The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland have experienced contrasting fortunes since the introduction of the UK tax credit over 18 months ago. While the North, which is part of the UK, has managed to attract a major US studio production, the Republic has lost its appeal to US producers.

Northern Ireland Screen (NIS) has every reason to celebrate thanks to the arrival of Walden Media/Playtone's $50m fantasy adventure City Of Ember, backed by Twentieth Century Fox, which filmed in Belfast.

'The search to find our production city was quite vast, being driven by the need for a large, available stage space within our budget,' explains Kimberly Rach, vice-president of physical production at Walden Media.

'Northern Ireland drew our attention because of the availability and size of the Paint Hall. The strong support of NIS and the UK tax credit made it competitive with other locations.'

The Paint Hall is a huge building that stands 90ft tall, set on an eight acre site close to central Belfast. It contains four 16,000sq ft cells connected by an internal road network, and is available rent free from Northern Ireland Screen. 'The Paint Hall provided us with the flexibility to build our sets and not rely so heavily on visual effects,' says Rach. 'The facility was quite rough but NIS and our production made upgrades during the prep process.'

NIS spokesperson Moyra Locke adds: 'It boosts Northern Ireland as a location for large-scale productions. Previously we didn't have such a studio space to offer and we have welcomed a couple of US studios here on familiarisation trips.'

Northern Ireland Screen also came up with hard cash - the project maximum of $1.2m from its production fund, since increased to $1.6m - which City Of Ember's producers were able to add to UK tax credit finance.

Having wrapped Ember, Rach is open to returning to Belfast. 'Being in a smaller production centre allowed us to get the attention and support from the film commission and local businesses. We felt very well taken care of and the crew worked tirelessly.'

Meanwhile, the Republic of Ireland is struggling. Despite a successful 2006 with The Wind That Shakes The Barley and Becoming Jane both shooting there, the number of productions has dropped this year. This is due in part to the UK's new tax credit which requires projects to shoot a good proportion in the UK.

Instead, there is now a great deal of UK and international TV production taking place in Ireland (The Tudors, Murphy's Law) because Section 481, the Irish tax break, is available to TV producers, unlike its UK counterpart.

Key agencies: Northern Ireland Screen, Irish Film Board

Contacts: Moyra Locke,, (44) 28 9023 2444

Simon Perry,, (353) 91 561 398