Is the Irish Film Industry Different?
What’s the difference between the Irish film industry and the film industry in the US? Quite a lot! As someone lucky enough to have encountered both, it is clear that there are a good few variations in many standards, from the accepted crew/cast fees to working on set. A stark difference in set culture can also be found between the Irish film set and one in the US.
Let’s start with set culture
I’ve found that the overall vibe on an Irish film set is that of team work and respect of individual roles, whereas sets run by US crew tend to have an obvious hierarchy and top tier don’t really mix with those considered “lower” in status. US team members are often trying to outshine one another and directors behave as though you are just a number. If you are what they deem as “unaccommodating” in any way, they will simply shut you out and replace you with one of the thousands knocking on their door. “Unaccommodating” can simply mean refusing to do something that no other employer would ever ask of you, whether that means working a 17 hour day with only 4 hours to the next morning start, to not allowing them to speak to you in an insulting manner that no one should ever have to stand for. They simply do not care. Unless you are the crème de la crème, if you are not a ‘yes sir’, you are replaced. Simple.
It isn’t the same in Ireland. Directors actually introduce themselves to you and treat you like any other person they might meet, not lower, just … human. It would be important to mention also that while communication tends towards the direct, clear-cut sort when on set, in Ireland, people are also expected to be “good craic”. Basically, if you’re the very serious type, you might be better off in the US rather than Ireland as they don’t much like that style of conversation. Communication tends to have a bit of a light-hearted banter to it and you’re forced to decipher the truth from the joke half the time. In the US it would be the opposite. You are taken more seriously if you behave in a more serious manner. Jokes are great, sometimes. But in general the more seriously you take yourself the more others will respect you. In Ireland, this would be cause to start “slagging” you as they don’t tolerate when people seem too confident in themselves and always need to take you down a notch. Self-deprecating humour is also appreciated whereas in the US this would be seen as a lack of self-esteem. Culture can play a major part in getting ahead no matter where you work so make sure you understand the nuances of each beforehand.
Will I be paid the same?
The short answer is no. The US has stricter guidelines in place and guilds that force companies to pay higher wages to cast and crew. Ireland has guilds as well but there is a lot more leeway given here and the wages vary greatly. One of the reasons for this, is that the US government does not fund film production whereas the Irish government does. The budget for state funding in Ireland of film production in 2019 was €16.2 million and has been increasing yearly. Screen Ireland is primarily responsible for dishing out these funds and has strict guidelines about wage maximums. For instance, for a short film, at present producers are only allowed to budget a maximum of €120 per day, per crew or cast member. For the US, a minimum short film rate for cast would be $206 per day (avg to €175 when taking currency exchange into account). One of the biggest reasons that US filmmakers choose to shoot in Ireland is that they can actually save quite a bit of change doing so. Unfortunately for the Irish cast and crew, there is no strict enforcement on wages (other than minimum wage laws) and as there are far fewer opportunities, Irish talent often have to take what they can get.
So is it worth it?
Many talented Irish cast and crew have gone overseas due to this glaring discrepancy in wages. However, Ireland does have something that others cannot offer and that is the amazing team spirit that seems to be lacking abroad. As stated previously, people here are simply more humane and that can be enough for many of us. Another upside is that you are more likely to actually get funding for your project than you would in the US. The competition for these funds is quite stiff, but if you put in the effort and put everything you have into showcasing your project properly (script, treatment, storyboarding, mood boards, a great team attached, etc.), you are already further ahead than most. Put in the work, be patient, and eventually you will win one of the grants offered. In general, it can be easier to get ahead here than the US because it is a smaller pool and there are more funding opportunities. But, if you’re in it for the big bucks and the rise to fame, it might be necessary to move across the big pond eventually.
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