Environment Impacts of the Irish Film Industry – Jacqueline Ellis

During the early days of the silent film era up to the golden age of Hollywood, actors and others in the movie industry in the United States of America were Irish or of Irish descent[i]. During those days in Hollywood, many of the people involved with the film industry were part of the Irish diaspora.  Many of these people held prominent position in the American movie industry and had grown up hearing tales about Ireland[ii]. A love for their ancestral home land could be a major reason why various movies and TV shows have been at least partially filmed in Ireland as long as the film industry has been around. Foreign movie productions in Ireland were beginning as earlier as the late 1930s and picked up in the 1950s as the whole island of Ireland became more politically stable[iii].  Ireland’s forever green landscape of rolling hills and mystic coasts made it an ideal setting for the industry. The movies and TV shows that have been filmed in Ireland literally span the entire genre.  More often than not, film productions usually come to Ireland to film in an outdoor location such as in the classic, The Quiet Man that was filmed in Cong, Ireland[iv]. Thanks to the environmental movement over the past 30 years, the film industry in Ireland is making tremendous strides in making their industry more environmentally friendly.

A screenshot from “The Quiet Man” with the Irish landscape

Historically the film industry is not known for its environmental friendliness. Just like most industries, the logistics of moving and housing a group of several hundred individuals far away from any settlement seems to demand convenience over sustainability[v]. Sustainability is easier and even cheaper for film productions then most people would think[vi]. Various pamphlets from Irish film organizations have suggestions about how to have earth-friendly practices throughout all aspects of making a film or TV show in Ireland. According to the brochure called, “Going Green & Saving Green: A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Sustainable Filmmaking” the budget savings for earth-friendly practices can raged from 6% to 58%[vii]. Of course this depends on what areas of production they decide to go green with and how committed everyone on the project is with the green initiative. This is the case as all the materials on the subject always advise those in charge to communicate these earth-friendly practices to all those involved in a film or TV show. These earth-friendly practices can range from compostable dishware, recycling of production items, and the use of local film services and people when on location.

A screenshot from “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” on Skelling Michael.

The Irish film industry appears to be exemplary when it comes to advertising and encouraging the use of their own services and people with film productions that come from abroad to film in Ireland. Some of this encouragement comes from a special tax credit from the Irish Film Board called Section 481 that “is based on the cost of all cast and crew working in Ireland, and all goods and services sourced in Ireland” and could cover up to 32% of the expenses in Ireland[viii]. Such an example is when the director was looking for a location for Luke Skywalker’s fictional planet in Star Wars: Episodes VII and VIII they used an Irish scouting services to pick the island of Skelling Michael[ix]. The native Irish people are sometimes used in film productions as in Saving Private Ryan, which staged a D-day invasion on Ballinesker Beach in Ireland and used almost three thousand men from the Irish Defense Forces as extras[x]. The use of the local population is environmentally friendly as the carbon footprint for transportation and other necessities are reduced as they live relatively close to the production site. Some films or TV shows are made in Ireland from pre-to post-production such as Game of Thrones in Northern Ireland[xi].

A screenshot from “Game of Thrones” in the Dark Hedges of Northern Ireland.

Because of the beautiful Irish landscapes that tend to show up on movie screens and television sets, tourism has become a major industry within the Irish film industry. One example is the aforementioned Game of Thrones, which as early as 2016 had a tourism infrastructure to show fans the locations used in the continuing TV show[xii]. Even Star Wars actor Mark Hamill remarked how fans would be visiting the island of Skelling Michael and the surrounding area(s) because of the Star War movies[xiii]. The classic and still much loved movie called The Quiet Man that was released in 1953[xiv] still draws visitors to Cong, Ireland[xv]. Environmentally conscious practices for hotels, eateries, and transportation services could mitigate environmental damages caused by tourists visiting Ireland because of films and TV shows. These practices should include reusable or compostable dishware, using bio-fuel in vehicles, and not washing all the bedding and towels every day.

The impact on the environment of Ireland due to the film industry will be determined by several factors. Production companies will need to be committed to green practices in all aspects of production.  Recycling, digitizing, reusing and donating materials used in production as well as adopting energy efficient methods of transportation, housing and feeding the cast and crew will determine the environmental footprint left by this industry.  The economic opportunity from tourism created by the film industry will need to be balanced with preserving Ireland’s landscape and natural resources.

-Jacqueline Ellis

[i] Brownlow, Kevin. “When the Irish Ruled Hollywood.” Post Script 32, no. 3 (Summer 2013): 97–102. http://libpublic3.library.isu.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lfh&AN=94299470&site=eds-live&scope=site

[ii] Queenan, Joe.” How the Irish took Hollywood.” The Irish Times. July 15, 2010. Accessed Nov. 27. 2018. https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/film/how-the-irish-took-hollywood-1.622016

[iii] Biege, Bernd. “Famous Movie Locations in Ireland.” Tripsavvy.com. Nov. 22, 2018. Accessed Nov. 29, 2018. https://www.tripsavvy.com/movie-locations-in-ireland-1542892

[iv] Ibid.

[v] NT. “Regulation on the Film Industry.” Harvard Business School Digital Initiative. Nov. 3, 2016. Accessed Nov. 29, 2018. https://rctom.hbs.org/submission/regulation-on-the-film-industry/

[vi] O’Brien,Emellie. “GOING GREEN & SAVING GREEN: A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Sustainable Filmmaking.” Green Production Guide: A Project of the Producers Guild of America. April 2014. Accessed Nov.29, 2018. P.14. http://www.greenproductionguide.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/FINAL_PGA3142014.pdf.

[vii] Ibid. P.2.

[viii] Irish Film Board. “Ireland: The Filming Location.” Screen Ireland. 2017. Accessed Nov.29, 2018. P.10-11. https://www.screenireland.ie/images/uploads/general/IFB_Locations_Brochure_2017_web.pdf.

[ix] Ibid. p. 12-13.

[x] Mediavine Travel. “Movies And TV Shows Filmed In Ireland: Movies and TV Shows filmed in Ireland but not necessarily Irish.” xyuandbeyond. December 18, 2017. Accessed Nov. 29, 2018. https://xyuandbeyond.com/movies-and-tv-shows-filmed-in-ireland/

[xi] Ó Conghaile, Pól. “New Game of Thrones app highlights Northern Irish filming locations.” Independent.ie. INM Website. April 4, 2016. Accessed Nov. 29,2018. https://www.independent.ie/life/travel/travel-news/new-game-of-thrones-app-highlights-northern-irish-filming-locations-34597388.html

[xii] Ibid.

[xiii]“Mark Hamill Discusses the Beauty of Ireland’s Skellig Michael in ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ ”, YouTude video. 1:30. Posted by Moviefone. March 26, 2018.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EgWmqPquFPE

[xiv] Nugent, Frank S. The Quiet Man. Directed by John Ford. 1952.  CA: Paramount Pictures Home Video, 2012.DVD.

[xv] Bernd. “Famous Movie Locations in Ireland.” Independent.ie. INM Wedsite. Nov. 22, 2018. Accessed Nov. 29, 2018. https://www.tripsavvy.com/movie-locations-in-ireland-1542892