Ireland set for a starring role in global filmmaking

The thousands of extras who auditioned this week for the next season of the hit TV series, Vikings, underlined further the vibrancy of the Irish film and television production as the industry forges ahead into one of its busiest summers.

Ireland set for a starring role in global filmmaking

Over the last month, many parts of the country have played host to large scale productions, bringing a significant commercial boost to local communities in everything from hotels and B&B’s to restaurants and taxis.

One fitness club in Dingle has even taken to opening at 5am to accommodate visiting actors who need to hit the gym before filming begins.

Amongst the productions currently bringing lights, cameras, and action, the latest ‘Star Wars’ project has garnered most media attention as its enormous carriage and crew moved across the country, taking in much of the Malin, Mizen, and Dingle headlands.

With wookies and droids now a common sight on many a main street, one Kerry local put the revenue bonanza in perspective: “We all thought Ryan’s Daughter in the 1970s was the biggest thing to ever happen here, but this space age stuff is even better. And they keep coming back for more.”

Other productions, albeit with smaller budgets, currently underway include: Dawn, a new Morgan O’Sullivan produced series filming in Wicklow; Maze, the infamous 1983 prison breakout of 38 IRA prisoners, filming in the recently decommissioned Cork Prison; and drama series Redwater, a spin-off of the Eastenders soap, filming at Dalkey’s Coliemore Harbour and Dunmore East in Waterford.

Long established for stunning locations and landscapes, Ireland’s attractiveness to global film productions is now cemented with solid foundations right across the production chain.

American writer-director Whit Stilman, whose latest film, the 18th-century set Love & Friendship, currently showing in cinemas, and which was shot in various Irish locations, said: “Working here was absolutely ideal. This is the best place I have ever shot a film, definitely the best crew I have ever worked with.

“Any project I could possibly shoot in Ireland in the future, I will definitely shoot them here.”

High praise indeed from an Oscar-nominated filmmaker. An associated industry spin off — ‘set jetting’ — is fast becoming a growing tourist niche market, with tours from Dublin and Belfast to the filming sites in Game of Thrones now a hot ticket for visitors keen to experience places like the Dark Hedges and Tollymore Forest.

A further measure of the industry’s confidence was demonstrated by the announcement last week by the Audiovisual Federation, the Ibec group representing the audiovisual sector in Ireland, of proposals to build a major studio on the former Irish Glass Bottle site at Dublin’s Ringsend.

James Morris, the founder of Windmill Lane Studios, and film producer, Alan Moloney, are developing proposals to build a 180,000 sq ft studio on the site, with several individual sound stages and large indoor sets.

Audiovisual Federation Director Torlach Denihan said: “If the proposed development comes to fruition it will be a further strengthening of Ireland’s audiovisual industry, where a strong momentum is now established.”

He cautioned that films have a lengthy planning horizon, and the sector is still recovering from a 40% reduction in capital spending by the Irish Film Board during the period 2008-14.

“The wider audiovisual industry employs more than 6,000 people in approximately 1,000 companies, most of which are SMEs, and has an annual payroll of the order of €270 million.”

He added that 18% of tourists cite film or television as the reason for their visit to Ireland.

Northern Ireland’s burgeoning film industry has also taken a leap forward with plans for a new £10m (€13.2m) film studio complex on the outskirts of Belfast.

North Foreshow Film Studios will be developed by Belfast Harbour on a former landfill site, compromising four buildings with significant production, workshop facilities, and stages.

The success of Game of Thrones has propelled the North into the international spotlight as a filming location and recent figures show that the past five seasons of the series has injected more than £115m (€151m) into the local economy — supported by an investment funding of £12.45m (€16.38m) from Northern Ireland Screen.

Rounding out the industry’s overall positive outlook across Ireland is the soon-to-open Troy Studios in Limerick.

The studio, located in the cavernous former Dell Computer complex at Castletroy, has confirmed it has negotiated a deal with the UK’s Pinewood Studiosto handle its international bookings.

Troy Studios pulled in funding of €2.7m earlier this year, and will shortly unveil facilities extended to 340,000sq ft of ‘high-specification sound studio and support facilities for film and television productions, providing the perfect set-up for large scale movies and/or high-end television series’.

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