One of the tangible legacies of Limerick’s designation as National City of Culture in 2014 has been the newfound confidence seen across our film community.
Behind the scenes, film production in Limerick has been in happening for some time but perhaps not at a level that made it stand out as a cultural genre of note locally, nationally or internationally.
The announcement in 2015 that Limerick was to be home to the new Troy Film Studios was a major boost to the local film community, a legacy of the former factory building in Castletroy being showcased during Limerick 2014.
I don’t claim to be an expert when it comes to how our local film community operates but one thing did seem to stand out for me: we had a heck of a lot of activity in the film ‘festival’ sphere yet we seemed to have no strategy for tying our many film production assets together.
One of the stand-out successes in recent years has been the development of the Richard Harris Film Festival. Led by a small group of dedicated individuals this initiative has rapidly evolved into a celebration of film that is getting noticed both at home and further afield.
The Richard Harris Film Festival is still in its infancy but its potential is clear. It has a good brand. It has some major players in the world of internationally film on its side. Finally, it has a team who are willing to put in the hard graft.
It is so refreshing, therefore, to hear that the Richard Harris International Film Festival and Limerick Film Festival have joined forces.
Limerick Film Festival was founded in LIT almost 8 years ago and over the years attracted a following of filmmakers and visitors from across the world, in turn giving the filmmaking talent of Limerick a chance to show off their skills to a wider national and international audience.
Simon McGuire, a local stalwart of the world of film, was the founder of Limerick Film Festival and is now set to join the board of the Richard Harris Film Festival as both entities now merge their individual offers.
This announcement is significant.
Limerick is not Hollywood. Whilst it has a strong reputation in terms of our ability to produce quality film-making talent it wouldn’t traditionally have been seen as the go-to place for film production or its showcasing.
Pooling the experience of the Limerick Film Festival and the Richard Harris Film Festival makes total sense. They will both share their connections. They now have a platform to successfully apply for shared funding opportunities. They both have a huge opportunity to work together and very quickly create a celebration of film, based in Limerick, that rivals any of the more recognised film ‘festivals’ anywhere else.
The merger of the Richard Harris Film Festival and Limerick Film Festival is a positive step forward for the city’s cultural community. What excites me most about this announcement is the fact that it demonstrates a very clear recognition with our arts community that collaboration can reap great rewards.
Merging any established entities requires maturity, vision, co-operation and a desire for success.
The partnership of both festivals coincides with the continued development of Troy Studio as well as the launch of the new third level programme in ‘Creative Broadcast & Film Production’ at LIT.
It is anticipated that this year’s newly merged festival will receive a significant boost via local authority funding, a move that will give the organisers a huge opportunity to attract others sources of funding or sponsorship opportunities.
Simply put, we are in exciting times as we develop our reputation as a film centre in Ireland. The film community in Limerick is now showing real ambition in how it plans for the future.
It is interesting to note that this comes as the new Creative Ireland strategy outlines a clear vision to: “create a single proposition based on Irish culture and creativity that represents a considered, compelling and imaginative view of how we wish to be seen by the outside world – the outward expression of our identity – for everyone who wishes to know about or to engage with Ireland”.
When considering Creative Ireland’s concept of creating a ‘single proposition’ it must also be noted that Limerick’s innovative film community is not limited to the Richard Harris Film Festival or Limerick Film Festival.
Mary Immaculate College is tackling the issue of gender inequality in the Irish film industry through its hosting of a day-long colloquium entitled “Women in the Irish Film Industry: Moving from the Margins to the Centre”.
And then we have Light Moves Festival of Screendance is Ireland’s international festival of dance on film, a response to the vibrant and expanding field of dance film in Ireland and internationally.
As our film community continues to gain confidence further collaborations might be considered. When viewed in isolation, Limerick’s many individual film offers might not be perceived as packing a big punch.
However, when viewed as a whole, it is clear that we are well placed to develop our film reputation – be it academic, technical, written, performance or celebratory – into a single entity that not only we can be proud of but is one that is the envy of film industry worldwide.