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Film Industry Case Study

The TV and Film production sector in Ireland is being transformed. While there has been a vibrant visual arts sector for many years, recent developments have catapulted the growth trajectory. In 2016, Private Equity Group Ion Equity made a substantial commitment to develop Limerick based Troy Studios. Soon afterwards, they also acquired Ardmore studios. Both have thrived, attracting prestige projects from Apple, Netflix and other content creators. This attracted the attention of a California based consortium led by Hackman Capital Partners (HCP). HCP operates film production capacity around the world and has a well-earned reputation for successful development in the industry. HCP quickly recognised the quality of the Irish infrastructure for TV and Film production: a combination of a creative talent pool, stunning natural landscape options and a supportive tax environment for the arts – were all here. During 2021, Hackman Capital Partners (HCP), its studio operator affiliate, the MBS Group, and investment house Square Mile Capital Partners acquired Ardmore Studios and Troy Studios.

Within a year, HCP announced a further greenfield investment of €300M to create the Greystones Media Campus – a move that will double production capacity in Ireland. While HCP believes in Ireland’s potential, it does point out some limiting factors. The UK offers more favourable tax treatment that makes it difficult for Ireland to compete for the larger budget projects: according to an HCP spokesman “Ireland has all the pieces of the puzzle and the (tax relief) cap is a challenge to get to that next step. I think if the playing field was level, a lot of people would choose Ireland.”

In March 2022, it was also announced that permission is being sought for a major film and TV studio in Mullingar. Aidan Davitt, MD at Sherry FitzGerald Davitt and Davitt said: “This is going to be the most exciting commercial development ever in the midlands – it will be of international significance, it’s going to be one of the biggest studios in western Europe”.

Minister for State for Local Government and Planning Peter Burke said he has met the group behind the plan several times and it’s a very exciting development. “The scale of the project is colossal and if brought to fruition it would make Ireland a world leader in the film industry,” he said.

Figures released by Screen Ireland show that industry investment surged 40% in 2021, beating the previous record levels of 2019 despite Covid restrictions.

Some put it down to overspill from the UK where the industry is so busy it faces an acute skills shortage. Others, including Tristan Orpen Lynch a leading international film and TV producer based in Dublin, Ireland say “it is the coming of age of the Irish film industry”.

The growth potential needs to be supported by a highly developed and adapted ecosystem of skills and services. Actors and extras, film crews, animation companies, special effects providers and much more – are all indispensable. A large though unsung hero in that ecosystem is safety. The film production environment can be surprisingly dangerous. In industrial environments, safe systems of work are built on the nation that operations are repetitive: you build a process for the expected risks and after a while, people learn to operate safely.

In film production, you tend to do things once – which is where things usually go wrong. Safe ways of working must be found upfront. In addition, time and locations constantly change. Cast and crews move from one production stage to another, operate night and day and locations shooting deprives everyone of the familiar facilities of their workplace. In an industrial environment, a change of location would result in a new risk assessment – “now that we’re moving, what new risks should we expect?” In film production, this isn’t always addressed or addressed adequately. Risk assessments /dynamic Risk Assessments must be done even when there are time pressures and changing variables. The conclusion here is that when it comes to safe operating, you need to understand safety expertise, film production, its people, and its language. In short, it is another example of the adapted expertise the industry needs.

Occupli has become a key partner of the film production companies in Ireland. This has taken many forms. The most common of these is to act as the safety advisor for the production – advising the Line Producer and crew, to ensure everyone comes home safely. Another role is that of PSDP (Project Supervisor Design Process). The PSDP’s job is to ensure that good safety is embedded into the construction design. While they are more usually spotted around building construction sites, they are equally necessary on film production sites – where substantial construction teams are at work building film sets that bring the movie to life.

But our involvement goes deeper than that. Fís Éireann/Screen Ireland (Screen Ireland) have recently unveiled their Screen Pass Course.  The Screen Pass training course was developed with input from key industry stakeholders and professionals including Occupli Safety Consultant, Karen Cummins, representatives from Screen Guilds of Ireland and Jo Homewood, Line Producer.

Screen Pass is a safety training programme designed specifically for people working in the film production environment. It does for the film industry what “Safepass” does for the construction industry – set a solid baseline on which, a solid safety culture can be built. The programme is available free online, anyone wishing to take it can register with Screen Ireland for the Screen Pass training course HERE.

Occupli was also engaged in a joint project to develop an online interactive risk assessment tool (OiRA) for audio-visual production. This Risk Assessment Tool was developed with the collaboration and support of the European Agency for Health and Safety at Work (EU-OSHA).

The EU Social Partners of the audio-visual sector officially launched their new EU OiRA tool in April 2021.  To find out more about OiRA click HERE To participate in a test session of the OiRA tool for audio-visual production HERE.

Given our group’s focus on the sector, Occupli had the right background to help develop, the Irish Film & TV, Health and Safety Guide (commissioned by Screen Skills Ireland).  In December 2021 Fís Éireann/Screen Ireland launched the Health and Safety Guide to provide guidance on health and safety for all professionals working in film and television. The document covers the key health and safety legislation, outlines best practice, and directs users to other relevant bodies and resources, including risk assessment templates. 

The guide aims to promote a safer and healthier workplace environment for those working in the Irish screen sector by raising the standard of awareness around safe working practices, as well as providing practical advice for employers and crew members across all departments. It is also intended to serve as a resource for new entrants to the sector to build their confidence around safety on set.  

Read the Guide Here: Fís Éireann/Screen Ireland: Irish Film & Television Health & Safety Guide

Occupli is an Irish Consultancy and Training company, providing end to end safety solutions in the BioPharma, Construction and General Industrial Sectors.