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Filmbase: Why It is Closing Its Doors, After 32 Years Of Service To The Irish Film Industry
15 Mar 2018 :
Filmbase have today announced that after thirty-two years the company will be closing its doors and moving into voluntary liquidation.

In an official statement, the company said that since 1986 Filmbase “has occupied an important place in the Irish film landscape giving many of this country’s greatest film talents the early support they have needed to begin their careers and to develop their creative voices”.

The statement went on to say: "Filmbase has been fighting for many years against difficult financial circumstances and as a not for profit organisation that fight has always been a tough and challenging one.

"Debts which had accumulated at the organisation had reached a point where it was unrealistic for Filmbase to continue operations”.

It is understood that the company has been struggling with increasing debt for a number of years and that the financial crisis came to a head, when annual funding from various national grants along with its own commercial business activities, was not sufficient to keep the wolf from the door any longer. 

But the final straw came when the Arts Council, one of Filmbase’s largest annual funders (having provided €250,000 in 2017), insisted on transparency across accounting before releasing its proposed 2018 funding to the organisation.  In the absence of this financial status report, the Arts Council withheld the new funds and the situation ultimately became unsustainable for the Filmbase. 

The organisation ultimately announced on Thursday 15th March that it will enter into voluntary liquidation following an investigation by independent auditors appointed by the Arts Council on Monday 12th March.

Concerns were raised with the Arts Council when the recipients of two large grants from the Arts Council’s ‘Reel Art Scheme’ found that their funding was not forthcoming from Filmbase, who were the administrators of this separate €170,00 fund which ultimately triggered the audit.

There is no doubt that Filmbase will be a huge loss to the Irish film community, as it has been a solid go-to place for young filmmakers for over three decades, providing affordable equipment rental and training courses to generations of young talents through the years. 

Many of today’s leading Irish filmmakers have used Filmbase’s services in their early years including Lenny Abrahamson, who told the Irish Times  I certainly borrowed equipment and used spaces there in the early phases of my career. I’m genuinely very sorry to see it go.”

“I remember being at what must have been some of the earliest meetings, over three decades ago, and hearing the people who founded the organisation talking about what they wanted to achieve. Back then, at the end of the ’80s in the dark days before the Film Board was reinstated, it was really the only place which offered help and support to people who wanted to make films”

But Filmbase was not just a place to rent film equipment and do film production courses, it also published the widely respected Film Ireland magazine in 1987 for many years. That publication provided early career posts for a number of today’s leading Irish film business professionals and executives including Áine Moriarty, Chief Executive of the Irish Film & Television Academy (IFTA), who served as Film Ireland Manager for three years in 1992 working alongside the magazine's editor at the time, Hugh Linehan, who is now the Irish Times arts & culture editor, for example.      

The Arts Council’s statement

The Arts Council says it became aware of the financial difficulties at Filmbase on Monday March 5th.

In a statement, it said: "We sought immediately a detailed account from the company on a number of matters and gave the company until Thursday 8th March at 5pm to respond. A satisfactory response was not received".

"We appointed independent auditors to investigate the matter on Friday 9th March."

"Under the terms and conditions of Arts Council funding the organisation must comply with the auditors. Our auditors went on site on Monday 12th March."

"The board of Filmbase informed us the following morning (Tuesday 13th) that it intended to go into liquidation."

"On Wednesday 14th, the board informed us that the staff had been laid off and that the company had ceased trading pending liquidation."

The Arts Council said Filmbase was awarded €250,000 in annual funding last year but said that when it did not receive an up-to-date set of audited accounts last year; it placed a stop on the funding.

This meant Filmbase was not able to draw down the final 10% - or €25,000 - of its 2017 funding, and has not been able to draw down any of the €125,000 it was offered for 2018.

It said that offer has now been withdrawn.

The Arts Council stated further that: "In addition, the company received €170,000 for the 2017 Reel Art scheme. Under this scheme, two artists are each awarded up to €80,000 to make a documentary film. Two artists were successful in December."

"We are particularly concerned that money owed to two artists awarded under the Reel Art Scheme managed by Filmbase has not been paid."

"The Arts Council will vigorously seek the payment of the money owed to the artists as part of the liquidation process."

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