TV/Film Production, Legal Jobs, Both on Rise in Northern Irelandback to list
Formerly battle-weary Northern Ireland, and Belfast in particular, are showing signs of an economic resurgence, now that the Peace Process there seems to have succeeded and taken root. Two Northern Ireland developments in particular have been making headlines in the media and legal worlds: (1) a dramatic rise in television and film production work, and (2) the decision of two of London's biggest law firms to set up legal outsourcing operations there.
Jake Bickerton of Televisual reports on a positive "sea change in outlook" for independent television and film production companies in Ireland's North:
"As recently as 18 months ago you could have counted the number of network commissions coming out of Northern Ireland on one hand and still had a few fingers left over. Now it’s an entirely different landscape, with the majority of indies looking outside the local market and landing network shows...."
Much of this growth comes from "a concerted effort" by the BBC to engage with the region and boost the numbers of network commissions in Belfast to 3% by 2016. But our clients HBO, Channel Four, and Waddell Media are also having a big impact there.
For example, HBO's "Game of Thrones," recently shot and edited in Northern Ireland, is the biggest TV production ever made in the UK. Reports Bickerton in the Televisual article:
“'Sector wide, Game of Thrones has been a huge deal – it brought in a lot of money and puts to rest any issues as to whether Northern Ireland can deliver big drama,' says Wild Rover’s [Managing Director Phil] Morrow."
"'It’s a most amazing thing Richard Williams [CEO of Northern Ireland Screen] has done, and has proven to London there’s no reason Northern Ireland can’t do a big production,' agrees Below The Radar’s [Managing Director Trevor] Birney...."
"The series was edited at Belfast’s Yellow Moon, which spent £200k gearing up for it. 'We supplied the cutting rooms and did the dailies and offline,' says md Greg Darby. 'If it comes back for another five years, which is possible, we can hire sound people and colourists and really bolster up our facilities.'”
Channel 4 and Waddell Media are also getting into the act:
"C4 is now also showing signs of wanting to do more with Belfast’s indies, through its Creative Diversity department, headed up by Stuart Cosgrove, which is making a concerted effort to reach out to the Northern Ireland production community."
"Long-standing indie Waddell Media now makes C4’s well-respected 4thought.tv strand that follows the C4 news every weeknight, and many of Belfast’s production outfits are broadly optimistic about their chances of soon also securing C4 commissions."
"'Landing a network commission for C4 has been our main focus and we’re getting very close,' says Brendan Hughes, who heads up Tern TV’s Belfast office. 'I’ve been surprised by how C4 engages with Belfast and think they are doing a terrific job. They are beginning to put a lot of effort in but none of us deserve to get a commission, you need a very good idea.'"
As Televisual also reports, Waddell and other independents in Northern Ireland are having additional success securing commissions for the U.S. market:
"The other big market for Belfast’s indies is America, with Waddell Media leading the way with series for Discovery and other key broadcasters, and the likes of Wild Rover and Below The Radar amongst the other production outfits finding success in the States."
"'We met the Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney [who directed Taxi To the Dark Side and Enron: the Smartest Guys in the Room] in Galway and set up a partnership programme with him,' says Below The Radar md Trevor Birney. 'Gibney makes four or five docs a year and it’s a huge learning process for us to discover how he funds them. We’re launching an online news and current affairs platform called The Detail and are discussing doing a documentary about Northern Ireland with Gibney as exec producer. The doc would talk about Northern Ireland here and now, in a similar way to how Gibney approached his doc about Enron.'”
"The Belfast trailblazers in the US, Waddell Media, set up a New York office three years ago, headed up by Jon-Barrie Waddell. 'We’ve really expanded into the US market and have now completed productions for Nat Geo, Discovery, A&E, The History Channel and G4,' he explains. “It’s a good market and around 40% of our work is now for the US.'”
"Waddell’s success is being mirrored by Wild Rover, which is making major inroads with its recently developed LE game show formats. Both Secret Fortune and another Wild Rover show, Take The Money and Run, are being remade for the US market, the latter having been picked up by ABC with Jerry Bruckheimer exec producing. 'We’ve very, very big international ambitions for doing very big primetime projects,' says Morrow."
As mentioned above, Northern Ireland's recent success also has extended to the legal outsourcing arena, where extremely generous government subsidies have enticed major UK law firms to set up shop there. The Law Without Borders blog covers this as follows:
"A flurry of reports indicate that UK mega law firms Allen & Overy and Herbert Smith both are setting up legal support offices in formerly war-torn Belfast in the coming months. The outsourced jobs will include not only hundreds of back-office clerical positions, but also over 75 fee-earning legal jobs."
"Despite an old reputation for 'their tanks and their bombs, and their bombs and their guns' ('Zombie'), the North of Ireland is a beautiful part of the world, with a youthful, highly educated, English speaking population, eager for knowledge-based jobs. A double-whammy of globalization and open street warfare practically ended the manufacturing sector that was once the heart of Belfast's economy, leaving massive unemployment. But while Belfast, Derry, and the rest of Northern Ireland are among the most economically depressed areas of Europe, payscales and operating costs are still many times higher than those of India. So how did Belfast win the competition?"
"Well, it didn't hurt that 'Invest Northern Ireland,' the government's development agency, made an offer the London firms could not refuse. It agreed to pay Allen & Overy 2.5 million Pounds to set up its new 'Support and Legal Services Centre,' and to pay 208,000 Pounds to Herbert Smith to launch its document review/due diligence operation. Given that these two 'magic circle' law firms collectively brought in over 3 billion Pounds last year in fees, the Belfast location incentives make these firms among the wealthiest government aid recipients in the world. The government hand-outs amount to about 8-10,000 Pounds for each job created."
In any event, the resurgence of this northeast corner of Ireland cannot be denied. And the rest of the world is starting to take notice.