Ahead of his address to the opening of the New York-New Belfast Conference, Oscar-winning film director and Belfast native Terry George makes an impassioned plea to deeply divided political leaders back home not to squander the huge gains reaped from Northern Ireland’s transformation into a world-class movie hub.

“For enduring 55 straight nights of the cold, the snow, the rain, the mud, the sheep shit of Toome and the winds of Magheramorne quarry.”

That doesn’t exactly sound like a tourist advert, but that note of thanks from an assistant director to the crew on Game of Thrones is one of the few clues we have to what is probably the longest, most expensive battle scene, certainly ever filmed for television, and probably for cinema.

It’s the grand finale battle scene for the 8th and last season of Game of Thrones  – one of the most lucrative series in television history.

Like everything else about Game of Thrones, news of the shoot is a closely guarded secret.

But I can say this with some certainty: It required the dedication of hundreds of skilled actors, extras, stuntmen, crew and support staff, many if not most of them from Ireland north and south.

Game of Thrones has put Northern Ireland on not just the film and television industry map but on fan-based tourism and digital technology maps as well.

Real-life Game of Thrones locations in Northern Ireland

Many spectacular locations in Northern Ireland are featured in the hit HBO series, Game of Thrones. Which would you most want to visit - Winterfell? The Haunted Forest? The Iron Islands? More on how to plan the ultimate Game of Thrones trip: http://bit.ly/2uMjcJj

Posted by IrishCentral.com on Saturday, March 10, 2018

Now as we head toward 2019 and the end of this groundbreaking series, Ireland north and south has a world-class film industry with world-class studios and editing facilities.

It is an enormous achievement for the people who first brought HBO and Hollywood to our country.

We can thank NI Screen and Invest NI — as well as the politicians in Stormont who fought for the grants and incentives.

I remember Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson struggling through traffic in Los Angeles to visit all the major studios, lobbying for more and more work.

Who is going to do that now? Who has the muscle, now that we are in a political vacuum, to take the bold decisions, and allocate the funds necessary to keep the work coming?

Irish Actors on Game of Thrones

If the thought of waiting until 2019 for the next season of Game of Thrones - A Song of Ice and Fire fills you with more dread than the Night's King himself, at least you can still watch your favorite GOT actors in their other work! More here: http://bit.ly/2wLvItu

Posted by IrishCentral.com on Thursday, August 31, 2017

Back when the strategy of trying to attract world-class productions to Northern Ireland was first attempted there were many detractors.

It was a very risky decision, to give huge tax breaks and grants to uber-rich organizations such as Time Warner and Universal. But it paid off and brought employment and tourist dollars across a wide range of industry.

Now without our powersharing government who will fight the Westminister dragons after the Lannisters are gone?

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The ninth annual New York-New Belfast Conference opens in the premises of the American Irish Historical Society 6 pm6pm on Thursday 7 June with a night of celebration of heritage and the arts. Highlights will include a reenactment of a Frederick Douglass’ speech in Belfast in 1845 and a salute to Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks album 50 years after it was first released in New York.  The conference continues in plenary session on Friday 8 June in Pier A Harbour House, a former immigration hall at the very tip of Manhattan, where contributors will include New York City Speaker Corey Johnson, KPMG Global COO Shaun Kelly, actress Geraldine Hughes and Elizabeth Crabill, CEO CIE Tours.

Terry George hails from nationalist Short Strand in the east of Belfast. His film-making credits include In The Name of the Father (1993), Hotel Rwanda (2004) and The Epic (2016). He won an Oscar for his short movie The Shore in 2011. He now lives in New York.

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Terry George and daughter Oorlagh, Producer of The Shore, show off their Oscar statuettes from the 18th floor of the famed Divis Flats Tower in Belfast.Mark Jones, Belfast Media Group