LBB Visits Dublin and Meets up with Mike Mesbur, CD Ogilvy & Mather, Jack Walshe, Screen Scene and Maxine Brady from MaxFilms
A huge thank you to our Dublin city sponsors, for their support. Thanks also for your EAT, DRINK and SLEEP recommendations in Dublin, especially to Maxine Brady at Maxfilms, Grainne O’Driscoll at Irish International and Anne-Marie Curran from Russell Curran Productions. Keep them coming! Please scroll down to read LBB's Q&As with Mike Mesbur from Ogilvy & Mather, Maxine Brady from MaxFilms and Jack Walshe from Screen Scene Post.
Dublin is the largest city and the capital of Ireland. It is located at the mouth of the River Liffey, on the midpoint of Ireland's east coast on the Irish Sea. It has one of the fastest growing populations of any European capital. A low mountain range is to the south of the city while the north and west are mainly flat farmland. The city also boasts more green space and parkland than any other European city. Dublin is known for its vibrant nightlife and great shopping, making it a premier tourism destination.
It is the Irish centre for media and communication. The film industry has grown massively over the past decade and the audio visual content production sector is worth over 550 million Euros annually and employs over 6,000 people (info from the Irish Film Board). Casts and crews have won accolades around the world. Ireland provides financial incentives for shooting on location as well as stunning and varied locations, top notch cast and crews. Dublin has a wealth of historical features and is particularly well known for its beautifully restored Georgian architecture, universities, churches, industrial buildings and bridges.
Most of the agencies, production companies and post houses are located in the Dublin 2 area between Merrion Square Park and the canal. This makes it a convenient city to visit for a shoot, or for meetings. Even those companies that we met with which were out of this central area are only about a 10 minute taxi ride away.
LBB found it very easy to fall for Dublin’s charms. It’s a beautiful city and in the advertising centre, most companies are located in the large, red brick Georgian buildings that dominate the area. This area is also teeming with good restaurants and pubs, particularly in the Merrion Square/Lower Baggot Street region.
The city has struggled in recent years through the global recession, which hit Ireland particularly hard. But production executives were upbeat and busy in July. Maxine Brady from Maxfilms said: “I have been busy since last July with at least one job every month. It’s the busiest year I’ve had in the last three years.” She also noted that while advertising might be the first thing to go in a recession it was also the first thing to be added back once businesses note shrinking revenues. Job budgets were reported to be reduced but everyone was quick to point out that there is lots of work around. Most production companies have a small full time staff but can take on more people to handle productions of any size. The bulk of their work is for Irish clients through Irish agencies but all can handle international work.
Dublin has fantastic locations within the city limits and on its doorstep. Beaches, mountains, countryside are all within easy reach of the Capital. There are also world class film crews with a wealth of experience and all the latest technology and equipment. The West of Ireland is known for its amazing quality of light that has attracted international film directors for decades. Maxine Brady adds that "in Dublin, you are never more than 20 minutes away from either the coast and beach, or the mountains and countryside, which makes it a fantastic city to come and film in."
The Irish film and TV incentive [Section 481] will contribute up to 28% of all qualifying expenditure that takes place in Ireland on your project and this investment is available in full on the first day of principle photography (this applies only to long form and commercial work). Qualifying expenses are defined as all EU crew and cast working in Ireland and goods and services purchased in Ireland for the purposes of either production or post-production activity. To access this incentive as an overseas project you must in the first instance engage with an Irish Co-Production partner who will organize your project’s application to the Irish Revenue Authorities and, if approved, will raise the necessary funds in the Irish market. If you are considering bringing post production and or visual effects to Ireland you will find that post houses will act as your Irish co-production partner and ensure that the benefit of the tax incentive is maximized for your project.
