Belfast Telegraph

Big screen enthusiasts reeling in major money

By Margaret Canning

Northern Ireland's screen industries are "booming", the head of Northern Ireland Screen told delegates at a conference yesterday.

Richard Williams told those at a workshop on tourism that the spending generated by film and TV could be doubled in the next four years.

Mr Williams said: "Film and TV in the last four years – those projects parts of which have been specifically supported by Northern Ireland Screen – have generated a direct spend of £121m on goods and services.

"That direct spend is still our primary purpose – to deliver direct economic value to Northern Ireland.

"There's absolutely no reason why over the next four years we can't double that. It will be something of a disgrace of we don't achieve that."

The screen boss discussed the success of award-winning Game of Thrones, a production by American TV company HBO, the fourth series of which is currently being filmed in Northern Ireland.

While the province and the grant funding of NI Screen has attracted myriad productions – including the critically acclaimed Philomena starring Dame Judi Dench, filmed on location in Co Down last year and winner of best screenplay at this year's Venice Film Festival – it is Game of Thrones which has the biggest hold on viewers' imaginations.

The acclaimed series is based on the A Song of Ice and Fire series of novels by George RR Martin, about the bloody dynastic struggles of rival clans on the continents of Essos and Westeros.

Filming of the first three series began in 2009 in locations as varied as Ballintoy Harbour in Co Armagh and Castle Ward in Co Down.

The series has become one of HBO's biggest smashes around the world, and being associated with its success "delivers a wide portfolio of value that's hard to measure but most people intuitively identify it", Mr Williams said.

It could be regarded as Northern Ireland's biggest export success – though Mr Williams said Northern Ireland's golfing heroes and the success of the Titanic Belfast brand also competed for prominence.

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