Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland film sector 'needs more help to build on successes'

By Margaret Canning

Film and broadcast businesses in Northern Ireland need more support if they are to thrive despite the industry's headline successes, a study has said.

The University of Ulster research said gaps in support and capacity in the sector could impact on future growth.

It pointed to dozens of small businesses which required help and were not part of the high-profile success of productions like Game of Thrones, which is part-filmed in Northern Ireland.

The report was launched by UU chancellor and actor James Nesbitt and makes recommendations on how the sector could be supported better - based on analyses of 87 companies here.

UU said the firms surveyed were small businesses with turnover of between £10,000 and £50,000, 70% of which employed no more than two people.

The report found that film and broadcast companies outside the greater Belfast area were benefiting from lower costs than the rest of the UK.

But the potential of such firms would only be maximised through a "strategic development plan" which would turn Northern Ireland into a "high-quality, low-cost internationally competitive film and broadcast centre".

The report contrasted the creative industries in Northern Ireland with the sector in Scotland and the Republic.

Dr Colm Murphy, head of film, media and journalism at the University of Ulster, said: "The creative industries is one of our most successful and internationally respected sectors, however it is relatively small and suffers from under-investment in priority areas which could impact on its future growth.

"The majority of companies are small and almost 50% rely on freelance skills to fulfil key contracts. Most have little additional time or resource to enhance core business management, international networking or technical skills that would strengthen the companies and the local economy.

"Our report has highlighted the challenges faced by the sector and identifies some actions which could position creative industries as a whole in Northern Ireland more competitively, not just locally but also in export markets."

The report called for investment in technology and skills, particularly in the freelance part of the sector.

It recommended that support should be given to develop business skills and start-ups, and ensure that firms can bid for network production contracts.

Game of Thrones, for which TV giant HBO has used as many as 12 Northern Ireland locations over five series, has brought in large amounts of money for the industry - estimated at around £20m per year. The report was published by the Honeycomb Creative Works initiative, managed by UU and funded by the EU.

Belfast Telegraph