Northern Ireland is hoping to tempt more Game of Thrones-style high-end TV and film productions to the country as part of a new four-year £43m ($71.5m) plan.
Northern Ireland Screen, the region’s funding body, has launched Opening Doors, a scheme running through to 2018 that will see it attempt to develop Northern Ireland into the strongest screen industry outside of London.
The new fund will dramatically increase from the £27.3m ($45.5m) invested between 2010 and 2014 to £42.8m ($71.5m) over the next four years.
CEO Richard Williams said that the previous scheme – Driving Global Growth – has provided a £121m ($200m) return on investment and it hopes the new plan will bring in £250m ($415m).
“The vision is to have the strongest screen industry outside of London within ten years,” he added.
The body also announced Sepia, a brand-new commission from Microsoft’s Xbox Studios that will film in Northern Ireland in mid-May. The TV movie, which is based on a computer game franchise, will be produced by Ridley Scott’s Scott Free and Generator Entertainment, run by Mark Huffan and Aidan Elliott.
Arlene Foster, the Norther Ireland Minister for the department of enterprise, trade and investment said that much progress had been made in the last ten years.
“It has been a tremendous period for Northern Ireland,” she said, highlighting the new series of Game of Thrones as well as BBC dramas The Fall and Line of Duty.
“The creative industries have provided a real economic boost for Northern Ireland and now Northern Ireland is viewed as an excellent new centre of creativity.
She added that Games of Thrones alone added £87m ($145m) to the local economy.
Northern Ireland Screen is hoping to develop more films such as Road, which launched at the Belfast Film Festival, a documentary produced by DoubleBond Films narrated by Liam Neeson that look at two generations of The Dunlops, a family of motorcycle racers.
Other recent film successes include Good Vibrations, a film about the Northern Ireland punk rock scene written by Colin Carberry and Glenn Patterson, directed by Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn and distributed by The Works, and Starred Up, a prison drama directed by David Mackenzie and produced by Quickfire Films, LipSync Productions, Sigma Films and Film4 in association with Northern Ireland Screen and Creative Scotland.
Williams admitted that sales and distribution for independent films was still a challenge and that the organization was going to look at what it can do to improve the opportunities for Northern Irish films abroad. However, he warned that the body didn’t have a “silver bullet” answer.
The drive is being supported by Invest NI and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment as well as the film hub at the Queen’s Film Theatre.