Playing a major role in boosting our economy
Creative industries praised for creating new work opportunities
NORTHERN Ireland natives working at a high level on the epic HBO fantasy series Game of Thrones have said that the time has never been better for people to get a job in the creative industries.
Donna Hughes, Naomi Liston, Chris Moore and Fergus McNulty spoke to a packed audience of journalists from all over the world who have been hearing about the contribution to industry and tourism that the series has provided for Northern Ireland.
The series is filmed across multiple locations in the region as well as in the Paint Hall in the Titanic Quarter.
As well as some of the acting cast, logistics teams and hundreds of extras, the four revealed that scores of cutters, seamstresses, embroiderers, textile artists, hair and make-up artists, prop makers and even 'breakdown teams' employed to make items of clothing and props look old or worn, hail from Northern Ireland.
Larne woman Donna Hughes is wardrobe supervisor on Game of Thrones.
She said that 90% of the staff in her team are sourced locally.
"We have a lot of trainees who are being educated and rise up through the ranks as each series progresses. They can then go on and use their skills in other productions," she explained.
Chris Moore, also from Larne and who works on props, said that his department – which makes and installs items like drapes, candelabras and other furniture – is also made up of 90% Northern Ireland people.
Fergus McNulty, who makes some of the swords and other weaponry described in the books by George RR Martin which inspired the series, said that the time had never been better to get a foot in the door of the industry.
"I knew when I was a kid in school that I wanted to work in Hollywood," he said.
"In the beginning I had to knock doors and go down on my knees to ask for jobs, I worked for free. When I was at university I got a work experience slot on the film Troy and that was my start point.
"Now there is much more support and agencies like Northern Ireland Screen welcoming and providing incentives for film companies here." Location manager Naomi Liston works closely with local community members and businesses in order to secure locations.
"It's wonderful to see people rise up through the ranks and grow and move on to other productions," she said.
"Pretty much everything we use is supplied from Northern Ireland and we could not film on this scale without the co-operation of local people and businesses.
"We had to say to people in Ballintoy, which became the Iron Islands, you have to take your fishing boats away while we film, we have to close that cafe... it was a lot of hard work and we had people's livelihoods to consider.
"The farmers we have worked with have been fantastic in terms of loaning us tractors and quads and both granting us access to and helping us to access remote locations with all our gear.
"We've only just scratched the surface in revealing what we've got location-wise in Northern Ireland."
Stars behind the scenes
Donna, from Larne, is wardrobe supervisor in the Emmy Award-winning costume department of Game of Thrones and has worked on the show from the pilot though to season four, which starts shooting later this summer.
Having worked in the locations department and location-managed many award-winning films and television series in Scotland and England over the last 12 years, Naomi moved to Northern Ireland for love four years ago. Along with devoting the last three years to Game of Thrones, she owns and runs a trout farm three miles upstream from Shane's Castle, one of GOT's main locations.
Also from Larne, Christopher has worked in the Game of Thrones props department since the 2009 pilot. After a degree in production design at Nottingham University, Christopher worked in the film and television Industry on TV series Robot Wars. He moved to Ibiza and designed stages for Miss Moneypennies nightclub before returning here seven years ago.
From Irvinestown in Co Fermanagh, Fergus is a modelmaker of weapons and props for the film industry. He runs FMN Creations, a sole trading company dedicated to creating art of many forms, both for the private sector and the film and television industries.