HBO to shoot pilot in Northern Ireland
THE AMERICAN company behind television hits such as The Sopranosand Sex and the Cityis to make a pilot programme in Northern Ireland which has the potential to create hundreds of jobs and generate millions of pounds for the North’s economy.
HBO, the US’s leading pay cable network, plans to begin work on A Game of Thronesin October at locations around Northern Ireland and at the Paint Hall studio in the Titanic Quarter of east Belfast.
A Game of Thrones, described as a medieval fantasy, is the first novel in a series of seven books entitled A Song of Ice and Fire, by George RR Martin. Americans David Benioff and Dan Weiss, who met while studying at Trinity College Dublin, are writing and producing the television adaptation.
The pilot project was confirmed after a meeting between First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness with HBO during their recent US visit around St Patrick’s Day.
If the pilot is successful it is expected that each novel will require 10 episodes of filming. According to political and business sources the full series could create up to 600 jobs and be worth up to £20 million annually to the economy.
A Game of Thronesis part of an epic series set in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, a land that is reminiscent of medieval Europe. Rick Hill, chairman of Northern Ireland Screen, which with Invest Northern Ireland is providing £1.6 million in funding, described it as “ Lord of the Ringsmeets The Sopranos”.
HBO’s decision is yet another boost for Northern Ireland’s film industry. The news of the project follows on Universal Studios’ decision to shoot a multimillion-dollar fantasy film, Your Highness, a comedy about an arrogant, lazy prince and his more heroic brother, in Belfast. Your Highnesswill be shot entirely on location this summer at the Paint Hall where City of Ember, another fantasy, starring Bill Murray, was filmed.
Moyra Lock, NI Screen’s head of marketing, said that despite the recession the facilities on offer and the relatively low strength of sterling against the dollar and euro made Northern Ireland an attractive place in which to make films.
She believed the future for the industry both locally and in terms of enticing the big international companies here was very strong.
Mr Robinson said the project was a “major coup”. He added that HBO was a “worldwide brand” which had an “enviable reputation for offering very high-quality, original programming, receiving critical acclaim for its productions”.
Mr McGuinness said “this is a further boost for this sector and evidence that even in the midst of a difficult economic climate, we can attract world-leading companies to our shores”.