People tend to think of films as a creative process - and rightly so.

As those in the industry will point out, any successful film starts with a good script. It then needs the talents of a great cast and crew in order for that idea to be transformed into something people actually want to see.

But in order for that magic to happen, there are so many pieces of the puzzle that have to fall into place first. That can be a long process.

"One of our films went from concept to production in two years but that's very quick," said Ruth Treacy, producer and company director at Tailored Films, which recently wrapped filming on a new feature film, Barry Keoghan, starring Bafta winner and Oscar nominee Barry Keoghan.

"It can be three to four years from idea to shooting."

And, of course, a lot of that process revolves around money – because making a film is an expensive business.

The Banshees of Inisherin cost around $20m to make. That’s relatively cheap by Hollywood standards, too; Top Gun Maverick had a budget of roughly $170m, Marvel’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever cost $250m.

An Cailín Ciúin cost somewhere closer to $1m. That’s a bargain in Hollywoodland – but in the real world it’s a significant amount to raise for a single project.

I’ve written a brilliant script – how do I get that turned into a film?

The best place to start is probably a few steps back – because whether you’re a writer, producer or director, going straight for the feature film is a bit ambitious.

What tends to happen, in Ireland and internationally, is that people cut their teeth on smaller projects first.

That might be a few short films, TV shows, or perhaps even other people’s productions.

"That provides the opportunity to get your teeth into making a film without the pressure of raising finance," said Louise Ryan from Screen Ireland, which also has a range of courses available to help develop new voices in the industry.

An Cailín Ciúin director Colm Bairéad is a good example of starting small – he had a number of short films under his belt before he moved into feature films.

He’s also directed a few ads in his time – which is another common proving ground for aspiring directors.

Spike Jonze, David Lynch and Ridley Scott all worked in advertising before getting a name for themselves in film.

Martin McDonagh, of course, started out in theatre. His first play, the Beauty Queen of Leenane, premiered 12 years before In Bruges released. In the meantime he had also worked on a short film, Six Shooter.

And in doing that, all of these directors built up experience and contacts in the industry. But they also showed that they were able to take an idea from the page to the screen, and tell a story in an interesting way.

"It shows you can execute an idea, and lets you build up creative contacts," said Louise. "If it’s successful it can get you a lot of attention on the international circuit too."

I have my experience – I have my script… now what?

As good as your script may be, chances are it still needs a bit of work.

That might be about making it as good as possible, but it’s also about making it as film-able as possible too.

"The first draft is usually quite rough," said Ruth. "Characters might need development, there’s lots of honing, and then it becomes a case of logistical realities based on the scale of what you’re producing.

"You don’t want to stifle the creative process but you do have t look at locations, stunts, virtual effects. Is it possible to make it?"

To help get that work done Screen Ireland, the state agency for film and TV, offers various development grants – designed to help you develop your idea.

Those kinds of grants are available to writers, but also directors and producers.

At this stage Screen Ireland can also you to start building up your team. Because, no matter how good your script is, you need a lot of people to help it become a film.

So this is where you might look for a producer to join the project, and start to look at who you want to bring on in terms of a director, or actors.

"Ultimately there are producers who are working day in and day out on this kind of thing," said Louise. "They’ll have a slate of talent and projects that they’re working on."

And *now* I’m ready to make my film?

Well, now you’re ready to start raising the money to make your film.

Ideally you’ll have all the money you need before you shoot even a second of footage – but even if you’re doing it on an extremely low-budget, you’ll have to start looking to others for funding.

And this is where the producer really comes into their own – because one of their jobs is to start looking at the options that are open to you.

One route is Screen Ireland again – they offer regular rounds of production funding to Irish projects.

So does the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.

Both of those will give a certain amount based on the total size of the production budget – so it could be in the tens of thousands, or it could be in the hundreds of thousands.

But both also require a lot of detailed, financial information from you before they’ll even consider putting funding forward.

That includes details of the creative vision you have – but also the budget you think you’ll need, what your finance plan is for covering those costs, and who is on board from a cast and crew point of view.

"The key thing for anyone is to build the finance plan," said Sinead McHugh, partner at Saffery Champness Ireland, which specialises in helping film and TV producers to navigate through the financial burden of creating content.

In fact each project tends to be set up as its own company – under what’s called a special purpose vehicle – in order to manage the finances of it.

Really you’ve got to think about this like it’s a start-up company. Just like a burgeoning business, you’ve got to have a plan and a pitchbook, and the more detail you can bring the better chance you have of securing funding.

Could Screen Ireland or the BAI cover the entire cost of the film?

Generally, no.

With the exception of micro-budget films – costing less than €100,000– Screen Ireland will only fund up to 65% of the cost of a production.

So even if you get funding from them, you need to look elsewhere to fill the gap.

In fact, having finance from elsewhere lined up is going to help you to unlock the funding that the likes of Screen Ireland offer.

And to do that you essentially have to take that plan you have and shop it around to international studios and distributors.

This is what happens at the likes of the Cannes Film Festival.

While it may be best know for the glitz and glamour of the big premieres, most of the activity is focused around the slightly more banal work of getting films made.

"There’s always going to be conferences for meetings between distributors," said Sinead. "If there’s a gap in your funding it’s about seeing who can fund that gap, because you want a full finance plan in place before you start your work.

"You’re unlikely to get a production off the ground without a distribution deal of some kind."

Distribution deals are arguably more important to Irish film than to producers in many other countries, because Irish films are in direct competition with other English-language productions – including everything Hollywood puts out.

"External distribution isn’t as important to producers in places like France," said Ruth from Tailored Films. "They know there’s a local audience that will go to see their film.

