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Titanic Studios Expands as Northern Irish Filmmakers Honoured
12 Oct 2012 : By Eva Hall
Northern Irish ministers Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson (centre) both attended the launch
Late Northern Irish filmmakers Brian Desmond Hurst and William MacQuitty have had two new sound stages at the Titanic Studios in Belfast named in their honour.

The sound stages, which were officially launched at the Titanic Quarter in Belfast on Wednesday, added a €10.2m (£8.3m) extension to the 185 acre site. The North’s first and deputy First Ministers attended the launch.

Brian Desmond Hurst was born in Belfast and directed his first film ‘Tell Tale Heart’ in 1934. A lifelong friend of Irish-American filmmaker John Ford, Hurst was on hand to assist Ford when he directed ‘The Quiet Man’ in the west of Ireland in 1952, and even featured in some of Ford’s early work.

Hurst directed the perennial Christmas classic ‘Scrooge’, which was released in 1951. His work was often considered as being too dark or too controversial, and his War of Independence love story ‘Ourselves Alone’ was banned in Northern Ireland in 1936.

His other works include ‘Irish Hearts’ (1934); ‘One the Night of the Fire’ (1939); ‘Malta Story’ (1953) and ‘The Black Tent’ (1956).

His great-great nephew Allan Esler Smith attended the launch in Belfast yesterday, noting “It is a source of great pride that we now have these world-class film and television production sets on our doorstep”.

Esler Smith also attended the inaugural John Ford Ireland Film Symposium in Dublin last June on behalf of his late great-great uncle, who died in 1986.

William MacQuitty was also born in Belfast, and began making films during World War II. His amateur film ‘Simple Silage’, which he made for the benefit of his farming neighbours, caught the attention of the Ministry of Information, launching him on a new and unexpected career.

His best known work is the feature film ‘A Night to Remember’, which he produced in 1958. It relives the story of the Titanic ship.

Other feature films which he produced include ‘Happy Family’; ‘Street Corner’; ‘The Beachcomber’ and ‘Above us the Waves’.

He worked with Hurst on the 1956 film ‘The Black Tent’. In 1959 he helped found Ulster Television and subsequently became its first managing director. MacQuitty died in 2004.

The Titanic Quarter is one of Europe’s largest urban-waterfront regeneration schemes, with work ongoing on site since 2006. It lies on the original grounds where the RMS Titanic ship was built, and is home to the largest Titanic museum, Titanic Belfast; Northern Ireland Science Park; T13 Urban Sports Academy; Belfast Metropolitan College and Titanic Studios, where ‘Game of Thrones’, ‘Your Highness’ and ‘City of Ember’ among others were filmed.

Speaking at Wednesday’s launch, CEO of Titanic Quarter David Gavaghan said: “These new sound stages are a most timely addition to our film production landscape as Titanic Quarter seeks to ensure Northern Ireland capitalises fully on the huge global opportunities which exist in this sector.”

Richard Williams, CEO of Northern Ireland Screen, which helped fund the three aforementioned projects, said: “In 2007 Northern Ireland Screen identified the need for a studio facility in Northern Ireland, which would add value to our overall proposition to promote Northern Ireland to the worldwide production sector.

“Having taken the lease on the Paint Hall and effectively turning it into a fully-functioning studio, we were able to secure our first large incoming production, ‘City of Ember’, which was followed up by a feature film from Universal Pictures and a pilot and subsequent series of ‘Game of Thrones’ from HBO.”

Paint Hall Studio is based in the Titanic Quarter, and has been the main home of HBO fantasy drama ‘Game of Thrones’ for the last three seasons. Speaking on the set last July, executive producer Frank Doelger said: “The two new stages they've built for the Titanic Quarter are absolutely fantastic, they've really been a great, great benefit to us”.

Williams added: “Tribute must be paid to Titanic Quarter and the Northern Ireland Executive through Invest NI, for recognising the need for further studio infrastructure to help boost our standing in the global marketplace. The construction of the two new purpose-built stages is a major addition to our portfolio and will further boost Northern Ireland’s credentials as a first-class production location.“

Season three of ‘Game of Thrones’ is preparing to wrap production in Northern Ireland, having filmed in every county in the region over the last three seasons. The production will move to Iceland to take advantage of the real snowfall, with an expected air date due for March 2013.

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