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Category: Behind the Scenes


Katie Holly

IS THERE any state agency, aside Screen Ireland (chaired by Annie Doona), where some 8% of its ‘loan’ budget is mopped up by interests associated with one of the agency’s board members? In its quietly released annual report for 2017 (yes, 2017), Screen Ireland discloses... Read more »

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Jennifer Zamparelli

THE NEW look 2FM has been attracting mixed reviews following its makeover, but one of the players, former Breakfast Republic co-presenter Jennifer Zamparelli, might want to tune out the comments. Back in March, when Zamparelli was named as 2FM’s key star to attract young listeners... Read more »

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CONGRATULATIONS to former Arts Council chair Pat Moylan who is again to tour her smash hit show, Angela’s Ashes The Musical, two years after it packed the punters in during its Irish tour. The good news is that this time around the tour has extended... Read more »

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Aine Moriarty

EARLIER THIS year, Goldhawk raised the ghastly spectre of a hiatus in Áine Moriarty and Deirdre Hopkins’s annual red carpet luvviethon, the Irish Film and Television Awards (IFTAs). Co-star Hopkins had taken a job with BAFTA in London late last year and, instead of the... Read more »

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NEXT WEEK sees the return to the Gate of the hit show at the northside theatre, Roddy Doyle’s The Snapper. Given it had a near three-month run only a year ago, this represents fairly staid programming by the widely praised Gate supremo Selina Cartmell, following... Read more »

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Sharon Horgan

AS THE annual Cannes film junket (which featured a rare Irish success) came to a close on Sunday, it coincided with the arrival of Screen Ireland’s first-quarter gravy train.

The biggest funding award made by SI in the first three months of this year was €¾m for an Element Pictures project, Herself, to be directed by British director Phyllida Lloyd. The film is co-written by its Irish lead, Clare Dunne, with Malcolm Campbell and is co-produced with Sharon Horgan’s increasingly active Merman Productions. This UK outfit also landed €200,000 last year for the underwhelming Women on the Verge, which screened on RTÉ2.



The Dig

ANY FILM coming out of Northern Ireland and titled The Dig is, even if not overtly, a ‘Troubles’ film, likely to be viewed as an allegory of post-conflict unease. That may be true of brothers Andy and Ryan Tohill’s directorial debut, written by Stuart Drennan, but it presents as an economically told story of the after effects of a 15-year-old murder case in which the body of the victim, a young woman, was never found.

Carried by a cast of four – released murderer Ronan Callahan (Moe Dunford); grieving father Sean McKenna (Lorcan Cranitch); the victim’s younger sister, Roberta (Emily Taaffe); and local policeman Murphy (Francis Magee) – The Dig is played against a backdrop of struggling hill farms and a bleak expanse of blanket bog, where Cranitch’s character has spent years digging in the faint hope of finding his daughter’s body.

Read the full review here


FANS OF Goldhawk will be aware of the Western Region Audiovisual Producers (WRAP) Fund thanks to the nascent body’s first funding decision – €200,000 for the Element Pictures project Calm With Horses (see The Phoenix, 4/5/18). That award to an adaptation of a Mike McCormack story was done and dusted before the WRAP had even published its funding guidelines. Earlier this month, the fund published an update on its activities.

Read more about it in the latest issue of The Phoenix. 


Sarah Durcan

GOLDHAWK was recently perusing the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the Abbey Theatre and spied a regulation that could be interpreted to cause a headache for one of the board members, Sarah Durcan.

Find out why in the latest issue, out today.

And you can read more about ‘Young Blood’ Durcan here for free.  


The usually popular Marty Whelan found himself on the wrong side of opinion this week when he posted a “little taste from behind the scenes in Tel Aviv”on Wednesday. The broadcaster received almost 400 messages from fans, overwhelmingly expressing disappointment with his presence at this year’s controversial Eurovision event in Israel.

Many declared their fondness for both Marty and the Eurovision, but had deep reservations about watching this year’s competition. One fan said “Sorry Marty. I’m with Mike Murphy on this one”. Murphy has been a well-known support of the Palestinians and a vocal critic of Israel.



Neil Jordan & Chloe Grace-Moretz

Neil Jordan & Chloe Grace-Moretz

NEIL JORDAN’S latest opus, Greta, opened to predictably ‘mixed’ reviews over the Easter weekend. The Financial Times’s opening salvo referred to the “ludicrous thriller” and went downhill from there.

Read more in the latest issue of The Phoenix. 

And you can read further about Neil Jordan’s ‘horror story’ here for free. 


Kevin Rafter

NOT TOO late in the day, Blueshirt Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan has appointed Kevin Rafter as Sheila Pratschke’s replacement in the chair of the Arts Council. The journalist and academic is certainly familiar with Fine Gael.

Read more in the latest issue of The Phoenix. 


Frances Ruane

PIC: Frances Ruane 

GOLDHAWK was interested to know how the Abbey board reacted to last year’s decision by the Arts Council to withhold a chunk of funding until it sorted out its employment conditions for cast and crew brought in.

Find out more in the latest issue out now. You can also read about more drama at the Abbey here free of charge. 


John Gleeson

THE ACCOUNTANCY profession has expanded significantly since the financial services sector was freed of its old-fashioned, fusty reservations. And with riskier business came the ‘forensic’ accountant – a sort of money pathologist who could pick over a corporate corpse and divine how it came to a sorry end.

Read more in the latest issue. 


