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Dublin's bid to 'capitalise' on Normal People success and attract international productions

Productions like Normal People, Penny Dreadful and The Rhythm Section were all shot on location in Dublin.

Behind the scenes look at filming of Normal People - much of which was shot in Dublin.
Behind the scenes look at filming of Normal People - much of which was shot in Dublin.

DUBLIN CITY COUNCIL is planning to capitalise on the success of Normal People in a bid to attract interest from major film production companies abroad. 

In 2012, the Dublin Film Office, an arm of the local authority which promotes filming in the capital, received 12 applications to shoot in the city centre from both domestic and international productions. In 2019, that number climbed to over 300. 

The goal now is to further grow that number with both domestic and international production companies by positioning shows like Normal People – the rights for which have been bought in countries like Japan and Canada – front and centre. 

A new website targeted towards location scouts and producers is in the works and conversations are already being had with film production companies to secure a role for Dublin in upcoming big-budget productions.

“Servicing a production here in Ireland and around Dublin is actually a lot easier than in these international cities over in the UK and in America purely because everybody in Ireland is local and we all support each other,” Dublin City Council’s Film Officer Lynn Daly explained to TheJournal.ie.

“We do have amazing Victorian and Edwardian architecture and we also have a huge amount of flexibility over our spaces. 

“Normal People is the dream team, it’s Hettie McDonald, Lenny Abrahamson, it’s just the dream team, it’s so good, aspirational, so many pieces of the jigsaw clicked in together that we want them all the time. 

“We can capitalise on the public relations value of it. We can definitely have something that is very attractive to any sort of city but we’ve also had The Rhythm Section last year which was done by Barbara Broccoli of the James Bond franchise.”

Daly further illustrated the Dublin appeal for film productions pointing to the acclaimed victorian drama Miss Scarlet and the Duke which aired on Alibi in the UK and Ireland, as well as acclaimed drama series’ Dublin Murders and Love/Hate.

“The industry here is amazing,” she said. 

Screen Shot 2020-06-30 at 15.01.07 Scene from Normal People shot at Trinity College Source: RTÉ

Daly explained that she also liaises with other local authories in the UK to stay across what they’re doing to attract interest from TV and film productions with a view to supporting the local industry here.

She also recognised the scale of the industry across the Atlantic but highlighted that it has not stopped large US networks bringing their casts and crews to Ireland for popular TV shows. 

“Realistically, we can’t compete with London or New York. But the style of film office and film commissioner office we aspire to be like is the Liverpool film office model. Their system of government and the way they engage with the industry is amazing,” she said. 

“I would argue that per head of population, the productions that we have had are well [in line] with the UK. We’ve had [...] Oscar winners here, there and everywhere.

Maybe the PR and distribution network is older and more advanced in America but we are punching well above our weight for the size and population of Ireland. 

“Productions keep coming back here. Penny Dreadful had three seasons, and Showtime then came back with another show for another three seasons – Into the Badlands – that’s a major American television network coming back to Ireland for six years across the Atlantic Ocean.

“And when you go to international productions, or shows that might be shot in loads of countries, House Hunters International, shows like that and Who Do You Think You Are?, the process and friendliness that you get in Ireland and Dublin, they [producers] say is unbelievable.”

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shutterstock_1637426830 Dame St. in Dublin where some of the scenes for Normal People were filmed. Source: Shutterstock/gabriel12

Daly added that the local authority and other industry stakeholders not only want to encourage international productions but also to ensure local productions, right down to college students who can take advantage of the opportunities for filming in Dublin. 

“We want everybody to have an opportunity to film in Dublin, including students straight out of college because, you know what, Lenny Abrahmson started off in college, and he eventually went to the Oscars. So we have a policy to treat every single person like Steven Spielberg or Lenny Abrahamson.”

Filming during Covid-19

With little other than cameras from news outlets and the occasional music video shot on the streets of Dublin during the recent lockdown, the industry is now beginning to reawaken under the Phase 3 easing of restrictions which came into effect from yesterday. 

Screen Producers Ireland published a protocol based on public health advice to ensure filming can resume safely. It included suggestions that some productions should have cast and crews in quarantine for 14 days prior to filming and limited numbers of extras and background staff should be used. 

Daly is confident, however, that these measures will not deter producers from filming in Ireland over the coming months. 

“All of these guidelines and codes and practices are already in play. Literally since 12 March, everyone said ‘okay, now we need to rework and redo things’ so yeah, it will be a challenge but I really don’t think there will be any bad, long-term effects for Dublin.”

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