A documentary set for release this week was entirely shot in Derry and local people working in the industry are convinced the North West is an ideal location for film-making with “untapped potential”.
Hidden War: The Story of the IRB, is the latest in a series of top-quality productions which have been made in the city.
Derry Girls put the city on the map as far as many are concerned. But others are quickly following, the film, A Bump Along The Way, which is due for release shortly is expected to raise the profile of the Maiden City once more and an upcoming BBC series called Dublin Murders was facilitated in the Prehen area.
Scores of other productions, not least the worldwide pop-culture phenomenon that is Star Wars, were drawn to the North West having been captivated by its rugged coastal landscape.
The IRB documentary will be broadcast on TG4 this week. It reveals the personalities, philosophy and activities of the secretive Irish Republican Brotherhood which was active between 1858 – 1924 and sheds new light on how this underground organisation shaped the foundation of the Irish state.
It was produced and co-directed by award-winning filmmaker, Deaglan O Mochain, along with Derry based Director of Photography, Mark McCauley.
Deaglan’s independent production company, Dearcán Media, is based in Cultúrlann on Great James Street. They make Irish language documentaries for BBC, TG4 and RTÉ, and this is its 10th year in existence, having made around 15-16 Irish language documentaries in that time.
"We were interested in exploring the role of the IRB in the revolutionary period in Ireland, and the stance it took on the Treaty and partition in particular," Deaglan explained.
The documentary was shot across several Derry locations, Prehen House in the main, as well as St Columb's Hall, The Glassworks, Derry Print Workshops, and the Train Museum on Foyle Road.
He added: "We used dozens of Derry actors in the reconstructions, and a largely Derry based crew as well - from camera and lights, set, costume, make up and the production team.
“Derry has always been a great location for our productions, with a strong community theatre sector to draw on, and a growing Irish language community as well that's perfect for our needs.”
The team are "excited" to see the documentary broadcast on Wednesday and believe it showcases local talent, both acting and technical, as well as the great locations.
"We can also draw on the support of the Irish Language Broadcast Fund, they support Irish language projects, provide training and support for Irish language independent sector.
“It's an exciting time to be making documentaries, opportunities with BBC and TG4 in particular for Irish language companies," Deaglan added.
Chrissie Gallagher worked on the IRB documentary, as well as numerous other productions in the North West. She was Assistant Director on the documentary and worked as a Production Manager on A Bump Along the Way.
She said: “Somebody will come with a script and I’ll see how many locations are needed. We’re kind of unique in the North West because this an untapped area.
“It’s a blank canvass, we have so many locations here that you can use for filming because some of streets, like Clarendon Street for example, can double as Victorian.
“It depends what each particular company needs and each script requires, it is down to me to source those and once you’ve done that you have to make them workable.
“But because we’re on the cusp of the border we have so much surrounding us that is untapped.”
For, Hidden War: The Story of the IRB, Deaglan sourced Prehen House and it was managed by Chrissie - she described it as a “fantastic location". Two documentaries were shot there using different lighting and set design.
“Prehen House is unique on its own, we were able to use the grounds around it and condense quite a lot content into that one location. We also used Foyle Valley Railway because we needed to create a platform that depicted the late 1800s and into the early 1900s.
“Those were the main two locations and they looked amazing on camera.”
The beauty of using Derry as a location is that it lends itself well to shooting both contemporary and period productions.
A script informs the backdrop and Chrissie believes that, as a city, Derry provides an answer to every eventuality.
“There was a movie shot in 2015/16 out of Ballykelly called Property of the State and it was based in the 1980s. Another was called Penance and it was a cross-border initiative, it covered the period of 1916 in the south and then fifty years later in Derry.
“It takes a good location manager to find locations that fit the script. If the location doesn’t look right, it’s not going to work, but Derry has too much to offer.”
Most recently Ms Gallagher worked on A Bump Along The Way which has gone “stratospheric”, she said, and will no doubt enhance the city’s reputation further.
Set in Derry, it follows a mother and daughter on turbulent journeys in search of the best versions of themselves.
NI Screen was instrumental in bringing the movie to the North West and has been a positive contributor to film-making in the region, according to Chrissie.
A Bump Along the Way opened the Belfast Film Festival, won awards at the Galway Film Festival and just last week was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival.
The film was written and produced by locals and its lead actresses are also Derry natives.
At present Belfast has infrastructural advantages, as well as studio facilities, which enable it to more readily attract production companies but as far as Chrissie is concerned Derry and the North West is unrivalled as a location.
By enticing these companies to Derry, it not only showcases the city to a global audience, but brings with it more business for hotels, taxi companies, restaurants, laundrettes, and people have to be employed such as the cast and crew, electricians, painter and decorators, caterers and many more.
It also means that talented people pursuing careers in the film industry don’t have to migrate to other countries.
What is lacking in Derry at present are studio facilities which would allow series’ to be filmed at the one location. Chrissie said: “It would be fantastic if there was something like that available but you need to have the industry interested in coming here first.
“If it came here full force it would be absolutely amazing because I think everybody would benefit. Derry people are very, very welcoming and will go above and beyond to make things happen.”
Hidden War: The Story of the IRB, will be broadcast on TG4 this Wednesday, September 25, at 9.30pm.
A Bump Along the Way will be in cinemas from October 11.
Photo: Bump Along the Way filming - Billy Gallagher Boom Operator, Clive Copland Production Sound Mixer, Mark McCauley Director of Photography photo by Vincent O'Callaghan.
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