THREE MONTHS after advertising for a replacement for James Hickey as CEO of Screen Ireland, the job has gone to Désirée Finnegan of Warner Brothers Pictures. While her name appeared to come out of the blue for many observers, the least surprising aspect of the appointment is surely the gender of the new film boss.

Last December, a Dáil question from FF John Lahart on the gender balance among staff in the various agencies in the arts and culture field revealed quite a few in which balance was most noticeable by its absence, with Screen Ireland at the top of the table. Impressively, over 80% of those employed by Screen Ireland were female, although at head office the percentage was even higher.

The arrival of Finnegan will push the balance of female cast members in the Galway headquarters to 90%, which may well be a record. Finnegan’s right hand woman will be deputy chief executive Teresa McGrane, while the two suits of the male persuasion listed on the film agency’s website are Cian McElhone (business affairs manager) and Steven Davenport (inward production manager).

When the post was advertised (see The Phoenix 25/1/19), Goldhawk noted that an outcome other than the appointment of a woman to succeed Hickey “would be a real surprise ending”. Certainly, the odds on any other result were pretty long given that female candidates have landed all the top arts and culture jobs filled since the start of last year – in Imma, the Heritage Council, the Irish Heritage Trust, the Crawford Art Gallery, the National Museum of Ireland, the Hunt Museum, and Kilkenny Arts Festival.

Désirée Finnegan brings plenty to her new leading role and is an experienced player in the movie business, most recently as senior vice president, theatrical marketing & publicity for Europe, the Middle East and Asia at Warner Bros. In her time at the US studio (she joined in 2004) Finnegan worked on campaigns for high profile movies such as Dunkirk, The Lego Movie, the ‘Dark Knight’ trilogy and the Harry Potter franchise.

At Screen Ireland, she will need to get used to films with slightly less impact.


TWENTY YEARS on from In Dreams, his last dalliance with an American psychological horror story, it seems Neil Jordan has laid another curate’s egg with the New York-set Greta, filmed in Ireland with James ‘Octagon’ Flynn producing.

French star Isabelle Huppert leads as an unhinged predator (the role played by Robert Downey Jr in the earlier film). Critical reaction may depend on how grand one likes one’s guignol or how high one likes one’s camp.

It’s safe to assume the budget for Greta was half to two-thirds that of the earlier film’s $30m. It picked up €2m to €5m in change from Revenue under the Section 481 tax credit scheme and €650,000 from Screen Ireland (formerly the Irish Film Board).

Box office for Greta has been below expectations – $10.5m to date in the US, where it opened on March 1st at 2,411 cinemas. Back in 1999, In Dreams took $12m from 1,670 cinemas when ticket prices were lower.

With a performance like this, it may not come as too much of a surprise that Universal in the US is set to release the film online on May 14 and on Blu-ray and DVD on May 28. Jordan boasted in an extended puff piece in the Sunday Times ‘Culture’ magazine last weekend that Greta is “a cinema animal”. Maybe someone needs to remind Universal of this.

(Irish cinema-goers get to make their own minds up when it opens over the Easter weekend.)


James Flynn

A GRIPPING legal drama returns to the schedules this month, when German lawyer-turned-movie maker Winfried ‘Winni’ Hammacher goes head to head with two of Ireland’s top TV and movie men, Morgan O’Sullivan and James Flynn.

Read all about it in the latest issue. You can also read Goldhawk’s profile of Flynn’s business partner, Morgan O’Sullivan, for free here


Josepha Madigan

NOT SURPRISINGLY, there was little (ie no) outcry after Josepha Madigan unveiled the government’s latest gender-based culture wheeze, which takes the form of the “Markievicz bursaries”. It is hard to see how such a scheme got the green light.

Apparently the new bursaries “both honour Countess Constance Markievicz – herself an artist – and provide support for female artists from all backgrounds and genres in producing new work that reflects the role of women in the period covered by the centenary commemorations and beyond”.

The plan is the provide €100,000 pa to be split among five female artists/writers (working individually or in collaboration with others). No men need apply.

It is unclear if the (independent) Arts Council is even allowed dish out taxpayers money with such restrictions imposed, but the Department of Culture says it is preparing to “partner with the Arts Council on the governance arrangements and the administration of the scheme”. Given the remove at which Merrion Square is supposed to carry out its statutory remit, this looks a little too cosy for comfort.

This is the first time the department has sponsored a bursary programme in collaboration with the council. Apparently, the move is “in line with the policy aspirations of the cultural policy document Culture 2025”.

The Arts Council is well used to administering bursaries all on its own and has done so successfully for many years. The 2017 annual report lists over 200 such bursaries awarded under various genres, representing grants of over €2m. Significantly, 54% of the bursaries went to female applicants.

Given the lack of any evident anti-female bias, the justification for new bursaries aimed only at women is hard to identify. Goldhawk asked the department what was the justification for the proposed female-only funding scheme, but the response stated only that “the bursary is intended to commemorate Countess Constance Markievicz as an inspirational woman artist and key figure to the fore of realising the twin goals of women’s suffrage and the campaign for Irish independence”.

Nor is there any information available yet about the nature of the selection panel, although the department said that Merrion Square has “a well-established and robust process for assembling appropriate selection panels”.

The bizarre scheme will open for submissions in January.


Josepha Madigan

THIS MONTH, applications close for the ‘Markievicz bursaries’ (mark II) and it promises to be pretty competitive given that the potential field has doubled in size. What is interesting about the decision to open up the €20,000 a head bursaries to applicants of the male persuasion is the lack of serious analysis of any potential legal potholes associated with a women-only scheme.

Read all about it here

You can read some background on Madigan’s biased bursaries free of charge here