Game of Thrones boost to Northern Irish economy

Image Copyright HBO
The production team behind HBO and Sky Atlantic’s monstrous hit series Game of Thrones is currently in sunny Iceland filming scenes set in the ancient woodlands North of the Wall. In the extreme cold beneath the Aurora Borealis the countdown to the show’s second season premiere (April 1 in the US, April 2 in the UK) is swiftly running out.
Although much will depend upon the show’s performance through its second season, by all appearances Game of Thrones looks set to find at least a third season, and according to show runner’s assistant Cat Taylor’s production blog their six months in Northern Ireland have been a bit of a dream.
The show has already achieved a great deal, however, for the citizens of Northern Ireland, who have benefitted from a massive boost to the local economy and an estimated eight hundred seasonal jobs. The show’s interior sets – including Winterfell, ancestral seat of House Stark – were constructed inside the old Harland and Wolff Paint Hall near Belfast’s city centre, and required the expertise of scores of electricians, carpenters and set-builders, not to mention the film-makers at Belfast-based Acorn Video, who are in the process of shooting a series of behind-the-scenes documentaries.
Beyond the city limits, a huge number of spots around the country have stood in for King Renly’s camp, Harrenhal and the Godswood, among others, while crews on the windswept and forbidding causeway coast have made ample use of the province’s notoriously fickle weather to conjure the rough and forbidding Iron Islands and Pyke, seat of the Greyjoys. This has created a wide range of volunteering opportunities both for the show’s technical crew and set production teams and the upkeep of the locations themselves, many of which are owned by charitable organisations.
Although the production has been a tremendous boon for the province and an unparalleled opportunity to showcase its natural beauty, some in the industry are remaining level-headed. Belfast-born Director of Hotel Rwanda Terry George recently told the website Irish Central, “I have to voice a note of caution as the big studios and the big productions can vanish just as fast as they appeared, so while it’s wonderful to have HBO and NBC/Universal there, if local productions, local film makers and local talent are not given long-term financial and structural support we’ll be left with empty studio space and a lot of people having to go abroad to find work.”
Game of Thrones is steadily releasing a series of on-set videos showing their travels around the world and the slowly emerging world of Westeros. Keep your eyes peeled in the months after the new series for the opportunity to be part of that creation.