It is no coincidence producer Jo Gilbert is sitting in a new, swish Belfast hotel as she speaks to Screen - the setting is just one part of the radical redevelopment of the city centre.

"People don't know what to think about Belfast but it's incredibly stylish since the Good Friday agreement," she says of the 1998 accord that marked the beginning of the peace process. "New bars and clubs have sprung up. It's an incredibly chic place." The redevelopment also includes Belfast's Titanic Studios, which Gilbert helped found with her sister Judy.

Gilbert's work as a producer in Northern Ireland is itself a by-product of these more settled times. Since locating to the province in 1999, Gilbert founded the production company Menage a Trois and produced Closing The Ring, a $28m romantic epic starring Shirley MacLaine and Mischa Barton that was directed by Richard Attenborough and partly filmed in Northern Ireland. ContentFilm is handling international sales for the Canada-UK co-production and The Weinstein Company has US rights.

Supported by a fund of $39.2m (£20m) from property developer Robert Whitton, Gilbert and Attenborough have followed Closing The Ring by co-founding production company Real Holywood (after the area in Belfast, rather than its Californian near-namesake).

"Northern Ireland is a very sensible place for finance in film. I think it's a very, very interesting location for producers. It's an exciting time."

Before moving to Belfast, Gilbert was a London-based agent and casting director. She was involved in the Isle of Man's pioneering tax-break initiative, working on The Brylcreem Boys.

Witnessing - and contributing to - the development of the post-Good Friday film industry in Northern Ireland, Gilbert compares it to the excitement that surrounded the Isle of Man film-making boom.

She worked with Attenborough on a long seven-year process to get Closing The Ring made. "He is very much my mentor," she says of the veteran director. "He put me through the finishing school of the politics of film-making.

"It was a difficult time for him," Gilbert continues, referring to Attenborough's loss of three family members in the 2004 Asian tsunami, "but he had such sticking power. We're partners in the film. Without him Closing The Ring wouldn't have been made. He might say the same thing about me. It was a good combination."

Crediting the casting of Barton as MacLaine's younger self as the final critical component in raising finance - it was Gilbert's teenage daughter who drew her attention to The OC star - Gilbert is pleased with Closing The Ring's performance. Opening on a 40-print release in late December via The Works, the film has built up steady word of mouth and increased its run to more than 60 prints. As of January 21, the film has made $237,000 (£121,500).

Gilbert is now developing a handful of projects with Real Holywood, including The Chaps, a Belfast-set comedy Gilbert scripted with BJ Hogg and Hal Fowler, two actors from Northern Ireland that Gilbert met while working on The Brylcreem Boys.

Aspiring to the brand recognition of a company such as Merchant Ivory, Gilbert says she wants Real Holywood to focus on working with good actors on high-quality scripts. "I'm not interested in big CGI pieces or car chases. I just want good emotional pieces people can enjoy on a Sunday afternoon with a big box of chocolates and tissues."