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Coronavirus: Line of Duty and The Northman among television productions halted as NI Screen boss voices fears for industry


Derry Girls

Derry Girls

Derry Girls

A Northern Ireland film executive has warned that the coronavirus pandemic will be detrimental to some local television companies, as the production of films and TV series including Line of Duty and Derry Girls have been postponed.

Across Northern Ireland, 25 local factual and entertainment productions have been suspended as a result of the virus, including documentaries, comedies, dramas and Hollywood blockbusters.

Northern Ireland Screen chief Richard Williams said that local independent companies are having a tough time, with many facing tight profit margins when it comes to productions.

With work halted for the foreseeable future, Williams said that some will not survive.

Speaking on BBC’s Good Morning Ulster, he said: “There is no doubt that there will be companies that will not survive this period of time.

“A lot of these companies are very, very small and they don’t have huge investment behind them so it’s a tough enough place to be but we have put out emergency development funding to help them during this period when the production is less than it would normally be.”

The film and TV industry relies heavily on freelance crew and while many have been able to take advantage of the existing government schemes, the NI Screen chief said a substantial number of them have been overlooked.

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“We have a very considerable problem here that a big chunk of our freelancers fall in between the two stools of those supports," said Williams, who was instrumental in bringing Game Of Thrones to Northern Ireland.

“We lobbied very hard along with other people to get the Treasury to be more flexible with their approach and they have been.

“In our analysis, about three quarters of the crew in the sector are receiving some kind of support, so in that aspect it’s good but that’s cold comfort for anyone who’s not.”


Richard Williams

Richard Williams

Richard Williams

In March, Viking revenge film The Northman, starring Nicole Kidman, was forced to abandon filming on the north coast of Antrim due to fears over the coronavirus outbreak.

The Hollywood motion picture is also expected to star brothers Alexander and Bill Skarsgard and Emma actress Anya Taylor-Joy.

A film set had already been built in the scenic and remote location of Torr Head.

Williams said: “The Northman had to shut down and that’s what we call a large-scale project.

“That’s a project that’s financed out of the US studio system in America. Tens upon tens upon tens of millions of dollars in terms of production budget and in terms of the number of crew, you’re talking about 500 or 600 people.”

The latest series of BBC cop drama Line of Duty, which began filming in Belfast in February, is among the 25 productions postponed, as well as the third series of Lisa McGee’s nostalgic hit TV show Derry Girls, which was due to begin filming this month.

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