Location: It is located at the mouth of the River Liffey, on the midpoint of Ireland's east coast on the Irish Sea
Time Zone: Greenwich Mean Time. Equal to London, +5 NYC, -1 Paris, Berlin, Barcelona, +8 LA, +3 Buenos Aires, -4 Dubai, -5.5 Mumbai, -10 Sydney
Currency: Euro. August 30 3011 1 Euro = 0.89 GBP = 1.44 USD = 1.41 CAD = 66.45 INR = 9.21 CNY = 110.81 JPY
Climate: Dublin has a maritime temperate climate and less rain than the rest of Ireland. Winters are damp and rainfall is common all year long. Weather can be changeable and therefore unreliable but it is for the lush green landscape, skilled film crews and rich historical settings that international productions return. On LBB’s July visit, there was one unexpectedly hot and sunny day followed by a cooler, overcast day.
Peak Season: There is no specific peak season in Dublin but there is most chance of sun between April and October.
Recent Activity: Production executives polled claimed that the flow of jobs in July 2011 was at about an 8 out of 10 level compared to the same time of year in previous years
Shot on Location: Ireland’s top snack food brand Tayto is running a new TV, cinema and social media campaign to promote its theme park Tayto Park in Co Meath. It is the first time the iconic crisps character has been animated and is blended into a live action CGI mix. It was co-produced by Jackie Leonard and Gary Timpson of Kavaleer Productions and Maxine Brady of Max Films. The commercial was directed by Feidhlimidh Woods, 3D animation was by Conor Ryan & rendering by Zink. Post production was by Windmill Lane. Russell Curran Productions have just completed an ad for BMW Ireland with Chemistry Advertising, directed by Anthony Byrne. It was shot in various locations around Dublin city and the Wicklow mountains.
Getting there and around: Dublin Airport is located in Collinstown, 10km north of City Dublin. It is served by buses and taxis but an underground rail line is in development. The bus takes about 30 minutes at off peak times. There are direct flights to and from most European capitals and to the east coast of the US.
Dublin has a network of some 200 bus routes and a suburban rail line links the city with the suburbs. There is a two line light rail/tram network which provides limited, but popular coverage and there are five lines currently planned for a 2014 opening. A Dublin Metro has also been planned. There is a public bicycle rental scheme that consists of 450 bikes.
Dublin is very easy to walk in. Just grab a map, or rely on the friendly directions of the locals.
Locations: City, river, countryside, mountains, sea, beach, quaint villages, industrial buildings, castles, theatres, prisons, parks, urban settings, universities and schools, farms
Tourism Infrastructure: Fabulous. Dublin boasts world class hotels and restaurants. The Pub scene is the envy of the world and second to none. Shopping, dining, nightlife, tourist attractions galore.
Why Shoot There: climate, proximity, tax incentives, ease of shooting, local tourism infrastructure, local crews and talent, studio, locations
Thanks to Maxine Brady at Maxfilms for her local knowledge in the following areas:
Film studios: There are studios available. Ardmore Studios being the most famous, and largest. There are several smaller studio spaces that have come on board recently. But Ireland is more known for its locations.
Labs: No labs locally, we transport neg to London for processing, and as a result, the industry here in Ireland has been one of the fastest adapters to the digital age of shooting in the world. Most productions are now shot, on RED, or Arri Alexa.
Equipment: Most kit is here, though there may be a need to occasionally fly in specialised equipment. However, I have found that we are just as well, if not better, resourced in terms of equipment than most European Capital cities, in particular in Italy, and it is easy to get equipment in from London if needed.
Crews: It is very easy to crew up locally, and most technicians are available here. Hi speed cameras and their technicians come in from the UK, but there are some world class DOP’s and many other departments from Ireland, who travel the world such is their skill set. We in particular, not surprisingly, have one of the world’s top beer pouring experts available, as well as one of the most well known precision drivers in advertising film production.
Casting: Casting is easy to look after, though for lead cast that may require strong performance, we would often advise that the visiting production bring them with them. There are actors here, and there are many local actors who are based in London who will travel back for casting sessions at no extra cost to production.
