Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland wants a long movie career, not a cameo role

By Margaret Canning

The film industry has grown into a major selling point for Northern Ireland in the last five years and the choice by HBO of Northern Ireland for filming of its cult fantasy series Game of Thrones has helped put Northern Ireland on the tourist map.

The contribution of Game of Thrones to the economy has been much trumpeted, but that contribution could be undermined by proposals in the draft budget to cut funding for film education by 50%.

There is a lot more to the NI film industry than Game of Thrones - there's a strong tradition of independent, next-to-no-budget film-making - but it's at grave risk.

People are now campaigning against the cuts, rallying behind the hashtag #SaveNIfilm.

While of course much of the contribution of Game of Thrones can be measured in the spend by its visiting employees, there is a more intangible but still important contribution.

The knowledge that Game of Thrones is filmed here, and that we having thriving studio space in Belfast's Titanic Quarter, in Banbridge and (eventually) maybe even in an old C&C factory in east Belfast, will have inspired many young film lovers to consider a career in the field.

But their route into film could become more precarious thanks to proposals to cut funding to organisations like Cinemagic, and film education programmes such as those provided by the Belfast and Derry Nerve Centres.

The gallery of stars who have protested at the cuts grows more illustrious by the day.

Belfast-born director Terry George, who made Hotel Rwanda and won an Oscar for his short film The Shore, said the cuts, which will also affect Belfast Film Festival, Queen's Film Theatre and Foyle Film Festival, were "distressing".

He summed up the risks of the short-term view which the proposals expose.

"It may be both popular, and in the short term productive, to encourage the film and television divisions of large multinational corporations to film in Northern Ireland by offering them large subsidies and tax incentives.

"However, movies and TV series rise and fall, other countries come up with more attractive offers, and big companies take flight at the first sign of an easier dollar."

Belfast Telegraph

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