‘Vikings’ the TV series will ship out of Ireland today after an 18 week-long shoot, leaving €20m in revenue behind.
The History Channel series has been shooting on location in Ashford Studios in Ballyhenry in Co Wicklow since July. It is estimated that the €30m production has employed over 500 Irish cast and crew, and invested a hefty €20m in the country, from everything to set designs, studio facilities, and employing thousands of extras.
Michael Hirst, the vision behind period dramas ‘The Tudors’ and ‘Camelot’, which also shot in Ireland, received funding from the Irish Film Board and benefited from Section 481 for his latest project.
CEO of the Irish Film Board, James Hickey, said Hirst’s Irish-shot projects were responsible for over €140m in direct foreign investment. He added: “Overall, the increasing levels of film and television production in Ireland over the recent past could, if sustained, create over 5,000 new full time equivalent jobs over the next five years.”
Among the Irish crew wrapping their scenes in Ashford today are actors Tadhg Murphy, Diarmuid Murtagh and David Murray, who are filming under the direction of Canadian director Ken Girotti.
Lead actor Gabriel Byrne, who plays Viking leader Earl Haraldson in the 10-part series, wrapped his scenes almost two months ago. Byrne will begin production on another TV series called ‘Quirke’ in Dublin on Monday.
‘Vikings’ will mark the first scripted series for The History Channel, and follows real-life figures such as Haraldson and Ragnar Lothbrok, who is known as a young descendant of the gods, played by Australian actor Travis Fimmel (Tarzan).
Michael Hirst’s great writing, a fantastic team of Irish talent & the new Ashford Studios made Ireland the right choice for this production
The series will chart Lothbrok’s attempts to become King of the Vikings, as he conspires with Haraldson’s wife, played by ‘Glee’ star Jessalyn Gilsig, to overthrow the Viking leader.
Among the 500-strong Irish crew were co-producers World 2000 Entertainment, of which Morgan O’Sullivan was the executive producer along with Octagon Films’ James Flynn and Hirst. Canada’s Take 5 Productions co-produced.
‘The Tudors’ director Ciaran Donnelly helmed episodes in the second block of the series, while Emmy-winning production designer Tom Conroy (The Tudors) designed the set, which is reported to have cost millions to assemble.
Line producer Séamus McInerney, costume designer Joan Bergin, hair stylist Dee Corcoran and makeup artist Tom McInerney were all on set to cater for the thousands of cast members.
Irish actors David Pearse (Trivia), Eric Higgins (The Tudors) and Gerard McCarthy (The Fall) also landed lead roles.
Speaking on set this week, O’Sullivan, who will be present for today’s final shoot, said he was “delighted” to work with Hirst again, having previously produced Irish-shot ‘Camelot’ and ‘The Tudors’ with the period drama specialist.
O’Sullivan added: “The combination of his great writing, a fantastic team of Irish creative talent in front of and behind the camera and the wonderful new facility at Ashford Film Studios made Ireland the right choice for this production. These factors combined with the support from the Irish Film Board and access to Section 481 made Ireland a financially competitive location for ‘Vikings’.”
Conroy’s set will be dismantled immediately after shooting wraps today. All post-production will take place in Canada.
O'Sullivan told IFTN he is "optimistic" a second series will get picked up by The History Channel. ‘Vikings’ will air on The History Channel in March in 2013. World 2000 will retain the Irish distribution rights, while MGM is handling international distribution.