Spotlight on...Northern Ireland

Game of Thrones © HBO

You can’t make great film, TV and animation without investing in the people. This is why ScreenSkills is committed to deliver training, resources and opportunities across the whole of the UK. This month our focus is Northern Ireland.

Seetha Kumar, ScreenSkills CEO, said: “We are proud to support the screen industries in Northern Ireland, collaborating with partners including Northern Ireland Screen and BBC Northern Ireland. The sector is thriving thanks to its filming locations and highly trained behind-the-camera talent. We are currently supporting training for professionals at all career stages, for a wide range of local film and television productions which we couldn’t do without the contributions of productions that contribute to our skills funds and funding from the BFI, who award us National Lottery funds.”

Productions and placements

ScreenSkills has collaborated with productions across film, high-end TV (HETV), animation and children’s TV to offer training opportunities in Northern Ireland. The new Unscripted TV Skills Fund is also working on initiatives in Northern Ireland – keep an eye on our website for announcements.

High-end TV productions shot locally that have contributed to ScreenSkills’ HETV Skills Fund in the last year include Conversations with Friends, Dalgleish and Tom Jones. All of these have benefited from trainees across a mix of behind-the-camera roles including locations, accounts, production runner, art, edit, costume and camera.

One of Northern Ireland’s  television professionals has been chosen by industry leaders for a place on ScreenSkills’ prestigious three-year HETV development programme designed to make them Leaders of Tomorrow. Aspiring financial controller, Ola Kaminska-Omozik who has been based in Newtonabbey, Belfast, for the past 14 years, is among 19 individuals selected for the programme. Participants are being offered a comprehensive programme of mentoring, masterclasses, bespoke training and paid on-the-job training over the next three years.

Originally from Poland, Ola got her first experience in the accounts department in 2009 on Your Highness, which was shot in Northern Ireland. She then worked on a series of productions in the country including Krypton, Whole Lotta Sole, Stand Off, Three Families and then Game of Thrones for 10 years, where she started out as a cashier and moved up to become an accountant. Ola is now hoping to step into the role of production accountant and eventually financial controller.

Among productions contributing to the Film Skills Fund and offering film trainee opportunities in Northern Ireland is Dungeons and Dragons, a Paramount feature starring Chris Pine and Michelle Rodriguez, which shot from May to August 2021 in Belfast. There were six trainees on the production across production, art department, hair and make-up, camera and assistant director roles.

ScreenSkills has also provided a locations trainee on the new CBBC children’s TV series, Silverpoint, a sci-fi drama series about a group of children at a summer camp. In the drama, four kids bond over something unexplainable out in the woods. Produced by Zodiak Kids, with co-producers ZDF Enterprises, the series is created by Lee Walters, lead writer, and the executive producer is Steven Andrew and is scheduled for transmission in 2022.

ScreenSkills’ Animation Skills Fund works closely with Holywood-based production studios Paper Owl Films (Pablo, Ladybird and Bee) and Belfast-based Sixteen South (Odo).

Irish 2D pipeline director Niki Kehoe was helped by a course funded by the Animation Skills Fund to improve her knowledge of working with 2D animation software Toon Boom Harmony. She is now working for Dog Ears studio, which is based in Derry. Read more

Niki was also part of a panel of industry experts who took part in an online panel explaining the role of a rigger in 2D animation to new entrants, to encourage them to consider rigging as a career. Watch the panel here.

Continuing professional development (CPD) and training

Thanks to an increase in scripted HETV productions in Northern Ireland, there is a growing demand for people working in script. Northern Ireland Screen identified a skills gap in script editing and brought BBC Drama Commissioning and ScreenSkills onboard to to help tackle this by helping to train and develop trainee script editors.

This year, Northern Ireland Screen is hoping to run the programme again and take on more trainee script editors.


ScreenSkills’ Head of Film CPD and Future Skills, Emma Turner recently spoke at the Beyond conference in Belfast. The event took place on 20 - 21 October 2021 and Emma took part on the Fuelling the Future: How to Build New Place-Based Talent Pipelines panel on how regional and local creative economies need regional and local solutions.

Pathways in for new talent

Paid placements and skills training are key to ensuring the screen industries thrive, but ScreenSkills’ work starts earlier with support for screen degrees, courses and apprenticeships.

ScreenSkills Select endorses screen courses that give students the best possible start to a career in the screen industries. The Select team recently held a Select industry hub working group with a group of employers and educators in and around Belfast at the end of June 2021 to build relationships and identify common skills issues and potential solutions. Attendees included: Kevin Beimers, Managing Director, Italic Pig Studios; Paula Campbell, Skills Manager, Northern Ireland Screen; Kelda Crawford-McCann, Managing Director, Strident Media; Frank Delaney, Lecturer, Broadcast Production, Queen’s University; Emma-Rosa Dias, Managing Director and Executive Producer, Afro-Mic Productions; Gavin Halpin, Managing Director, Paper Owl Films; Declan Keeney, Director, Ulster Screen Academy; Kris Kelly, Managing Director, EnterYes; Jenny McAulfield, Production Executive Television Drama, BBC Northern Ireland; Phil Morrow, Managing Director, Retinize and Alec Parkin, Lecturer in Computer Animation, Ulster University.

Topics of discussion included how the local government and screen agency has supported the rapid growth of the Northern Ireland sector and mitigated skills shortages in some areas of recruitment such as production managers, production coordinators and production accountants as well as 3D character animators, character riggers and unity developers, and sparks.

Discussions were also had around the challenges in helping people advance from junior to mid-level positions and encouraging local talent to gain wider experience across the  UK to progress their career - but then  return to Northern Ireland at a later stage.

Upcoming events

Members of our careers team will be holding an online event on 11 November to provide more information on Trainee Finder, our flagship programme of paid placements for new entrants into high-end television, film and children's TV. Book here

The careers team is also exhibiting on 24 November at the Virtual Skills Show Northern Ireland in partnership with Prospects Events. This free online event is for 14- to 24-year-olds and introduces young people from the region to employers, training providers, colleges, universities and professional bodies. More information here

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