Celtic Media Festival draws international industry to Donegal

Producers and executives are attending annual event being held in Ireland for the first time since 2016

Film and television makers from around the world presented ideas from the paranormal to the personal at the Celtic Media Festival in Dungloe, Co Donegal, on Wednesday as the annual industry shindig came to Ireland for the first time since 2016.

“I am very excited to be in Ireland right now,” said Josh Hughes, a Wisconsin filmmaker and podcast producer pitching a series about the history of haunted Irish castles.

He was among those vying at the international pitching forum to win €10,000 in development finance. But the prize isn’t everything. The Celtic Media Festival, billed as an international summit of screen and sound, brings together media professionals from the Celtic nations and regions – including Cornwall in England, Galicia in Spain and Brittany in France – for networking events, workshops and panel discussions.

Broadcasters’ ever-tightening budgets were a recurring theme, although An Cailín Ciúin director Colm Bairéad and producer Cleona Ní Chrualaoi demurred from the suggestion that the €1.2 million budget – low by industry standards – had dented any of their ambitions for their Irish language feature, which went on to become an Oscar-nominated commercial hit.


“I don’t think I would have changed anything about the film if we’d had €5 million,” said Bairéad. “We probably would have had more dessert or something.”

Getting projects made in the first place is the hurdle that many producers attending the festival are trying to overcome. Chris Brandon, writer of the BBC drama Bloodlands, spoke about the initial challenge of turning his True Detective-inspired crime series set in Northern Ireland into a James Nesbitt-starring reality.

“I thought ‘I’ve never seen this [type of] show in Northern Ireland’ and then you go to all the meetings and you realise ‘Oh, this is why I’ve never seen this show in Northern Ireland, it’s because no one wants to make it’,” he said.

Dungloe is hosting the 44th edition of the festival, which is chaired by TG4 director general Alan Esslemont, with executives from RTÉ, TG4, BBC, S4C, France Télévisions, Televisión de Galicia, Australian public broadcaster SBS and others travelling to the Donegal Gaeltacht for the three-day event.

Torc Awards for excellence in film, television, radio and digital media are also presented throughout the festival, with the early winners to be announced including the RTÉ Investigates episode The Accountant, the Con and the Lies – Janet Traynor’s programme about Catriona Carey’s operation of a scam – which took the current affairs (screen) award.

The festival continues on Thursday, when more producers will pitch their visions to commissioners in the hope of bringing them to screen.

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics