Posted on Thursday 26 August 2010 by Ulster Business

A scene from the pilot of HBO’s Game of Thrones filmed in Tollymore Forest Park.

The increasing number of productions being filmed in Northern Ireland is making a big contribution to the economy, writes Symon Ross

Northern Ireland’s film and television production industry has returned £22m to the local economy in the past year, according to figures contained in Northern Ireland Screen’s new annual report. The development agency for the local screen industries published its report for the 2009-2010 year as cameras were starting to roll in Belfast on US company HBO’s television series Game of Thrones – one of the largest ever to shoot in Europe. Through HBO’s own channels alone, scenes shot in Northern Ireland will reach over 35 million people worldwide. The report showed that – bucking the recession – Northern Ireland Screen’s main production investment fund had returned £22m to the local economy in the past year at a ratio of 5.5:1 on investment of £3.9m. Your Highness, a major feature film from Universal Pictures, which was shot in the Paint Hall studio in Titanic Quarter and various other locations around Northern Ireland, brought in an impressive £11.78m of this. Richard Williams, Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Screen said: “The economic, cultural and educational value of the screen industry and screen culture is beginning to shine through across the wide range of activities Northern Ireland Screen supports and encourages. Our highlight successes in attracting Universal Pictures and HBO to Northern Ireland strongly illustrate that, with vision and focus, the screen industries and the creative industries generally can play a pivotal role in the reimagining of our local economy.” During the year Northern Ireland Screen also secured two major network television commissions – Mo and Christopher and His Kind. Mo, which aired in January, was Channel 4’s highest rating single drama for eight years and landed Julie Walters her sixth BAFTA TV Award and three BAFTA TV Craft Awards for members of its production team. Mammoth Screen, the super-indie behind Christopher and His Kind has since set up shop in Northern Ireland. The publication of the agency’s report coincides with the publication of an evaluation by KPMG of Northern Ireland Screen’s three-year strategy Building on Success 2007-2010. The evaluation was positive, citing “a very strong performance over the strategy period”, with the Northern Ireland Screen Fund exceeding its target, delivering an economic return of around £45m into the Northern Ireland economy – a ratio of 4.6:1, against investment of £9.8m. The KPMG exercise also captured a very complimentary picture of how Northern Ireland Screen goes about its business, with consultees giving strong and wide-ranging praise of the work of the agency. Northern Ireland Screen chairman Rick Hill said that as well as achievements of the screen agency the region has a wealth of creative talent that is giving Northern Ireland a growing reputation at home and abroad. “We are in the worst economic recession since the 1920s and set against that rather gloomy backdrop, the achievements of Northern Ireland Screen are, I believe, all the more impressive. There is therefore still much to buoy our spirits,” he said. “As we move into our next four-year strategy “Driving Global Growth”, and despite decreased funding, Northern Ireland Screen remains firmly committed to the development of a dynamic and sustainable screen industry and culture in Northern Ireland.” Northern Ireland Screen is primarily funded by Invest Northern Ireland and part financed by the European Regional Development Fund.

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