Top Irish producer gets lifetime achievement award…

What do The Tudors, King Arthur, Braveheart, Veronica Guerin, Angela’s Ashes, P.S. I Love You… have in common? All of these successful projects were filmed on location in Ireland under the gaze of Morgan O’Sullivan, the essential Irish producer.

O’Sullivan was announced as recipient of ‘Outstanding Contribution to Industry Award’ today by Mary Hanafin TD, Minister for Tourism Culture and Sport in Dublin’s Mansion House, where she also announced the Irish Film & Television Academy 2011 roll-out of events.

Speaking about the Outstanding Contribution to Industry Award, Minister Hanafin said: “Morgan O’Sullivan has deservedly been selected to be a recipient for this Award due to his unwavering support and promotion of the Irish Film Industry. Over many decades, Morgan’s expertise has made a serious contribution to the economic viability of our film and television industry. He has nurtured the best creative talent in the business and brought international recognition of that talent and of Ireland as a viable international production location to the international stage. We owe Morgan a debt of gratitude and I am personally delighted to be able to announce Morgan O’Sullivan as this year’s recipient for Outstanding Contribution.”

Born in Dublin in May 1945, Morgan O’Sullivan began his career in entertainment at an early age where, amongst other roles as a child actor, he lent his vocal skills to the cast of Radio Eireann’s The Foley Family. Enchanted by the world of show-business, Morgan left school, decided on a career in the entertainment industry and landed his first job making documentaries and commercials with Dublin’s Rex Roberts Studios. He followed this with a move to Ireland’s famous Gael Linn newsreel company working under the tutelage of Colm O’Leary.

However, this bright start on screen hit a stumbling block when Morgan surmised mid-1960’s Ireland could not provide him with the long-term career opportunities he needed to make a living and so, after a short stint in RTÉ Radio, he emigrated to Australia with his wife Liz in order to live the life he dreamed of – working as a producer and broadcaster and relishing the opportunity to make movies for networks ABC and Channel Three.

Lured back to Ireland in 1970, Morgan re-joined RTÉ and forged a successful career working in radio, but still harboured a burning ambition to work on Irish-made feature films. He undertook a study in Hawaii of the successful television series Hawaii Five-O and was inspired by the positive influence filming of the series had on the island. He began to wonder how Ireland might create a similar success story.

In 1980, producing his very first feature film, Morgan teamed with author Frederick Forsyth and Hawaii-Five-O director Michael O’Herlihy to create Cry of The Innocents, filmed on location in Ireland with Hawaii-Five-O international crew serving as Heads of Department, training a production team of eager Irish crew serving under them. Morgan began producing content for the US market and provided producing / consultation services to many major international companies working on titles including Remington Steele, Manions of America and Three of a Kind.

Pushing forward with his master plans to build a firm filmmaking foundation in Ireland, in 1986, Morgan O’Sullivan encouraged MTM Enterprises into Ireland, putting together a consortium to purchase Ardmore Studios. Morgan served as Managing Director of Ardmore from 1986 – 1990 supervising the refurbishment of the studio and marketing it world-wide. Following the sale of Ardmore, Morgan moved to Los Angeles and established development deals with NBC and HBO.

At this time Michael D. Higgins was rocking the Irish arts industry with the introduction of a new tax incentive, Section 35, to stimulate production in Ireland. Morgan saw this as a way of enticing US productions to Ireland and he knew of one international project seeking a shooting location – Mel Gibson’s epic Braveheart. Negotiations began with producer Steve McEveety and, using the Irish Army to seal the deal, Morgan secured the production of the big-budget film on location in Ireland – a major coup for the producer and a major turning point for the Irish film industry.

Following the Oscar winning success of Braveheart, Morgan established his own production company World 2000 Entertainment and tirelessly promoted Ireland’s favourable tax incentives, stunning locations, experienced crew, first-class facilities and céad míle fáilte, to secure Irish shoots for feature films including Disney’s The Count of Monte Cristo, starring Guy Pearce and Jim Caviezel; the Oscar nominated drama Angela’s Ashes; PBS television movie David Copperfield; large scale fantasy thriller Reign of Fire and the Joel Schumacher’s critically acclaimed story of Irish crime reporter Veronica Guerin. In 2003, the Showtime TV movie The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone, starring Helen Mirren and Olivier Martinez, brought Morgan O’Sullivan his first prime-time Emmy nomination.

This period of intense production saw Morgan O’Sullivan working as producer / co-producer / exec producer on these projects, garnering a reputation for being one of the most significant contributors to the Irish film and television throughout this time.

Moving further into the new century Morgan joined forces with Disney / Miramax Films to bring more large scale productions to Irish shores; Ella Enchanted, starring Anne Hathaway and Hugh Dancy; Antoine Fuqua’s King Arthur, with Clive Owen and Keira Knightley; and Julian Jarrold’s Austin biopic, Becoming Jane.
Morgan O’Sullivan’s has an un-yielding passion for producing a world-class standard of production here in Ireland and has that exceptional combination of talents every successful producer must possess; a shrewd business sense and a true love for telling stories on screen. In 2006, Morgan secured the production of Showtime’s period drama The Tudors, with Irish actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers playing a 20th Century version of King Henry VIII. The multi-Emmy and IFTA Award winning drama became a worldwide sensation, telling the story of Henry VIII over four series, all of which were filmed on location in Ireland. The scale and impact of this production was immeasurable; financial rewards alone saw The Tudors employing over 300 staff every week of production, adding millions to the Irish economy and further cementing Ireland’s status of excellence in producing world-class film and television production.

Most recently in 2010, undeterred by tough economic times in Ireland, Morgan spearheaded the Irish production of Camelot, another big budget series this time for US television giant Starz, which filmed on location at Ardmore Studios and around Ireland for six months.

Throughout his career Morgan O’Sullivan’s projects have received numerous accolades including five Oscars, three BAFTAs, Six Emmys and 25 IFTAs. In the 1960’s Morgan dared to dream of an Irish film industry, he helped create that industry and is now working to secure its lasting survival. IFTAs Outstanding Contribution to Industry Award honours the life Morgan O’Sullivan has dedicated to the Irish film and television industry and recognises the wonderful legacy he has created.

Commenting about his Outstanding Contribution to Industry IFTA Award Morgan O’Sullivan said:
“I would like to dedicate this award to all of the people who have supported me down through the years but particularly the Irish Film and Television community.”

The 8th Annual Irish Film & Television Awards take place in Dublin on Saturday 12th of February and will broadcast LIVE on RTÉ One at 9.30pm.