'Game of Thrones' puts Northern Ireland on the map

By Siobhan Starrs

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, June 22 2014 12:00 a.m. MDT

Five years ago, 80 percent of Yellow Moon's work was for local broadcasters, and just 20 percent for productions based in the U.K. or further afield. Now, 70 percent of their work is commissioned outside Northern Ireland.

"'Game of Thrones' are directly or indirectly responsible for 80 percent of the people that we have taken on in the last three years, because if they didn't come we wouldn't have the other work," said Darby.

Scott Ferguson's story illustrates what "Game of Thrones" means for young creative people in Northern Ireland.

He dreamt of being a film editor, but his first experience in the industry failed to lead to more work, so he took a job in a bank. Then five years ago a government training scheme lead to a placement at Yellow Moon and he is now a colorist on the show, adding mood and tone to the images in post-production, and on his way to becoming an expert in his field.

Ferguson is confident that people like him will no longer need to emigrate to seek work in film and TV, now that Northern Ireland's reputation as a production hub is growing.

"We have world class facilities, and we now have a world class crew. We have a shooting crew and we have a post crew who have worked on the biggest, most watched, most successful TV show that has been around for a while," he said.

Statistics can't do justice to the "Game of Thrones" effect on Northern Ireland's economy, said economist Graham Brownlow, from Queens University Belfast. He says the show is helping to improve the province's international image, which for decades had become synonymous with political violence and economic stagnation.

"The real benefits that Northern Ireland secures are the things that are most difficult to measure" he explained. "By creating a critical mass for film and TV productions it creates a good image for Northern Ireland, which stimulates further production in Northern Ireland, which improves the image of Northern Ireland," Brownlow said.

That 'critical mass' now includes 'Dracula Untold', a Universal Pictures movie with an October 2014 release date and Ridley Scott's new 'Halo' feature, which is also expected to be released before the end of the year.

These and other features will need best boys, wardrobe assistants, carpenters, camera operators and colorists and Northern Ireland's new local talent pool will be only too happy to oblige.

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