Digital DNA Film and Screen Industry Panel Roundup

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Stephen Connolly collates the discussion and learning from this year’s screen industry panel at Digital DNA 2017…[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]It’s hard to believe, but Northern Ireland has become a hotbed of activity in the film industry, notably thanks to the outstanding success of Game of Thrones.

With the digital evolution in cinema steam-rolling ahead, can Northern Ireland continue to entice Hollywood productions to film here? I had the opportunity to sit down and listen to a Q&A with some industry experts and find out…

Colin Williams, who was born in Northern Ireland and is the founder and creative director of Sixteen South Television believes we can still entice productions to NI; that despite the changes and challenges facing us, we are in a strong position to bring new talent to the fore and to ensure that we can keep up with the rest of the industry.

Richard Williams, CEO of NI Screen has been prominent in ensuring this. He is the man behind Belfast’s Paint Hall studios and who we must thank for Game of Thrones choosing Northern Ireland for location shooting. He says belief plays a big part in why the industry is currently booming here and that it took many years of knock-backs before we were finally considered to be a worthy player.

He recalled a tale of a meeting in LA that he believed to be successful, only to realise the producers he spoke to thought he was representing New Zealand and not Northern Ireland.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]But Richard still receives pleasure from finding that next big thing.

By continuing to generate new projects that film in NI, we can continue to throw our name into the hat when it comes to securing big productions. Richard teased that the recently built Belfast Harbour Studio would soon welcome a massive production but refused to divulge just what that was.

I can reveal that the project is the Superman-inspired prequel series Krypton for Syfy which will film this summer. With this new £20million, 120,000 sq. ft. studio the opportunities for Northern Ireland to secure bigger Hollywood productions has dramatically improved.  

Colin believes that our rich history of storytelling and culture is a great advantage for NI:

“We create things here and watch them grow. Our positivity breeds positivity to others.”

It doesn’t matter to the panel where our buyers come from. Colin currently has 3 shows in production; 1 with an initial release in Australia, 1 in Africa and 1 in North America. That shows what a strong and diverse market NI can be promoted to.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Beryl Richards, a TV/film director of Redbird productions has embraced the culture here so much that she moved here permanently as she found that, when given the choice of where to film, Northern Ireland was top of her list.

She has directed in Scotland, Wales and England but always preferred shooting here. She believes we are enjoying our highest ever profile as a centre of creativity and wants to be part of it.

Most recently the Deputy Chair of BAFTA, Anne Morrison discussed the boost that the increase in production here has brought to the NI economy. The investment here in studios and working space has led to hundreds of local jobs.

Local productions in Irish and Ulster Scots are starting to gain impressive audience figures and we now have a Moving Images course at GCSE and A-Level. 

Gareth Jones, an executive producer at Eavesdrop films and one of the men behind Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels touched on changes he can see in the current industry.

Specialising in Independent film, he is making a product that he needs to sell in order to make a profit. The digitisation of film means the cost has reduced significantly now that shooting on film is no longer common. Now that most productions are filmed on digital and shown on digital, the speed of production has also improved.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Referring to my last article on the effect Netflix is having on the industry, Gareth pointed to Netflix as changing the way Indie films are sold; i.e. Netflix may offer to purchase your film but to premiere it in certain countries only.

His job is to sell the film and make money, but a director may feel their vision will not be seen by the cinematic audience they believe it deserves. A Netflix only release doesn’t get reviewed the way a cinema release will and therefore won’t be marketed as well.

However, it’s a double-edged sword.

If a film is getting buzz and is purchased for a Netflix-only premiere, this will help Netflix regain lost subscriptions and therefore they choose their film projects carefully and pay a little extra for the ones that may benefit them more.

When asked what challenges we face in NI for the future, particularly after Game of Thrones finishes next year, Richard offered a positive answer;

“If we can’t re-sell the creative output behind the most successful show currently on television then we may as well give up now.”

And finally, when I asked whether the future of production here was in long-term returning television shows or big studio productions, the response was unanimous;

“It’s irrelevant. As long as studios want to film here we will always welcome them.”

Northern Ireland – the new land of opportunity?[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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