Siobhán Farrell • Distributor
by Naman Ramachandran
10/09/2009 - After stints at the Irish Film Institute, RTÉ and Clarence Pictures, Siobhán Farrell joined Eclipse Pictures as Head of Publicity & Marketing when the company was formed in 2002. In 2007, Siobhán was promoted to General Manager & Head of Acquisitions and in 2008 became Managing Director and now co-owns the company.
Cineuropa: What are the challenges faced by the Irish film industry and how can these be solved?
Siobhán Farrell: The biggest threat facing Irish distributors, producers and filmmakers is the potential loss of the Irish Film Board. This proposal to terminate IFB was made by a group of economic experts commissioned by the Irish Government to report on possible savings in public service costs due to the economic downturn. Hopefully the Government will see that the loss of the IFB would be greater than the perceived savings and is crucial for our cultural identity.
Other challenges faced are that Irish rights are traditionally sold as part of an UK/Ireland acquisition deal.
Lack of new distribution routes i.e. VOD is not available yet due to limited broadband penetration in Ireland. This is being developed currently but may take some time to roll out.
Ireland sees very little satellite revenue as most deals are executed via UK who sells rights for both countries, nobody offering the service in Ireland yet. This may change with the introduction of IPTV.
v The core demographic of cinema going audience in Ireland is 15-34, male biased, first weekend attendee which is not necessarily the core audience for European film. Through IFI Education in schools, this develops film appreciation skills and therefore broadens the audience base.
Ireland has a number of highly regarded International Film Festivals, for example Dublin, Galway, Cork, Belfast etc, and many others that really champion European film and are a perfect way to introduce audiences to alternative product.
Typically, what strategy do you employ in distributing Irish films and European cinema in Ireland?
We support our releases with marketing campaigns consisting of TV, outdoor and press advertising. Given the small size of a city like Dublin, word of mouth is crucial in getting audiences into theatres. To kick start positive word of mouth, we engage with online partners - particularly with social networks and local sites – in hosting screenings and exclusive content. We also work closely with our exhibition partners; Ireland differs from other countries as the majority of cinemas are independently owned so personal relationships with cinema bookers and staff is crucial. An external focus is also important - local audiences are increasingly sophisticated and we work hard to capitalise on the buzz from screenings at major International festivals. This is especially relevant for Irish titles.
How do you think that European films can gain wider audiences at least within Europe?
Develop strategic alliances with various distributors in European countries to apply for MEDIA support, combine various skills to maximise potential revenue and awareness for the title; Work in partnership with various Consulates to promote home product; Education – develop audience from an early age; Online sites – use social networking sites to break down perception that European film is limited or niche and make it accessible to all; Other distribution channels – organise seasons of directors’ work or best of Irish film season etc in advance of release; Collaboration with local film festivals - titles with no distribution deals could meet with local distributors to assess acquisition potential.
How far will events like the EFP’s European Distributors – Up Next at San Sebastian help in changing the current European distribution scenario?
I hope to build contact with fellow distributors from across Europe, which hopefully may develop into working relationships and fruitful collaborations.