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Sean Bean in "Game of Thrones" Photo by: Guardian

Game of Thrones sparks Northern Ireland film boom

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Sean Bean in "Game of Thrones" Photo by: Guardian

The film industry has taken a recent interest in the wealth of opportunity for locations and talent that are available in Northern Ireland. From places like Giants Causeway to the alleyways of Belfast, the province provides rich possibilities for filmmakers around the world.

The HBO new hit franchise ‘Game of Thrones,’ based on a series of books by George R R Martin, utilized Belfast’s paint hall for some of its setting. The paint hall is a giant arena that was “used to paint the ships built by Harland and Wolff, the company that launched the Titanic from its Belfast shipyard.” It was here that the ‘Games of Thrones’ locale of Eyrie came to life.

The Guardian reports that “The upsurge in projects being made there [in Northern Ireland] is also due to investment by Northern Ireland Screen of up to £125m between 2007 and 2010 and, since last year, a further £108m that was put into productions principally in the area of employment.”

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"£4.80 went back into the Northern Ireland economy for every £1 we invested,” said Moyra Lock, the head of marketing for Northern Ireland Screen. Thus, the investments are helping to breathe new life into a locally struggling economy.

The ‘Game of Thrones’ production is also helping to create jobs in and around Belfast. Additional work for carpenters, electricians, and set-builders has been spurred in the area. Similarly, the Belfast-based Acorn Video is producing a behind-the-scenes look at the hit show which will be included in the DVD-release of the series.

Derry-native Andrew Eaton also chose Belfast for his location in shooting for ‘Good Vibrations,’ an upcoming Terri Hooley biopic. Says Eaton, “The combination of the UK film tax credit and additional funding from Northern Ireland Screen has helped. Getting ‘Game of Thrones’ was a great coup for the North. I think the combination of locations, acting talent and available studio space must have been factors for HBO.”

Eaton continued, "Watching how Belfast has changed in the past couple of years makes me optimistic about the future, but sad and frustrated that its potential has been crushed for so long.”

Local acting and technical talent is also a huge draw for production companies, says Terry George, the Belfast-born producer and director of the critically acclaimed ‘Hotel Rwanda.’ “And perhaps most important there's an eagerness and energy by the local community to put the province on the film-making map."

George, however, refuses to get too excited about long-lasting film future for Belfast. He says “I have to voice a note of caution as the big studios and the big productions can vanish just as fast as they appeared, so while it's wonderful to have HBO and NBC/Universal there, if local productions, local film makers and local talent are not given long-term financial and structural support we'll be left with empty studio space and a lot of people having to go abroad to find work."

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