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Coronavirus has "dramatic" impact on Northern Ireland's film industry

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The coronavirus pandemic has a “dramatic” impact on the film and TV industry in Northern Ireland, the head of a national industry body has said.

  • Read more: All the films and TV shows suspended due to coronavirus

Richard Williams of Northern Ireland Screen said 25 film and TV productions have been halted in the country due to the ongoing crisis. He added there will be “companies that will not survive this period of time.”

BBC series Line Of Duty and Robert Eggers’ big budget film The Northman, starring Nicole Kidman and Alexander Skarsgård, were being filmed in the country but are now on hold. Williams told BBC News NI that The Northman‘s postponement would have a huge impact.

“That’s a project that’s financed out of the US studio system in America,” he said. “Nicole Kidman was in the cast of that and there were tens upon tens upon tens of millions of dollars in the production budget.”

Nicole Kidman
Nicole Kidman

He said that there are approximately “500 to 600 people” working on The Northman, adding that many local crew are on freelance contracts who’ve needed support from the government during the crisis.

“We’re a freelance industry and while the treasury and UK government have put a massive amount of financial support underpinning jobs we have a very considerable problem here that a big chunk of our freelancers fall in between the two stools of those supports,” he said.

“In our analysis about three-quarters of the crew in the sector are receiving some sort of support so that aspect is good but that’s cold comfort for anybody who’s not.”

Northern Ireland Screen’s funding comes from a variety of sources including Invest NI, the Department for the Economy (DfE), the British Film Institute (BFI) and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI).

As the BBC reports further, Northern Ireland’s budget was about £17.8m in 2017/18, and it aims for a £6 return to the economy for every £1 it provides in funding.

Much of ‘Game Of Thrones’ was filmed in Northern Ireland. CREDIT: Alamy

“The contribution to the economy for this financial year will be substantially down,” Williams added. “If we have 40 per cent of the value that we would have been projecting pre-COVID in this financial year we’ll be doing pretty damn well.”

Among the productions being made in the country but are currently on hold is a remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre by Northern Irish film-making brothers Andy and Ryan Tohill.

“There are so many people all of the time in such a confined space that is quite problematic and how to control that is something I can’t even wrap my head around at the minute,” Ryan Tohill told BBC News

“I’ve no doubt that it will come back it’s just how slowly that process happens.”

Meanwhile, the coronavirus crisis could cost the film industry $20 billion (£16.3b), according to reports.

Previously, Hollywood figures were said to be expecting the outbreak to cost the industry around £5 billion (£4.1b).

However, losses reported in March had already exceeded $7 billion (£5.7b) after production on a number of big titles have been suspended and several high profile releases have been postponed, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

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