23 February 2024 The Irish Film & Television Network
2015 review: Another strong year for Northern Ireland Screen
21 Dec 2015 : Seán Brosnan
‘Game of Thrones’ – filmed in Northern Ireland – won a record-breaking 12 Emmy Awards this year
2015 has been another fantastic year for the film and television sector in Northern Ireland, with Emmy and BAFTA Awards as well as Oscar nominations being handed out to Northern Irish productions.

Projects to film in 2015 include ‘The Frankenstein Chronicles’, ‘The Truth Commissioner’, ‘Line of Duty’ series three, ‘Morgan’, ‘Millie Inbetween’ series two, ‘Lost City of Z’, ‘The Journey’, ‘We’re Doomed! The Dad’s Army Story’, ‘The Secret’, ‘The Fall’ series three and of ‘Game of Thrones’ season six.

2015 also saw ‘Game of Thrones’ win a record-breaking 12 Emmys, taking home more awards in a single year than any other show. Wins included awards for local Production Mixer Ronan Hill and Casting Director Carla Stronge. Recently audited figures for ‘Game of Thrones’ show that the production of season five injected £26.3 million to the Northern Ireland economy, bringing the total amount across seasons 1-5 (including the pilot episode) to £115 million with an investment of £12.45m from Northern Ireland Screen.

Zoe Ball and Ashley Banjo were in Northern Ireland to present BBC One primetime gameshow ‘Can’t Touch This’, devised and produced by local luminaries Kieran Doherty and Matthew Worthy of independent production company Stellify Media, where contestants have to negotiate a larger-than-life assault course while simultaneously battling it out to touch the amazing prizes along the way. That is due to air in 2016.

The animation sector continues to go from strength to strength with ‘Lily’s Driftwood Bay’ winning a Broadcast Award as well as an IFTA Award and Cartoon Saloon’s ‘Puffin Rock’ hitting screens. ‘Zig and Zag’ is set to air in 2016 and ‘Pablo’, the first children’s series to be made about a character on the autism spectrum, will go into production. NI Screen also worked with DEL to establish an Animation Academy to address the industry need for additional animators.

2015 was a cultural high for Northern Ireland Screen, local voices were heard all around the world and local talent had its time to shine on the international stage with short film Boogaloo and Graham directed by Michael Lennox winning a BAFTA and receiving an Oscar nomination for Best Live Action Short Film. Later in the year Michael’s feature debut ‘A Patch of Fog’ made it into official selection in the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival.

Writer/director Stephen Fingleton’s debut feature film, ‘The Survivalist’, received critical acclaim following its screening at Tribeca Film Festival in New York. Industry magazine Screen Daily called Fingleton ‘a major discovery’. The film went on to be shortlisted for two British Independent Film Awards, with Stephen winning the Douglas Hickox Award for Best Debut Director, as well as being named as one of this year’s BAFTA Breakthrough Brits alongside local actor Martin McCann who starred in the film.

Northern Ireland Screen’s Irish Language Broadcast Fund (ILBF) celebrated its 10th Anniversary in 2015. The fund has become a critical tent-pole of the growing independent production sector in Northern Ireland contributing approximately £3.5 million in turnover to a sector that is worth approximately £20 million in total. 2015 saw a variety of ILBF funded programming on screens including ‘Mary McAleese & An Chéad Eorpach’ in which Mary McAleese looked back on the life of Columbanus 1400 years after his death. ‘Opry an Iúir’, the music show presented by Daniel O’Donnell was back for a third series and ‘Ar Scáth na Sléibhte’ (In the Shadow of the Mountains) was a documentary that explored the mountains of Ulster.

The Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund continued to support a wide-range of local programming. ‘Imagining Ulster’ explored the social and political influences defining identity in Northern Ireland from its creation, while ‘Paul and Nick’s Big American Food Trip’ brought the story of Ulster Scots in American to 350,000 viewers across UTV in Northern Ireland and STV in Scotland. The documentary series ‘Brave New World Canada’ explored Canada's remarkable cultural connections with Ulster, and ‘Minding Our Language’, a documentary in which comedian Tim McGarry explored the history of the Scots language. ‘Brave New World Canada’ won an inaugural Royal Television Society NI Award, while ‘Five Fables’ won a Celtic Media Award.

Northern Ireland Screen’s Digital Film Archive went online in 2015; the archive contains almost 80 hours of moving images from 1897 to 2014. Highlights on the archive include street scenes of Belfast from 1898, Amelia Earhart landing in Derry in 1932; and footage of the Rugby Schools Cup in 1939. Footage from the archive can currently be seen on the Big Screen at Belfast City Hall.

Northern Ireland Screen also had a successful year in terms of its education activity. In June delegates from all over Europe gathered at the Cinémathèque Française in Paris to discuss the future of film education in Europe, Moving Image Arts, Northern Ireland’s distinctive film education course for 14–19 year olds, was presented to delegates as an exemplary project.

Belfast's Ashfield Girls' High School won the Into Film Club of the Year (13 and over) award. The club was one of only three clubs out of over 10,000 running across the United Kingdom to have reached the finals of Film Club of the Year. It was recognised for its commitment to inclusion, involving students from across the academic divide including students with Special Educational Needs and literacy difficulties and for engaging pupils whose first language is not English.

Richard Williams, Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Screen, said: “2015 has been a great year for the screen industries and we have only skimmed the surface here. 2016 already looks to be a busy year with new BBC drama My Mother and Other Strangers already in pre-production and lots more exciting projects in the pipeline.”

He continued: “When we launched our four year strategy in 2014, Opening Doors, we aimed for a direct spend of £250m in the local economy based on an investment of £42.8m, I am delighted that as we approach the final quarter of the second year of this strategy we are well on our way to achieving this with an estimated £119m Northern Ireland spend to date on an investment of £14.1m by Northern Ireland Screen.”

“These are exciting times and we appreciate that this is the result of tremendous support given to the screen sector here by Invest Northern Ireland, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and DCAL.”

For more on Northern Ireland Screen, go to www.northernirelandscreen.co.uk.

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