Ireland received a record 14 nominations at this year’s Academy Awards. The Banshees of Inisherin, filmed on Ireland’s west coast, tied for second in most nominations and has transformed the tourism industry of Achill Island.
Although their presence at the coveted ceremony was unprecedented, the Irish secured only two Oscars last Sunday. Richard Baneham’s achievements in visual effects for Avatar: The Way of Water were awarded, as well as short film An Irish Goodbye.
The Banshees, which represented the bulk of the nominations with nine, may have gone home empty-handed, but the black tragicomedy’s impact has already been felt.
Set during the Irish civil war, it follows two lifelong friends who live on a remote, fictional island called Inisherin. Played by veteran actors Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, the two have an unexpected falling out with dire consequences.
The film was partially shot on Achill Island, Ireland’s largest island, which has seen a considerable boost in interest since the film’s release. “We appear in over 70 publications globally,” said Chris McCarthy, manager of Achill Tourism.
McCarthy recounted the whirlwind production: “Our first toe-dip into this film was when we got a wayward email from a lady, looking for 250 bed nights for 90 days. That’s really all our accommodations in one booking…”
The secretive Hollywood veil was eventually lifted. However, that the movie would prove to be an award’s contender was not immediately apparent to the locals. “When they started building the pub, we were saying to them ‘Why wouldn’t you just go over to Patten’s bar, or the 13 other pubs on the island?’”
“No, they’re going for Oscars in this,” the locations manager replied. “Yeah right,” McCarthy shrugged. Yet sure enough, after releasing, the movie pulled ahead in the award’s race, winning big at both the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs.
The production itself drove €1.7 million into Achill’s economy, while the overall yield in tourism remains hard to quantify. “We don’t really know what is going to appear, to be honest. We can only go on the amount of places we’re turning up in worldwide.”
A lady from the US called the office a few weeks back, inquiring about Achill’s scenery. “Please tell me, I just want the truth here, was that Photoshopped?” After being told it was all natural, she exclaimed “Well if it is, then I’m going to Ireland!”
Achill Tourism represents 150 tourism-related businesses on the island who all benefit from the movie’s success: “a rising tide lifts all boats,” as McCarthy put it.
Alan Gielty, who runs Achill Coaches, started providing a ‘Banshees of Inisherin’-themed tour. Tourists travel across the island, visiting filming locations while Gielty shares behind-the-scenes stories. “We’re giving the full history of the island, but we’ve just ‘Bansheed’ it up a bit.”
Gielty’s company was also contracted to drive the movie’s 140+ extras to and from set. “It was quite strict because every single driver and extra had to be Covid-tested every two days. You can imagine on a Hollywood production, that’s costing €180.000 a day, the financial impact if there’s a Covid outbreak.”
Gielty’s Bar & Restaurant’s car park served as the film’s unit base, housing the cast and crew’s trailers. “We live above the pub, so you’re sitting in the morning having your breakfast, and you look out and see Colin Farrell walking across your car park, bringing a cup of coffee into his trailer. It’s kind of surreal in a way.”
As an extra, Patrick Mulloy too had close encounters with the movie’s cast. He recalled a scene where he and another extra had to walk across a post office: “we kept going and the next thing we bumped straight into Colin Farrell, like clattered into him.” Mulloy apologized, but Farrell quickly responded “No, no, no, it was the effing door. The effing door wouldn’t open.”
Even in such a tight-knit island community, as portrayed in the film, there was still room for surprises. “I met loads of people that I didn’t even know that lived on the island. It actually connected a load of us up.”
Mulloy praised the complexity and rigor of the film’s production. After shooting had finished, the actors would always hand their scripts off to someone else and “the script got shredded,” he said. “The security on the scripts and everything else was meticulous.”
Mulloy and other Achill natives were unfazed by the lack of Oscars. Although he thinks it would have been nice if The Banshees had been honored, “it’s great anyways, who needs the Oscars. We’re thinking, yeah, it’s brilliant, we just got along without it.”
Regarding the nominations, Gielty said “It’s amazing. It puts Ireland more so on the map with Hollywood. Achill doesn’t get many American tourists, but that’s going to change now.”
Although his businesses are up 50% already, Gielty believes 2024 will be the year to watch. “I really think it’s next year that’s really going to kick in, because everyone already has this year’s holidays booked. Next year is really going to be off the charts.”
Last week, another movie released called My Sailor, My Love, which was also shot on Achill. The attention drummed up by the Oscars may spur on even more productions to journey to the island. Perhaps there are more awards-hopefuls in its future.