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Scene set for a blockbuster year

Irish nominations for the Globes and Oscars, plus a host of new productions, are boosting the film sector, says Roisin Burke

THE Irish film and TV sector will get a big shot in the arm from this year's crop of Oscar nominations, but also from solid productions either screening or being made in 2012.

Neil Jordan's vampire movie Byzantium starring former Bond girl Gemma Arterton is due for release and financing has been confirmed for Morgan O'Sullivan's Vikings, a TV series backed by MGM which is in late-stage development. This could be a welcome big budget replacement for the cancelled Camelot series.

While 2010 was a record year for the Irish film and TV sector, worth €593m in investment and jobs, 2011 is thought to have seen a dip, according to insiders, though figures are not yet out. Camelot being discontinued was a blow to Ardmore studios and to the sector generally. This year's Oscar nominations should help reel in investment and a return to form.

The short film Pentecost, written by Peter McDonald (whose acting credits include I Went Down and The Damned United) has been nominated for an Academy Award along with Albert Nobbs, starring Glenn Close, which has received three nominations and was produced and filmed in Ireland.

Much like the famous statue, the opportunity to arrange meetings with film and TV powerhouses is gold-plated when you're nominated for an Academy Award. "As regards meeting the right people, they really sit up and take notice when they see the word 'Oscar'," said Eimear O'Kane, producer of Pentecost.

Her company, Emu Productions, already has dozens of meetings set up in Los Angeles for around Oscar time. These are believed to include meetings with Warner Brothers executives and Hollywood agent Hylda Queally, who represents Kate Winslet.

"This is the start of a stellar year for Irish film, with Golden Globe nominations and Berlin Film Festival profile for two Irish films (Kirsten Sheridan's Dollhouse and Shadow Dancer, a thriller starring Gillian Anderson and Clive Owen) and now the Oscar nominations," said an Irish Film Board spokeswoman. "It definitely boosts revenue but is also a vital springboard for future projects."

After writer director Martin McDonagh won an Oscar for the action short Six-Shooter, he had the leverage to go on to make In Bruges, the highly successful movie starring Colin Farrell.

In the pipeline this year are Brendan Gleeson's At Swim Two Birds, which is at financing stage and Pat Shortt's film Life's A Breeze, due for release this year.

Director Lenny Abrahamson's new movie, What Richard Did was filmed here and is now in post-production, also due for release in 2012.

Oscar nominee Peter McDonald returns to acting to star in Moone Boy, which is currently filming in Boyle, Co Roscommon, and also stars Bridesmaids actor Chris O'Dowd. It's a Sky TV series commission. Regional film and TV production (that is, made outside the Dublin area) brings about €3m a year into the Irish economy, according to the film board.

Singapore-Ireland collaboration Mr John is currently in post-production here. The latest series of the BBC 2 detective comedy Vexed started filming earlier this month in Dublin.

Sunday Indo Business