'Last year the big Hollywood film [Walden Media's children's adventure City Of Ember] afforded a great deal of experience for many local cast and crew and brought over £9m [$17.7m] into Northern Ireland,' said Richard Williams, chief executive of Northern Ireland Screen, in a statement to the press. 'But we have always sought to nurture local talent and support our indigenous film-makers.'
Among the projects are several low-budget films from the newly launched production outfit Generator Entertainment. Set up by producers Simon Bosanquet (Ripley's Game, The Life And Death Of Peter Sellers) and Mark Huffam (Mickybo & Me, Mamma Mia) Generator is embarking on an initial slate of five films, four of which would shoot in Northern Ireland in the first half of this year. Further films are planned to shoot in Northern Ireland in 2008 and in 2009.
The slate is being put together in partnership with Framestore Features and Limelight and is being sold by The Little Film Company.
Filming commenced in Belfast on the Feb 4 on the first production from the slate, Red Mist, which received $487,335 (£247,737) from the Northern Ireland Screen Fund. A supernatural thriller set in an American teaching hospital, the film is based on a script by local writer Spencer Wright, directed by Paddy Breathnach (Shrooms, Man About Dog, I Went Down) and co-produced by Belfast-based Michael Kelly.
Red Mist will be followed by the second film, Chatakwa Falls, written by Richard Crawford and due to crank up in March. That film received $378,967 (£192,623) from the fund.
Northern Ireland Screen will also support Green Park Films' Cherry Bomb to the tune of $491,700 (£250,000). Written by Armagh man Daragh Caville (Middletown), the film follows three teenagers on a wild weekend of drink, drugs, shop-lifting and stealing cars. The film will shoot on location in Northern Ireland and is produced by Belfast's Michael Casey (Freeze Frame, Middletown, My Boy Jack) and directed by Lisa Barros d'Sa and Glen Leyburn.
Further afield Terry Loane (Mickybo & Me) will direct a new adventure film entitled Vanilla Gorilla. Starring Pierce Brosnan and written by Craig Gardner, the film centres around an albino gorilla in captivity and a little girl who helps him escape. Produced by Mark Huffam's Generator Entertainment with Danny Stepper of LA-based Bottled Lightning, the film is due to begin shooting in South Africa in early March.
'Our latest round of funding to Generator Entertainment and Green Park Films reflects our continued commitment to building a sustainable production sector here,' Williams said.