Film studies' Game of Thrones boost
Setting the Game of Thrones fantasy drama in Northern Ireland may have boosted the number of students taking media or film studies at A-level, the qualifications awarding body said.
US production company HBO has shot parts of four seasons of the series in the country. Its success, combined with financial production incentives offered by the devolved administration, has prompted more and more filmmakers to choose the city as a location.
The number of Northern Ireland pupils taking film and media studies or art and design increased this year by 97.
Anne Marie Duffy, a director of qualifications, said: "This could be related to more interest in Game of Thrones."
She added: "It is notable that during a year when GCE (General Certificate of Education) entries dropped, the popularity of subjects that support the creative industries increased.
"It will be interesting to see if this becomes a trend over the next few years in response to the growing creative economy in Northern Ireland."
The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) said the number taking film and media studies was up 5.7% on the previous year, despite an overall fall in the total of entrants taking exams. Art and design increased by 3.5%.
This week the thriving Northern Ireland film industry received another boost with the announcement of a £14 million extension of the Titanic Studios in Belfast.
Stormont's environment minister Mark H Durkan claimed the addition of two studios will put the city on the map as one of Europe's largest production locations.
Game of Thrones began shooting across various sites in Northern Ireland in 2009.
Locations include the National Trust's Castle Ward property in Co Down overlooking Strangford Lough. The 820-acre walled demesne was transformed into Winterfell, where King Robert Baratheon and his retinue arrived and were met by the Starks in the first season of the series.
The drama, combined with financial production incentives offered by government-backed agency Northern Ireland Screen, has prompted other filmmakers to consider the country.
In the last four years, Northern Ireland Screen has estimated its main production fund will return just over £120 million to the local economy on an investment of £27.8 million, with the total value of productions in this period predicted to be almost £294 million.