Page content

The visit highlighted the vibrant future of the creative industries in Northern Ireland and the upcoming opportunities for the local creative economy, especially in terms of film production and the exciting developments in virtual production.

The day began with an introductory session on virtual production led by Professor Declan Keeney, Northern Ireland Governor to the British Film Institute Board and CEO of Studio Ulster. Professor Keeney, who invited the BFI cohort to the university, gave a preview of the state-of-the-art virtual production facilities being developed at the Studio Ulster complex located at Harbour Studios, opening later in 2024.

Professor Keeney said:

“We are delighted to welcome the British Film Institute to Ulster University as the BFI has an important role to play in the future of the screen industries in Northern Ireland. The visit is an opportunity for their executive team to witness first-hand the incredible level of innovation happening at the Ulster Screen Academy. We also discussed industry, skills, research and how we're gearing up for the launch of Studio Ulster later this year. A project set to transform the screen industry in Northern Ireland. It's an exciting time for us, and we’re delighted to share progress with colleagues at the BFI.”

The sessions continued with discussions around sustainability in the film industry, emphasising how virtual production can significantly reduce the environmental impact of filmmaking. The delegation also heard about the CoSTAR Screen Lab, a promising new venture by Ulster University, in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), that will serve as a research and development space for virtual production based out of the new Studio Ulster complex.

In the afternoon, the cohort visited the Belfast Stories site, a £100 million development project that celebrates the rich history and culture of Belfast. The tour was led by Wendy Langham, Project Director, who shared her vision for the site as a major tourism and cultural anchor for the city.

Wendy Langham, Project Director, said:

“Today was useful for showing the BFI team the Belfast Stories project and our ambition. The BFI’s input at this stage is critical to ensure we reflect in Belfast Stories the future of the industry and their ambitions and strategy.”

The day concluded with a visit to the site of Studio Ulster at Harbour Studios, a £72 million project that promises to be a linchpin for the region's creative economy by integrating traditional and virtual production techniques.

Rishi Coupland, Director of Research and Industry Innovation at BFI, said:

“The highly impressive new £75m virtual production facilities at Studio Ulster represent a significant investment in world-class infrastructure, and will help ensure that Northern Ireland is at the forefront of creative production for many years to come. With initiatives such as CoSTAR, there is a real alchemy in bringing together the advanced R&D work within educational institutions with the expertise and creative ambition that lives within our industry.  The success of Ulster Screen Academy is a great example of improving routes into the industry and supporting industry.”

Richard Williams, CEO Northern Ireland Screen, said:

“It’s great to have such a wide and diverse team from the BFI visiting Ulster University to discuss not only the importance of Studio Ulster within the context of UK-wide policy and industry but also how it impacts sustainability and skills as well.”