NI Screen boss says more US productions on the way as Belfast wins new TV series secured
Game of Thrones has ensured Northern Ireland is taken seriously as a destination for film and television, it's been claimed. NI Screen chief executive Richard Williams was speaking alongside other top film executives during Digital DNA.
He said US studios are continually asking when the hit HBO fantasy drama will finish here so they can move their projects in. Today, Belfast Harbour announced that Superman 'origins' tale Krypton will be filmed in its £20m studios at the North Foreshore (story, far right).
Mr Williams was joined by Anne Morrison, the Belfast-born deputy chairperson - and former chairperson - of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.
Recounting one of the most "humiliating things to happen" in his career, Mr Williams said that after pitching Northern Ireland as a destination to a US studio, he found out they thought he was representing New Zealand.
But, he said, since Game Of Thrones came to Northern Ireland, that no longer happens.
Ahead of today's announcement about Krypton, he was asked about concerns over filling the void left behind by Game Of Thrones.
Filming has wrapped on season seven ahead of broadcast on Sky Atlantic later this summer. "If that can't be resold we might as well give up," he said.
Mr Williams said studios and investors from the US had continually asked "when is Game Of Thrones leaving so we can bring our big project".
It's understood around 15 film companies looked at Belfast Harbour's new studios before Warner Horizon signed up.
Film director Beryl Richards also praised Northern Ireland during the Digital DNA panel discussion. "People are very helpful... people are very willing to help here. You are welcomed and not seen as a pain in the a***," she said.
The film and television industry here has mushroomed thanks to Game Of Thrones, feature films such as City Of Ember and BBC productions such as Line Of Duty.
Meanwhile, one of Northern Ireland's fastest growing technology firms has told Digital DNA it has now reached a $1bn valuation.
Brian Conlon is founder of Newry's financial software firm First Derivatives, which has grown by one-third each year in the last few years and now counts the world's biggest banks as customers.
Yesterday, Mr Conlon revealed the company is now working with a major Formula One racing team using its Kx software.
Earlier this year it announced a contract with Airbus Defence and Space that will use the company's database system to analyse data taken from space.
Airbus Defence and Space will contribute historic and future satellite imagery which will be processed and analysed by Kx technology, owned by First Derivatives.
Mr Conlon said: "When we floated, our market cap was around $10m - the week before last we reached a major milestone for any technology company in this island when we reached $1bn valuation.
"That's something that we are very proud of. I keep going back to the fact that we have done that locally.
"That's some hope for all of you out there trying to start your business, that it is possible to grow a $1bn company in this part of the world, using people from this part of the world."
He added: "For the last 10 years we have had annual revenue growth of 36% per annum.
"In a period where we transformed a company from a purely consulting company to what is largely a software company now, we still managed to retain profitability growth of 24% per annum."