More recently, the population explosion in Ireland during Boom times meant that our cities became more multi cultural, and many of those cultures have chosen to remain here. There is a wider diversity of colour, accent, and nationality than there would have been even 8 years ago.
Some of the Companies You Can Find in the LBB WORK Directory: Windmill Lane, Piranha Bar, Russell Curran Productions, Scallywag Films, H2 Films, Yard Post Production, Max Films, Screen Scene and more.
Q&A with Mike Mesbur, CD Ogilvy & Mather, Dublin
LBB: Tell us a bit about your role? How did you get into advertising?
MM: I got into advertising as a copywriter straight from school. I did a copy test with CDP (now Leo Burnett) and they hired me. I attended the Advertising course in Rathmines at night while I was working. Then, I took about a ten-year hiatus from advertising to pursue a career in music and then re-entered the industry as a copywriter with Bell Advertising (later to become part of the Ogilvy Group).
LBB: We have asked you to select one of your favourite pieces of work that best represents your agency. Can you tell us about it and why you chose it?
MM: We recently began working for Heineken International on the launch of a new global cider brand called Strongbow Gold. This brand has been created for all markets except Ireland and the UK, so being chosen as the global agency is particularly gratifying. So far we have launched the brand in Holland and Italy and we are currently working on plans to launch in several other markets within the next 12 months.
LBB: Are there any recent campaigns or spots that you have seen that really stand out for you as truly original or inspired?
MM: I’ve been a great fan of the meerkat campaign for Comparethemarket.com for the last couple of years. I love the madness of it. I think it’s superbly executed and the way they have genuinely developed the characters and storylines to bring us deeper into their ‘world’. It’s a great example of how ignoring marketing jargon like ‘the role of the brand’ (the brand never actually makes and appearance) and ‘the need-state of the consumer’ (the meerkats are actually telling the consumer to go away) can result in something truly ground breaking.
LBB: Does a recession call for stronger creativity to counter lower budgets? The impression that LBB got from their visit to Dublin was that although Ireland was hit hard by the recession, things have started to pick up now. Is that your take on the situation?
MM: I think now more than ever clients need creative people who can help them solve problems. And they’ve got plenty of problems! That means applying a new kind of creativity: thinking outside the box in every aspect of the client’s business and communications mix. Being able to address those problems in a mature and pragmatic fashion is the difference between success and failure in a recession.
LBB: Which aspects of your country’s culture stand out in the advertising? Is there a genre of work that your city is known for?
MM: Ireland is a very literate and literary country. This does come across in a lot of the work we do – at least the work that is uniquely Irish and not trying to ape international campaigns. We are particularly good at telling stories that move people at a deeply emotional level. Of course, we have our fair share of quirky, humorous and wacky campaigns, just like everywhere else. But, unlike everywhere else, Irish writers often pull out little pieces of emotional magic that inspire people in a different way – not only demanding attention but creating real engagement at the same time.
LBB: Is your agency international in outlook or is most of your work specific to your country?
MM: We are very much outward looking in terms of the international market. In addition to the Strongbow Gold brand I mentioned earlier which is a truly international piece of business, we have also created several campaigns for the Irish market which are now being rolled out internationally. (e.g. Berocca Boost ‘Green Ninja’ and Danone Actimel ‘Full of Life’)
LBB: Is it important to the work you do at your agency that a local director shoot the spot in order to capture subtle cultural nuances?
MM: That really depends on the copy. Quite often, we’ll be looking for an international atmosphere in the work and in that case we might look beyond Ireland for the director and production company. However, Irish directors and production companies will of course have a special understanding of our people, landscapes, humour, tone of voice, etc., which can be of great value as well. Two other important factors to be considered are budget and weather. Both of these can lay a massive role in deciding whether or not to shoot in Ireland.
LBB: What is your personal view on the link between great creativity and effectiveness and how do you make sure the work does what it is supposed to?