"When we’re happy with the script we start pitching it as early as possible – once we see that it’s viable."

Here you might get a sales agent or a co-producer from another country who can put up some of the funding.

That’s a process that can take months – and may require you to show off some example shots, alongside your business plan, to make clear that you have something solid.

"The Irish are very experienced in working with European co-producers," said Louise.

Teaming up with another producer may also help to unlock supports and grants available in other countries, too, helping bring you closer to your fund-raising goal.

And that means you’ll have an easier time getting a distribution deal – which means selling the rights for the film in certain countries (or, often, the entire world).

If you’re really lucky a big studio might come in and pick up the project; so they’ll come on as co-producers, essentially picking up the tab in return for the rights to the film when it’s done.

This is where streaming firms are playing an increasing role.

In 2018 Apple bought the rights to Cartoon Saloon’s Wolfwalkers, simply on the basis of the script (and its body of previous work). Cartoon Saloon was then able to take the funding Apple brought and actually make the film, with the result coming out two years later.

According to those in the industry, streamers can offer really good fees for distribution rights – though the downside is that films often get a very limited run in the cinema, because the priority is the digital platform.

Does the business side continue even after the filming gets underway?

Absolutely – because there are still so many financial factors and decisions that need to be kept in mind, even when the creative side is in full flow.

That can include obvious things like paying for the use of locations, hiring crews and facilities. But also any rights issues that might pop up; for example, if you want to use certain pieces of music, or archive footage.

"Everything has to be negotiated, everyone has to get paid in a film, everything has to be paid for," said Louise from Screen Ireland. "Your location manager would sort out locations for you, and you’d have to work out if you want to get archive footage.

"All of that has to be paid for."

But even on a day-to-day basis, you need to make sure that the budget you have is being managed and spent correctly.

Often you might not have access to all of the money that’s been committed – so you need cashflow finance. That’s essentially a bridging loan.

According to those in the industry this is one area where Ireland is behind its international peers.

In other countries banks offer this kind of short-term, low risk lending at low rates. However Irish banks have yet to do the same, meaning producers are reliant on a small number of firms for cashflow finance.

"None of the banks here will discuss financing films," said Ruth. "Different organisations will provide cashflow – but there aren’t many in Ireland."

That means you’ll probably ending up paying very high interest rates, which means you’re losing some of your already tight budget.

But keeping track of your finances is also important for other reasons, namely the tax benefits that are on offer to films here. That’s known as the Section 481 tax credit.

How does that work?

This is perhaps the most important piece of the puzzle in terms of making film production attractive, and even possible, here. It entitles producers to a 32% tax credit on the Irish production costs.

That actually rises to 34% for productions in some rural locations, which is part of a scheme called Rural Uplift – though that extra sweetener is coming to an end this year.

But exactly what you can claim the credit on is fairly specific.

Firstly, the production itself has to be deemed eligible – which requires you getting a certificate from the Department of Arts and Culture.

Then what you can claim on has to be production-related costs – so you can’t include entertainment costs, for example, or the money you spend promoting the film.

And while that may be relatively straight-forward for entirely Irish productions, the reality is that a lot of what’s made here is part of an international production.

So you might have a movie that’s part-filmed here, with the other part in the UK or Spain. Or maybe it’s all filmed here, but the editing and post-production is done elsewhere. Or maybe it’s vice versa.

And then, of course, you have the cases where a big international production uses Ireland for a small part of its project.

But because the relief can only be claimed on the work done here, you have to ensure you’re keeping track of what is Irish work, and what isn’t.

That’s going to be very difficult to do – even on a relatively simple project.

"All Ireland is concerned about is that Irish spend," said Sinead. "They might have to report on the total global budget but the tax credit is just focused on the production spend in that country.

That includes having the likes of a line producer or a production accountant on staff, tagging every Irish expense as they arise.

And if you’re co-producing with someone in another country, there might be grants and reliefs that you can avail of there.

In that case it’s up to that producer to keep track of the spending in that country to ensure everything is done correctly.

One thing that can be useful about the relief is that, if your accounts and paperwork are in order, you can claim most of it in advance. Though you do need to have most of your money to hand to do so.

"You can claim 90% of the estimated tax credit up front," said Sinead. "The main criteria is you need to have 68% of funding in the special purpose vehicle’s bank account."

And the relief can only be availed of by a local, Irish producer.

That means that, even if a big international studio choses to use Ireland as a location for their film, they still needed an Irish producer on board in order to avail of the tax relief.

Okay, so I’ve availed of my tax credit, I’ve gotten my funding – and I’ve finished my film… now what?

Now there’s just the small task of getting people to see it.

The marketing of a film is obviously hugely important in actually letting people know that this thing exists – especially nowadays when there are so many different sources competing for viewers’ attention.

And it can be an expensive business too – the general rule for big Hollywood productions, at least, is that your marketing spend is equal to around 50% of your production budget.

Others, like An Cailín Ciúin, probably rely more on word-of-mouth to get people interested. But even then there’s a need to spend money on things like posters, ads for TV, radio or online, even a website.

The distribution deals you struck will tend to cover the marketing element. It’s in their interest, as much as yours, that people seek out the film.

Some distributors are better than others at including the producers in their marketing decision – so you could end up seeing your film being advertised as something very different to what you intended it to be.

In other cases, you might find your distributor paying a huge amount of attention to every tiny detail.

"When our film The Lodgers went to Netflix, they made 15 different thumbnails that would be shown to users," said Ruth. "The algorithm chose a different one based on the users’ interests – so if it thought you liked arthouse films it would show you one kind, but if you liked scary films it would show you another."