Derry Girls, Dragons and Bent Coppers
Bent coppers. AC-12. H. By now, most of us will be so familiar with the watercooler terminology associated with Line of Duty that even people who have never watched an episode know exactly what these acronyms and phrases refer to. People in Northern Ireland will have found the discussion about the show particularly hard to get away from since not only is Enniskillen actor Adrian Dunbar at its centre but five out of the show’s six seasons have been filmed in Belfast.
As an example of just how close to home Line of Duty is, you might be surprised to learn that AC-12’s headquarters – the show’s Anti-Corruption Unit – is based at Invest Northern Ireland’s Belfast office! You may also recognise Central Command’s HQ as the majestic Central Library building on Royal Avenue, and eagle-eyed viewers will have spotted car chases on Botanic Avenue, warehouse locations in both East and West Belfast, and a chemist disguised as bookmaker’s off the city’s Cavehill Road.
However, that Northern Ireland has played host to a show which has consistently broken UK viewership records should come as no surprise. 2021 marks the region’s “Iron Anniversary”, which fans of the HBO fantasy-drama Game of Thrones will recognise as the show’s tenth anniversary. Over the course of eight seasons, Game of Thrones – which had an average episode budget of approximately £10 million – showcased some of Northern Ireland’s most iconic landmarks, including the Dark Hedges, Inch Abbey, Dunluce Castle, Tollymore Forest Park, the Cushendun Caves and Castle Ward.
These, of course, are only two of the most prominent examples of successful filming projects in Northern Ireland, but the list of TV shows and films which have utilised the region’s talent, location and affordable costs is almost endless. The success of Channel 4’s Derry Girls – created by Northern Ireland-born playwright Lisa McGee – has been one of the biggest good news stories to come out of the region in a very long time. Recently renewed for a third season, the sitcom has boosted, not only the image of its eponymous city, but tourism, culture and inward investment for the whole of Northern Ireland.
Netflix has recently been utilising the impressive infrastructure at Belfast Harbour Studios for the filming of their upcoming fantasy film The School for Good and Evil, and it has even been reported that some of the film’s Hollywood stars – Charlize Theron, Laurence Fishburne, Kerry Washington and Michelle Yeoh – have been spotted donning their facemasks around Belfast.
None of this would be possible, of course, without the work of tireless advocates in Northern Ireland’s homegrown film and television industry. Organisations like Northern Ireland Screen, in particular, independent cinemas such as Queens Film Theatre and Strand Arts Centre, as well as academically affiliated programmes like the Screen and Media Innovation Lab run by the University of Ulster, are bringing through a whole new generation of talent; both in front of and off-camera.
The future looks very bright indeed for the Northern Ireland film and TV industry, and with fresh opportunities, a skilled workforce and beautiful locations presenting themselves all the time, it’s hard to see why production teams wouldn’t want to house their next big project here.