MM: As entertaining and interesting advertising needs to be, it’s important to remember that we’re not in the entertainment business. Clients pay for the work we do because they want to create valuable brands that generate profit. Being able to keep an eye on both sides of that equation is vital to the success of any agency. While I love winning awards as much as anyone else, to me there’s nothing more rewarding than creating or developing a brand that really matters in people’s lives.
LBB: What value do you put on winning awards? And which are more important, awards for creativity or effectiveness?
MM: I spoke a little about awards earlier. I put a lot of value on winning them. They are a massive part of keeping a creative department motivated and keeping the marketplace informed about the work we are doing. For me, creative awards are far more important than effectiveness awards. I want to know what my peers in the industry think of the work we’re doing. However, when it comes to effectiveness, I base success or failure on what my clients tell me is happening to their brand and to their sales. No award in the world can capture the energy of that.
LBB: What do you think are the biggest challenges facing advertising industries today?
MM: The challenges are the same as they always have been. Find new and innovative ways to break through the clutter, grab people’s attention and engage with them in a meaningful and motivating way.
LBB: How do you see a future for the large agency networks?
MM: I think the concept of globalisation in the traditional sense is under serious threat today. Human beings want and need to connect with each other in ways that empower them and bring meaning to their lives. If the global agency networks and global client companies want to survive, they must embrace that truth and find ways to create the feeling of real belonging to smaller more relevant communities, even if those communities happen to be global.
Q&A with Maxine Brady, Owner/Producer at Maxfilms, Dublin
Max films are a production company specializing in the production of commercials for television, cinema and the internet. They represent directors for the Irish market, including Basil Schlegel, Charlie Paul, Dario Piana, Des Mullan, Misha, Simon Eustace and Antony Easton. More information and contact details can be found at www.maxfilms.ie
LBB: Tell us a bit about your company and what makes it unique?
Max: Value for money, cost efficient, while at the same time ensuring that your production is of the very highest of standards. No detail left out, all budgets considered, and we like to think that our shoots are fun too.
LBB: Tell us about Dublin as a place to shoot?
Max: Dublin is a young and vibrant city. Despite what you may have read about our economic woes, there is still very much an upbeat feeling about the city, and country. We have beautiful architecture, more green space per square kilometre than any other European Capital City, great food, a warm and welcoming people, as evidenced by the reception both Queen Elizabeth and President Obama got, and we enjoy people coming to our shores. Shooting here is not difficult, everyone speaks English, the crew are skilled and talented, we take great pride in our work, and we like to make it fun for everyone who comes here. Dublin is a compact city that still offers great variety in its locations, from the shiny and new, to the traditional, to beautiful, classic architecture to areas that double up as inner cities from the 80s. There is a wide variety of period houses, buildings, parks, sports stadia, beaches, forests, castles and busy streets, all within 20 – 30 minutes of the capital city, making Dublin an ideal location for shooting.
LBB: Do you feel that clients choose your company for your brand, staff knowledge or directors?
Max: We very much feel that our clients buy the brand as much as the director. Maxfilms are very well known in Ireland for thinking outside the box a little. We approach every production with the same enthusiasm, and are always looking for new ways to approach production. We like to get our hands very dirty in getting to grips with the detail of each film we get involved with, and to find the most cost effective way to solve any production issue.
LBB: What percentage of your work is made for the local market? And do you find that you have to compete with foreign directors when bidding on jobs in your country?
Max: About 85% of our work would be local, and our biggest competition is from directors based out of the UK. To that end, a lot of production companies in Ireland have a roster of UK-based directors who work closely with their Irish producers, and this arrangement has been working well for a number of years now. Most production companies still have a lead Irish director, though.
LBB: Where does the majority of your work come from?
Max: Ireland, then the UK
LBB: Are your directors booked by international companies?
Max: One director in particular, Des Mullan is now in great demand internationally, in particular in Kiev, Slovenia, Poland and Germany. More recently, we have found that we are getting more interest from other countries who are interested in our directors.
