Ballykelly film studio eye up double movie deals

Jo Gilbert at the Shackleton Sudios. INLV3615-068KDR
Jo Gilbert at the Shackleton Sudios. INLV3615-068KDR

As many as 1,000 jobs will be created in Ballykelly if a deal to bring two feature films to the studio at the former Shackleton army base goes through, as expected.

Those working directly on set would account for around 300 jobs, Jo Gilbert of Shackleton Studios Ltd told the Sentinel. With the wider economic impact factored in, she said, the number of people gaining employment through the films - directly and indirectly - the number of people gaining employment could rise to as much as 1,000.

Ms Gilbert did point out, however, that the deal to bring the two films to Ballykelly had not yet gone through.

“There’s nothing I say right now - not until it is confirmed and the ink is dry”, she said. Ms Gilbert spoke about the “massive employment opportunities”, saying: “We have more movies coming in and there are more people interested in coming in.

“The two films, one is a US film and the other is a UK film, will generate massive employment for the entire North West area. There is going to be a knock-on employment effect. I am talking about the ancillary services and all the other services that would be required - plumbers, electricians, carpenters, painters...

“You would also see a lot of business going to local hardware shops and people selling timber and other raw materials. It is a massive economic impact. When people hear ‘a couple of movies are coming down’ they think ‘that’s nice’ but I don’t think people realise the dramatic economic impact on the local area.

“All those plumbers and painters and carpenters have to be drawn from the local area. You also have the people working directly on set - the industry jobs.

“This brings a huge benefit to the entire North West and with location filming all over the place it is jobs right across the board.”

Ms Gilbert also said the studio in Ballykelly had the potential to be the biggest in the UK. “It has existing facilities - nothing needs to change. If you were a factory or a data centre there would be a lot of work required to bring your own equipment in and get the facilities ready. If you were a data centre you could be here for two years and then gone.

“All we have to do is what is called a ‘change of use’. Everything is here already. We don’t need to change anything. It could be the biggest studio in the UK.

“The First Minister and Deputy First Minister recognised it from the beginning. When they were talking about thousands of jobs that is precisely what we could be doing here.

“There is between £4-5 billion per annum from the creative industries in the UK in terms of gross domestic produce. Bring that into the context of what we are doing in Ballykelly.

“One film could employ 100 to 150 people directly. The film we are working on right now we have 120 people and around 60 per cent of those people are from the local area. It is not a very large film either. We are more than capable of having four or five films simultaneously.

“The knock-on effect for tourism can be huge as well. You only have to look at what Game of Thrones has done and that is only one production.”