Sunday 22 October 2017

Irish TV drama 'depressing' and 'mediocre', says Room director Lenny Abrahamson

Crisis warning: Lenny Abrahamson was highly critical of RTE
Crisis warning: Lenny Abrahamson was highly critical of RTE
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

Oscar-nominated director Lenny Abrahamson has hit out at Ireland's production of "depressing" and "mediocre" television drama - singling out RTE for its part in what he says is a crisis in television that "nobody is able to say publicly".

In a strongly worded criticism of the State broadcaster, the Room director also accused it of failing to cultivate Irish talent, which he said was down to a 'you knock on our door' attitude.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Abrahamson - who has won international critical acclaim for movies such as Frank, What Richard Did, Garage and Room - said Ireland was making "really, really mediocre TV".

He added that station bosses were "not risk-taking, not developing young talent here, and it's a terrible waste".

Describing how RTE treats its talent in comparison to standard practice abroad, he said: "I would be asked all the time by the BBC or Channel 4 or other people to come in and have a chat. 'Come in and have a chat and tell us what you're interested in. Are there any ideas that you have got or anything that we are thinking about that might interest you?' There is a cultivation of relationships with talent. That absolutely does not happen here. At all.

"Because RTE for so long has been the only game in town, there is a strange perception within what is an extremely mediocre drama department that people need to knock on their door or that they're great, but actually that's not how it works anywhere.

"This is not a plea for work - I don't have the time nor am I going to be doing anything with TV for the foreseeable future so that actually allows me to say this, but there is tremendous frustration. But also a very, very questionable and very consistent denigration of local talent - particularly in terms of directors - in favour of mediocre people coming in from abroad.

"It's that kind of lack of confidence which makes us think that if [someone is] from Britain or wherever then they must be better. The only place that seems to operate any more in far as I can see is RTE. I have stories that would pin your eyelids back, you would be so amazed. In how people are treated, in terms of the lack of vision, in the dysfunctional mediocrity of it."

RTÉ replied by saying: "RTÉ has experienced a decline in revenue of close to €100m which has resulted in RTÉ having less money to invest in independent TV and the drama sector. RTÉ is currently conducting a review of all of our content and genres and developing a closer relationship with the Irish Film Board and other partners both national and international to bring more drama to Irish audiences and to further develop the Irish industry.

"RTE Drama has a very clear statement on rte.ie/commissioning about the drama it seeks and it responds to many applications, meets many producers and writers but is limited in the level of drama commissioning."

Sunday Independent

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