LBB: Is there a benefit to a local director shooting a spot for broadcast in your country in order to capture cultural nuances?
Max: Very much so. In particular the sense of humour that is enjoyed by the Irish is very particular to the culture here and many other English speaking cultures, even our nearest neighbours in the UK, don’t always understand it.
LBB: Do you work directly with the client as well as the agency?
Max: Only if the client approaches us and there is no advertising agency involved locally. We have found that we have several clients who want us to provide them with very high end corporate videos, which we have scripted and produced for them. We have several smaller local clients who don’t have an advertising agency and for them, we script and produce. However, our core business is currently with the local advertising agencies.
LBB: Do you feel a production company have to work differently nowadays with interactive, integrated, etc. projects?
Max: About 90% of the work that we do is still traditional television spots, however, we are being asked more and more to incorporate other elements to make a campaign more ‘360’. Where we can, we accommodate. We have had to learn and adapt quickly to meeting client needs and requests to bring about more integrated campaigns, but sometimes it’s hard to explain that just because it’s for the internet that the same production principles can apply.
LBB: What are the financial benefits and incentives of working in your city?
Max: We’re in the Eurozone, prices have decreased substantially in the past year, and there are Government initiatives that make accommodation and eating out cheaper for visiting productions. We are no longer the most expensive city in Europe. Crew here are highly skilled, very much hands on, used to figuring out production issues without adding to the budget and have a ‘can do’ attitude. It’s also great fun. The Irish sense of humour is deployed at every opportunity to visiting productions and clients. It makes the day a little more enjoyable, and gets the whole team gelling together very quickly.
LBB: What jobs have you worked on recently?
Max: Our most recent work was for Heineken International for the launch of Strongbow Gold cider. This was a global launch, beginning in Amsterdam, rolling out to Italy this week and continuing a roll out across Europe, South America and Australasia over the coming months.
LBB: What are the insurance ins and outs?
Max: Some insurers are concerned about the lack of lab and are unwilling to insure the exposed negative as it travels to baths in the UK. We offer two services to counteract this. Either the visiting company can avail of our insurance to transport the negative to London, or we can travel the negative by road and ferry to the bath. Alternatively, shoot digital!
LBB: Can you partner up to offer local post production if needed?
Max: Yes, we have strong relationships with the post houses here, both large, internationally known post houses, and smaller, local, independent houses.
LBB: What, if any, safety issues should foreign productions shooting in your country be aware of?
Max: Bring wet gear. While it doesn’t rain all the time, it does rain more than a lot of European countries are used to. The benefit of this is that as a result we have foliage and grass that is a lush and vibrant green that can’t be seen anywhere else, including in the UK. We’re very used to it and shoot around it for the most part, but it’s always wise to have some wet gear with you.
LBB: How varied and adaptable are your locations? And how far would someone need to travel to get to them?
Max: There is no real peak season, but it is advisable to come during the months where it is more likely to be sunny, April – October. The city of Dublin is relatively easy to shoot in, most premises and businesses are welcoming. The suburbs of Dublin give a wide variety of landscapes, and then of course we have Co. Wicklow where there is a wide variety of locations including landscapes that look desolate, great roads for car commercials, castles, country estates, villages, small towns, beaches, forests, waterfalls….
All of these are within an hour’s drive of the city centre of Dublin. The West and South of the country are now within 2 – 3 hours of the capital. In Ireland you can get a completely deserted beach without too much trouble, and the skies, and therefore the natural lighting aren’t seen anywhere else in Europe.
LBB: Do you offer office space to those travelling to shots?
