How Westeros has transformed Belfast's TV production

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Former chancellor George Osborne has told Sky News that he is delighted that tax reliefs that he introduced led to Game of Thrones being produced in the UK.

Under the scheme, TV productions with a budget of at least £1m per hour of slot length are eligible for refunds of up to a quarter of their production costs in their UK.

The amount of spend on high end TV production has almost trebled in just five years, from £414.9m in 2013 to £1.17bn in 2018, according to the BFI.

In fact last year an impressive 119 high end TV titles were shot in the UK; shows such as The Crown, Krypton, The Rook, The Spanish Princess, and Four Weddings and a Funeral.

For Belfast in particular Game of Thrones has brought hundreds of workers into the industry and helped transform the city’s production infrastructure.

Image: The set of Castle Black being built in Belfast

The legacy of nearly a decade of shooting the show is a raft of skilled workers who have gone on to be employed on big budget dramas such as Line of Duty and the Fall.

The tax relief policy was first introduced in Northern Ireland shortly after HBO had made the first series of Game of Thrones.

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It was a successful incentive as HBO remained in Northern Ireland to shoot the majority of the subsequent seven series.

The show was partly filmed in Northern Ireland

Image: The show was partly filmed in Northern Ireland

As chancellor in 2013, Osborne rolled out the policy to the rest of the UK.

He told Sky News: “I’m delighted that so much of that show has been filmed in Britain.

“And that the high end TV tax break has helped because it’s not just about stars or indeed the tourism brings to places like NI it’s all the people involved in set design and make up and costume and the production.”

Adrian Wootten, chief executive of Film London and the British Film Commission, told Sky News that Game of Thrones became a “poster child” for how well the tax breaks could work and helped attract a huge influx of major players in the TV industry such as Netflix and Warner Brothers.

He said: “I think it’s nothing less than revolutionary. We’ve seen this extraordinary explosion of production which is fantastic for the UK as a whole.

“It’s meant that there’s been new employment opportunities all over the UK, new studios springing up, new infrastructure springing up, new companies springing up to service the demand.”

What can we expect from season 8 of Game of Thrones?

What can we expect from season 8 of Game of Thrones?

Sky News breaks down the key questions for the final season

Talking about Game of Thrones, the Mr Osborne revealed his favourite character is Cersei Lannister, saying: “As a former chancellor I always thought the Lannister’s had a point about them, settling debts.”

He added: “I know this is going to be a controversial thing to say – obviously the dragon queen is wonderful and all of that – but Cersei Lannister has had a pretty tough life. She’s a woman in a man’s world, surrounded by controlling husbands and brothers all of whom have been trying to do her in. And she has until now survived.

“She is a bit of an underrated star of the show. She’s been there right from the start. And every attempt to get rid of her has failed.”

The sets have drawn tourists to Belfast to experience the show

Image: The sets have drawn tourists to Belfast to experience the show

The now editor of the Evening Standard pointed out the similarities between the show and the present condition of British politics: “Now I’m at a newspaper the easy thing is to take Game of Thrones and say… it’s a reminder that competition for power has always been with us.

“That what’s going on in British politics is what has happened in British politics in all times: that the throne is potentially vacant and people are jostling for it and that is the nature of human society.”

:: The final series of Game Of Thrones airs on 15 April at 2am and 9pm on Sky Atlantic. Want to see what’s happened so far? All episodes of Game Of Thrones from series one to seven are now available to watch on Sky Atlantic and NOW TV.

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