Belfast Telegraph

Brexit doesn't mean we can't replicate Games of Thrones success, says NI Screen boss

By Michael McHugh

A hit fantasy drama that has revolutionised Northern Ireland's film industry is not irreplaceable despite Brexit, a development agency said.

Multi-award winning series Game of Thrones is partly shot at the stately homes, beaches and forest parks here, but will end after its eighth season next year, US broadcaster HBO has confirmed.

The economy has received a multi-million pound boost thanks to the production, and NI Screen chief executive Richard Williams said the development of skills and infrastructure, as well as lower costs, should attract more large productions.

He said: "Game of Thrones has delivered a number of revolutions in production technique and delivery of scale to budget.

"The idea that you could not sell the infrastructure and people and talent that produced that, I have absolutely no concern about our ability to sustain and build from the success of Game of Thrones."

He told the Culture, Media and Sport Committee of MPs the number of workers from the EU outside the Republic of Ireland was not huge on the Game of Thrones sets.

"But it is nearly always that they are critical skills because it is easier and cheaper to find those people locally on the island of Ireland and the UK. Further away, it is likely to be more expensive," he said.

NI Screen is the lead agency responsible for film and TV production in Northern Ireland.

Mr Williams continued: "Game of Thrones is very big. It is culturally unique but, as a piece of business, it is not unique. I would probably challenge a little bit the assertion that Game of Thrones as a piece of business is irreplaceable - I don't think that is true, but it may take two projects to replace it rather than one."

The set of Game of Thrones is at Belfast's Titanic Studios and there are also several locations across the country. Mr Williams said tours of the sites had attracted a more international and younger group of tourists.

He said the highest number of EU nationals worked in visual effects, and Brexit had been exercising those involved.

So far, the only change due to the Brexit vote has been the dip in the value of the pound, which has had a significant short-term impact for large inward investors. EU sources co-finance up to 30% of productions.

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