Director and double Oscar-nominated screenwriter Terry George became known for dramas such as “In the Name of the Father” and “Some Mother’s Son” made during the period of civil strife known as the Troubles in his native Northern Ireland.
But surprisingly, when the Belfast native, who has long resided in New York, returned home last year to make his short film “The Shore” in County Down, it was the first time he had ever shot anything in Northern Ireland itself. His early movies were all filmed south of the border in Dublin.
After so many decades lost to sectarian strife, it’s a sure sign of Northern Ireland’s growing credibility as a production base that some of its most successful sons are starting to come back home.
George is back in Belfast shooting his next feature, “Whole Lotta Soul,” a heist comedy starring Brendan Fraser.
Another native, Liam Neeson also returned recently for the first time since his early career to make “Five Minutes of Heaven.”
“The large-scale American projects being made in Belfast are causing our bigger names, whether producers, directors or on-screen talent, to turn round and look back at Northern Ireland,” says Richard Williams, chief exec of Northern Ireland Screen. “It’s no accident that Liam and Terry have been working back here. It’s part of a sense that you can do things here now.”
“I felt for quite a while it was a gap in my career that I hadn’t actually filmed in my homeland, and it was the best experience I’ve ever had,” says George. “Film in Northern Ireland has really ramped up. It has a strong infrastructure now, and the government and the community seem to be in favor of it. They aren’t jaded about people shooting on their streets.”
Aptly enough, “Shore” is the story of an Irish exile (Ciaran Hinds) who fled to America 25 years ago to escape Belfast’s violence and is now bringing his grown-up daughter back to meet his childhood friends. The 30-minute film was the first to get funding from Tourism Ireland, which wants to back projects displaying the region’s attractions to international audiences.
George says both “Shore” and “Sole” are his attempt to show the world how much Northern Ireland has changed since the Troubles.
“Sole” is produced by Mark Huffam and Simon Bosanquet’s Generator Entertainment. Belfast-based Huffam is one of the U.K.’s most established producers, with credits including “Mamma Mia!” and Ridley Scott’s upcoming “Prometheus.” He has become a key player in bringing film and TV projects into Northern Ireland, both with Generator’s own slate of low-budget genre pics, and as the go-to producer for bigger international projects.
As well as “Your Highness” and “Game of Thrones,” he produced rock comedy “Killing Bono,” which used Belfast locations last year to double as 1980s Dublin.
Another returning native is Andrew Eaton, best known as helmer Michael Winterbottom’s producer. London-based Eaton is exec producing “Good Vibrations,” from rising local producer Chris Martin, based on the true story of the legendary Belfast punk impresario Terri Hooley.
Starring Michael Fassbender and Liam Cunningham, “Vibrations” will be directed by the Belfast-based husband-and-wife team Glen Leyburn and Lisa Barros D’Sa. They previously shot “Cherrybomb” for Generator and have now formed their own film and music production outfit, Canderblinks, in partnership with David Holmes, the Northern Irish DJ and film composer.
And John Mcilduff is an experienced theater and commercials director who has moved back home to Belfast from Paris to launch Dumb Productions. His first microbudget movie “Behold the Lamb” was funded by NIS.
More from Scout & About: Northern Ireland:
• Northern Ireland pulls in major projects