Maria O'Brien

A Comparative Study of Financial Incentives in the Irish and Canadian Film and Gaming Industries

Year: 2014

Keywords: , , , , , , , ,


Trinity College Dublin
(at time of presentation)

Personal profile:

I trained as a solicitor and tax advisor and worked for a decade in property and tax law. Then I broadened my academic background by studying film to postgraduate level, completing an M.A. in Screen Studies. Goldsmiths, University of London and an M.Litt in Trinity College Dublin on the work of director Ang Lee.


Slides of 'A Comparative Study ...' (pdf)

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Traditionally the film industry and the gaming industry (by which I mean broadly computer games) have very little in common. Both industries are very different in both their method of production and output. However, cross over between these industries should be encouraged. I look at the different approaches to film and gaming finance in two very different jurisdictions to explore how and why these industries could become bedfellows.

The film industry in Ireland is primarily driven by an investor driven tax relief known as Section 481. It is being phased out and will be replaced by a tax credit system in 2016. As an incentive, it emphasises the nebulous concept of cultural value through a (admittedly broad) cultural test. In contrast, the gaming industry in Ireland doesn’t have specific investor reliefs or tax credit systems. Instead it relies on general research and development tax credits.

In Canada, film finance works on a tax credit system similar to that to be introduced in Ireland in 2016. However, the gaming industry in Canada works in a significantly different way. Canada offers generous tax incentives for what is termed SD&ER (scientific development and experimental research) in companies that advance science or technology in the gaming industry. These areas cross over in the Canada Media Fund (CMF) which ‘fosters, develops, finances and promotes the production of Canadian content and applications for all audio-visual media platforms’ (from CMF website).

This comparative approach highlights the fundamental issue of understanding of computer games whether it is an industrial product which comes within scientific R&D or whether it is a cultural product. The gaming industry in Ireland is reluctant to move away from R&D type incentives towards any incentive that may require a cultural test such as that within the film industry.

However, I believe that within Ireland both the film industry and gaming industry could work in a more symbiotic way which reflects the interconnectedness of these areas. My approach examines the different approaches to film and gaming incentives in two different jurisdictions. This approach is informed by my background as a solicitor and tax advisor, but is not limited to taxation policy only. Through my M.A. in Screen Studies (Goldsmiths) and my M. Litt in Film Studies (on Ang Lee) my approach is informed by theories within cultural studies.