Belfast Telegraph

'From Superman to Blind Date ... our TV firms have so much to be proud of'


By Sarah McCaffrey, chairperson of the Royal Television Society (RTS) in NI

Brexit is coming - but what it will mean for the future of creative industries in Northern Ireland?

So far there have been few to no answers - but the lower value of the pound post-referendum can surely only pull more international production into the UK market, making Northern Ireland even more competitive.

Soon the Superman prequel series Krypton begins filming in Belfast; Disney's The Lodge has just finished season 2; new drama The Woman in White for BBC One was recently shot in Greyabbey - and I haven't even mentioned Line of Duty or The Fall at this point.

Oh, and did anyone watch the new and improved Blind Date over the summer on Channel 5? Did you know that was produced by local production company Stellify Media?

And this summer has seen season 7 of Game of Thrones on Sky Atlantic and I am hooked as are millions around the world.

Local companies and international producers are creating highly successful drama, children's animation and factual content here - and it is big business for Northern Ireland plc.

Northern Ireland Screen states that it will leverage more than £250m out of an investment of £42m under its current plan for the four years 2014-18. These are impressive figures.

The Royal Television Society Northern Ireland (RTS NI) Programme Awards give us a chance to celebrate these successes, our growing creative sector and continuing achievements.

But as everyone ponders what is next post-Brexit, the only certainty we have is that training and development of our next generation needs to be paramount for our creative sector here to continue to grow and strive.

So much has changed since I graduated a decade ago; not only do we now have big productions being created in Northern Ireland and a thriving local production hub, but the opportunities for young people seeking work within the creative sector have never been healthier.

Once it was believed you had to leave Northern Ireland to carve a career out within the creative sector - the move to London was seen as the only route, but this is no more, and a big part of that is because of the hard work by Northern Ireland Screen, local broadcasters and the educational sector to grow our talent in the province.

Such has been the success of Aim High, a Northern Ireland Screen and BBC Northern Ireland new entrant training scheme to attract and retain talent in the local television sector, that the scheme has been extended to include animation, gaming and interactive.

I recently finished working on a new short film called Sparrow produced by one of Northern Ireland's top drama professionals, Julie Gardner, and directed by recent graduate and upcoming talent Rebekah Davis. Developed and produced through the British Film Institute and Northern Ireland Screen's Access Shorts scheme.

Some of Northern Ireland's top crew, who normally work on large-scale drama international projects at home and abroad, gave their time and expertise to help Rebekah make her first fully-funded drama. The Access Short Scheme is a great chance for new upcoming directors and writers to be showcased.

My proudest achievements since joining the Royal Television Society in 2012, have been the establishment of RTS Futures NI as well as the RTS NI Student Awards (any students out there, entries have just opened).

Neither existed when I was a student. But both give young people a chance to network with industry professionals and showcase their work.

Local student Georgia Parkinson is the current Chair, and runs industry events with BAFTA-winning professionals such as Brian Falconer, producer of Boogaloo and Graham.

The growth of interactive content within Northern Ireland is an exciting phase of our creative sector development here, with games, e-learning, web and mobile projects being developed for international markets and distribution.

RTS NI has recognised this growth by launching a new Interactive Entertainment category as part of our Awards this year, as well as a new Original Music Score category which celebrates the first class music being created here for well-known programmes.

There is no doubt that "Brexit is coming..." and with that a set of questions to every business sector in the land, but the creative sector in Northern Ireland is in a great place - we truly have some of the most talented people in the world, making fantastic content we can all enjoy - that is something worth celebrating.

Belfast Telegraph

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