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What factors impact on the careers of our most successful theatre and film artists?

College peer groups, advertising, theatre and public funding all contribute to a successful career in film and television. Research undertaken by Trinity College Dublin, supported by National Creativity Fund part of the Creative Ireland Programme, has thrown a new light on the career paths of some of Ireland’s most successful theatre, television and film actors and directors.

Contacts made while at college, or in the early days of a career often smooth the path to greater things. Work in advertising sector can be a godsend for actors and for the most part those working in film and television started their performative lives on stage.

Findings available via

Ecologies of Cultural Production is based on in-depth interviews with a large group of prominent actors and directors in Irish film, TV drama and theatre. These findings underline the importance of public cultural funding for building and maintaining a successful career. The need for targeted programmes to tackle an imbalance in gender, class and ethnic diversity is also highlighted.

The 15 month research project was led by Professor Ruth Barton and Research Fellow Dr Denis Murphy of the Department of Film, School of Creative Arts, Trinity College.

The objective was to investigate what part public funding played in the development of the careers of some of our most successful writers, directors, and actors. Based on in-depth interviews the project examines how they build their careers, with particular emphasis on how education, professional training, access to cultural funding, and professional networks impact on career success.

The findings underline the importance of public funding for building and maintaining a vibrant creative sector, and the need for targeted programmes to tackle an imbalance in gender, class and ethnic diversity.

The purpose of the project is to inform public policy on funding for culture and to establish a methodology that might be applied to all sectors of cultural production.

Major findings include:

  • Two thirds of prominent creative workers have received public subsidy in the form of direct grants or other financial supports.
  • This public subsidy is acknowledged as crucial for career development.
  • The major subsidies benefit men more than women.
  • Artists in the research are highly centralised in Dublin and London.
  • There is a very high degree of movement between the film, TV drama and theatre sectors;
  • There is a high degree of dependence, at different career stages, on supplementary work, most of which is carried out in advertising and education and training fields.
  • Networks, often formed at early career stages, are highly important for career development, finding work, generating ideas, and moral support.

On the back of this report its authors recommend measures should be put in place to encourage the development of stronger female representation in senior and strategic roles.

The report also emphasised that if creative skills are to be developed in future generations there is a strong need to embed creativity in the school curriculum, and fund career development training targeted at increasing diversity and mobility across all sectors.

Findings were presented at one day seminar in the Long Room Hub at Trinity College, Dublin in July 2019. The seminar included a Q and A session with three of Ireland’s leading cultural practitioners Ed Guiney (Element Pictures), Anne Clarke (Landmark Productions) and Willie White (Dublin Theatre Festival) who discussed issues around training, talent development, diversity, precarious work and the future of Irish theatre and film industries.

Ecologies of Cultural Production

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