Sep 27, 2004

Northern Ireland is set to become a magnet for talent and innovation - a centre of expertise and excellence in filmmaking and television production, Ian Pearson, MP, the NIO Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment, said today, announcing a package of targeted support for local enterprise and the encouragement of more film production.

The Minister was speaking at an event hosted by the Northern Ireland Film and Television Commission (NIFTC) - ‘The Most Powerful Industry in the World’ - in the Europa Hotel, Belfast and attended by Kenneth Branagh, NIFTC Honorary President, Colin Anderson, NIFTC Chairman, industry representatives and local politicians .

Mr Pearson said: “I am very pleased to be able to announce today a set of measures that should see Government support for the film and television industry in Northern Ireland more than doubling over the next three years.
These measures will further stimulate entrepreneurial activity, create a significantly more competitive independent production sector and increase the level of film production activity in Northern Ireland.

“The measures which I am able to announce today will stimulate and harness innovation and enterprise to create the wealth that flows from a more dynamic economy.

“My Department, through Invest NI, will provide up to £4.4 million over three years to strengthen and stimulate the development of the sector. Furthermore, subject to EU approval, Invest NI has also set aside £5.5 million to establish a new film production fund, the focus of which shall be to increase the volume and value of film production in Northern Ireland. This money is in addition to DCAL’s support of up to £1.9 million.

“I am confident that these measures will enable the NIFTC to put Northern Ireland in the picture with international production companies and will stimulate greater local enterprise,” Mr Pearson added.

Outlining the NIFTC’s strategy, Colin Anderson, NIFTC Chairman said: “Our aims are to harness the most powerful industry in the world, and this funding will enable the NIFTC to make a real impact here. This is a key creative industry that will stimulate local cultural and economic development and provide rewarding employment opportunities in a sector that is currently underdeveloped.

“There is no doubt that we have the talent to make this happen. We can promote an enterprise culture and provide greater employment opportunities for local people to make the most of this rapidly growing industry. We can make Northern Ireland an internationally recognised centre of excellence in this important business sector,” added Mr Anderson.

Kenneth Branagh, the Belfast born actor, director and producer, also welcomed the news and said: “Look what this industry has done for a small country like New Zealand with the Lord of the Rings films. There is no reason why Northern Ireland should not position itself similarly on the world stage. This initial funding will help the industry here move to its next stage.”

The NIFTC’s strategy aims to ensure that Northern Ireland is attractive to film and television producers through the provision of financial support for production and the NIFTC will be working closely with DETI and Invest NI on achieving EU approval for the Film Production Fund. It introduces a significant support package for local independent television producers to assist them to gain more commissions from the network broadcasters. It also seeks to encourage local business to invest by increasing awareness of UK tax incentives for investors in the film industry.

Key features of the NIFTC plans are:

A new Company Development Fund to help build a number of world-class, competitive production businesses here. Supporting this will be a Business Development Programme to help build competitive businesses in Northern Ireland.

A Product Development Fund for television, animation and digital media, operated on a loan basis to ensure wide access to development opportunities by all Northern Ireland producers, irrespective of their current size.

A new Northern Ireland Film Production Fund for the production of feature films, television drama and other high value productions in Northern Ireland.

The strategy also includes extensive international and local marketing and support for initiatives to:

- stimulate interest in film, television and new media in schools and colleges;

- strengthen links between the universities and the industry, including support for the University of Ulster’s MA in Film and Television Management;

- provide further backing for local film festivals;

- develop a digital film archive; and

- assist script and producer development.

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