power to him! 

Agnes Cogan is Chair of RTS Republic of Ireland.