Galway’s film industry has the potential to give the city an edge when it comes to the bid for the European Capital of Culture 2020. Rebecca Maher speaks to Declan Gibbons, Manager of Galway Film Centre and Director of Galway UNESCO City of Film
When it comes to the bid to become European Capital Of Culture 2020, Galway is way ahead of any of the other cities in terms of film infrastructure, according to Galway Film Centre Manager and Galway UNESCO City of Film Director Declan Gibbons.
The industry is currently worth over €72 million to the local economy and provides more than 600 fulltime jobs.
Galway became the first Irish city to be crowned UNESCO City of Film in 2014 and Mr Gibbons believes this status will significantly enhance the city’s campaign to become European Capital of Culture in 2020.
“The City of Film status will give the city an edge when it comes to the Capital of Culture bid, but like anything it’s what you make of it,” he said.
“You can get the badge and you can just stick it on your door and do nothing or else you can make it real and vibrant and something that actually translates into actions and that’s what we are committed to doing,” he added.
Mr Gibbons explained the Film Centre is collaborating with a network called Screen Talent Europe and working with young film makers, directors and producers on practical projects such as documentary camps.
“In terms of the bid, it’s very important that the bid has real projects that are happening with Europe. A lot of the projects at the moment are just aspirational. But what we’re saying is we’re actually starting to do things and if we get the Capital of Culture status what we do will grow more.
“We are laying the foundations now and we fully support the 2020 bid,” he added.
Referring to a report published last September, which recommended Galway Airport should be redeveloped as a creative campus for the film sector, Mr Gibbons said it was a “great idea”.
“If we were to invest time and energy into getting the airport converted into a proper film studio it would literally be a game-changer for Galway.”
He said the airport site is “the best site we have”.
“It’s in a great location. It’s near the motorway, it’s just over an hour from Ireland West Airport Knock and it’s got Shannon International Airport on its doorstep too.
“The airport has got a huge amount of potential and for a small amount of money it could be sound-proofed and it’s also got room to expand too,” he added.
Mr Gibbons said if the airport site was converted into a film studio it could bring huge money into the local economy.
“The ideal situation is to get a high-end television production to come to Galway.
“It’s great when a big movie comes to Galway and everybody has a great time for six months but it would be even better if we could bring a large scale television production that’s going to come back year-on-year, season-on-season,” he added.
Although the UNESCO City of Film designation comes with no money it does come with considerable status and prestige, which has already opened doors, according to Mr Gibbons.
“Essentially everything the Galway Film Centre does fits into the four areas of enjoyment, learning, participation and production. So each one of those has been enhanced by the UNESCO designation. We’re doing everything we used to do before but because we’re now wearing the UNESCO City of Film hat as well we’re doing it bigger, we’re doing it more ambitiously, we’re doing it better and we’re doing lots of new things we weren’t doing before.”
Long-term the centre is exploring the possibility of setting up a regional film fund where there would be support mechanisms available for filmmakers to avail of. The centre, which is based in GMIT’s Cluain Mhuire campus, has also been able to bring more international speakers over to Ireland for seminars and there has also been an increase in funding organisations sponsoring the Film Centre.
“It’s opened up new avenues for us. We’re only a year into it so we’ve a long way to go but we started off with a very good foundation and the signs are very positive,” Mr Gibbons said.
Last weekend the Galway Film Centre kick-started their ‘100 Years of Cinema’ programme, which will take place over the course of eight Saturdays, includes screenings, debates and lively discussions of the development of our national identity and our national cinema over the past 100 years. Each event is themed and programmed by a different guest curator, beginning last Saturday with Programmer of Galway Film Fleadh, Gar O Brien.
Other key organisations such as the Galway Film Society, the Picture Palace, GMIT and Huston School of Film are all involved in celebrating ‘100 Years of Cinema’.
Last Saturday’s event explored the theme of The Rising on Film however each Saturday will look at something different.
The next event, which takes place on Saturday 19 March, will examine the role of the church in the cinema.
Mr Gibbons said there will also be a sports theme and a day of short films.
“We have a good range of films; some documentaries, some features and a whole programme of shorts as well. This day is for the public; you don’t have to be a cinema expert to attend.”
Tickets are €5.50 per film and €15 for the full day and are available from An Taibhdhearc on 091-562024. Details of upcoming ‘100 Years of Cinema’ events can be found at www.galway filmcentre.ie.