Belfast Telegraph

Touch of Christmas magic as Northern Ireland teens sparkle with the stars in festive film with Liam Neeson, Pierce Brosnan and Kylie Minogue

By Laura Abernethy

They've gone from schoolbooks to selfies, autographs and red carpets almost overnight.

Erin Galway-Kendrick (13) from Newtownards and James Stockdale (14) from Dungannon, were chosen from hundreds of young people to star alongside Liam Neeson, Pierce Brosnan, Kylie Minogue and Suranne Jones as two of the lead characters in Northern Ireland's first feature-length Christmas film.

The pair will soon appear on screens across the UK and Ireland after Downton Abbey writer and Oscar-winner Julian Fellowes launched A Christmas Star at the world premiere in Belfast last night.

The film tells the story of Noelle, played by Erin, who believes that she can perform miracles after she was born under a Christmas star.

When an American businessman McKerrod, played by Downton Abbey star Robert James Collier, threatens the way of life in her peaceful village of Pottery Glen, Noelle and her friends have to work together and use her powers to save the village pottery factory in time for Christmas.

Produced by youth film festival charity Cinemagic, A Christmas Star has given young actresses and actors from across Ireland the opportunity to star on the big screen for the first time. Alongside Erin and James, nine other young people joined the lead cast.

The Fall stars Bronagh Waugh and Richard Clements also appear as Noelle's parents. Moreover, the project gave 40 young people the chance to work behind the scenes as trainees. They were mentored by industry professionals such as director Richard Elson, who previously worked on hit children's TV show MI High, producer Ian Smith and production manager Terry Bamber.

The film also showcases locations across Northern Ireland, including Glenarm, where the village of Pottery Glen is based, Rockport School in Holywood and even Stormont's senate room.

The final scene of the movie features scenes from the Christmas lights switch-on at Belfast City Hall in December 2014 as the young cast, or Snowballers as they are known, sang We Will Shine from the film's soundtrack on stage in front of thousands of people.

Erin, who plays the spirited Noelle, said: "I was so shocked when I got the part. It was a dream come true and I was just so happy to be involved. I just loved every minute of it."

James played Noelle's best friend, Spud-bob. He said: "It was so much fun to work on A Christmas Star. I'm privileged to have been involved. I can say I've pretty much made it!"

Lord Fellowes, who is a patron of Cinemagic, said yesterday: "This film shows what Cinemagic is all about. Anything can happen if you want it enough. That's the message we are trying to give out to children - you can get into this industry if you want it enough."

Local writer Maire Campbell was behind the screenplay. She said: "To see it on the big screen is truly sensational. The actors really brought it to life and gave it warmth. I hope that it represents a new Northern Ireland."

The film will be on screens nationwide from Friday, November 13.

Belfast Telegraph


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