Film and TV production in Northern Ireland is booming, thanks to the province’s dramatic countryside, financial incentives, and Paint Hall Studio in Belfast, according to
The area has attracted several big Hollywood projects lately, including HBO’s new $60 million fantasy series “Game of Thrones,” Universal's $50 million medieval comedy "Your Highness" and Walden's $35 million sci-fi film "City of Ember.”
"These are recessionary times, but we're in good shape. The only reason for that is the big projects, whose economic impact justifies our investment in the smaller projects," says Richard Williams, chief exec of Northern Ireland Screen,(NIS), a public organization responsible for fostering the local film and TV sector.
The region has greatly benefited from NIS’s decision to promote and develop the disused Paint Hall Belfast's old shipyards as a production space. With a 90-foot-high roof, and four cells measuring 16,000 square feet each, it is the only . studio of its size outside southeast England.
"The connection between the three projects is that they all had very ambitious, budget-busting builds, and the Paint Hall is an extremely attractive proposition in that context," Williams says.
NIS also has plans to build two new sound stages this summer, so there will be a suitable space to attract smaller-scale productions as well.
Factoring in the NIS incentive, Northern Ireland is about 30%-50% cheaper than shooting in and around London. The unspoiled countryside that is just a half an hour away also contributes toward keeping production costs low. The woodlands, fields, Mourne Mountain, and Antrim coastline are ideal for productions needing medieval-looking locations.
The NIS production fund is around $6 million a year, and while the official maximum given to any individual project is $1.3 million, that rule is made to be broken for huge productions that may inject millions of dollars into the economy.
"You can't have local filmmaking if you don't have local crew and infrastructure, and you can't deliver local crew and infrastructure if you don't have continuity of work. So the big contribution of inward productions is that they ensure there is an industry here to facilitate the local voice," said Williams, explaining the positive impact on the indigenous film and TV sector.
Local TV producers, such as Wild Rover and Waddell Media, are also feeling the benefits.
"The big features and 'Game of Thrones' make people realize Northern Ireland can do stuff, so everybody is elevated up a few levels, not just on the feature film side," said NIS marketing head Moyra Lock.