Max: We are fully set up for visiting productions. We have unrestricted wireless broadband that allows up to 20 people to be online at any time, with a super fast download and upload speed. We have a fully functioning main production office where up to 5 producers can work, a fully equipped kitchen and upstairs we have a room that works as a wardrobe fitting space, a meeting space, or a working space for visiting productions. Next to that we have a smaller room that can also be used for working in, with access to our roof terrace, where the wifi also works, for people who may wish to work outside when it’s not raining. There is also a fully fitted out bathroom, including a shower area. Across the road we have our local friendly pub, [where they] think we’re all mad, and wonder what the hell we do, but get involved in helping out, and the locals will often buy a few pints.
LBB: Can you manage all travel arrangements?
Max: Yes, and we have a great relationship with a travel agent who specialise in the travelling arrangements of film production people, so they are very used to the odd requests we will often make, respond quickly to travel changes, and will always offer options from the cheapest to the fastest.
Q&A with Jake Walshe, Head of Commercials at Screen Scene Post Production, Dublin
Screen Scene is a full service post production outlet in Dublin. They edit, grade, do animation and vfx, audio, Di, finishing, design, live events capture and more. Your go-to post shop in Ireland. Find out more at www.screenscene.ie
LBB: Tell us a bit about where your work comes from, is it mainly local?
SS: Screen Scene has been working with agencies and production companies for over 20 years. We have a core production department that splits its time between production company and agency direct work. We have a strong reputation in the local market for good creative & very strong post production service. We would split our work 50/50 between direct agency and production company work. The production company business in Ireland is made up of Irish producers and a mix of Irish and International directors. We have a full time staff of 65 people with the company being split between broadcast and commercials and film. We have four Georgian buildings in the centre of Dublin.
LBB: How do you work with international production companies and agencies?
SS: As we have a strong relationship with the production community in Ireland we have directors that have representation internationally and this has proven the best way to get international work. Screen Scene has a long list of local & international clients for broadcast work and features.
LBB: Does the work tend to come from director driven relationships or agency clients?
SS: It’s a mixture of both. Sometimes the agency wants to finish here in Dublin & sometimes it's the director. Sometimes it's cost as we can offer better deals than our counterparts in the UK.
LBB: What split of your work is film vs commercial?
SS: Commercials would be around 50% of our work.
LBB: What kit do you have available to you in house?
SS: We have 2 flame suites, 8 3d seats, 20 offline suites, 3 online suites, 3 sound mixing suites, 3 dolby sound mixing suites, 2 x grading telecine suites, 1 feature film sound mixing theatre full stage (we also own ARDMORE SOUND IN BRAY CO WICKLOW), 5 sound editing suites, 2 foly stages, Screen Scene VFX, 20 VFX SEATS. Screen Scene VFX has just completed work on HBO GAME OF THRONES. We also did all grading, offline and online finishing and sound on Series One of this Emmy nominated show for HBO. We brought in 60 extra people to work on this show (the biggest budget TV show ever shot in Europe). It is shown on SKY ATLANTIC.
LBB: Since technology has changed so much in the last ten years (and speeded up some of the production process) do you feel you are asked to deliver your end product in less time??
SS: We have found that clients have gotten used to working at a faster pace and technology has helped this. We are working on new formats & applying new work flows but you can't take away from the creative process and that takes time. We still need time to consider our actions from a creative perspective & technology cannot help us with that.
LBB: Are you offering any particularly cool services that people may not be aware of?
SS: We have strong links with local production community so working with local PM or service production company is like second nature to us. From full service post to rushes service and avid room hire and everything in between. We have installed a 100mb internet line for uploading and downloading material for international projects which has been invaluable in supporting quick workflows and speed of access to material no matter where the end user is based.
LBB: Is your talent pool local or do you have an international crowd? If so how do they come to you?
SS: We have been working with a number of international artists in all areas of production. The freelance model works well in the post production market as each production is different and requires a different set of creative skills to get it over the line.
LBB: Tell us about your favourite commercial job and what made it a success?
SS: My favourite commercial is a campaign I did for Bulmers Cider here in Ireland. It was a good mix of good script; good direction and a client who let us all do our job. This, in my opinion, is the recipe for success.