As strikes in Hollywood cripple the US entertainment industry, productions shot here and full of local talent will gain global exposure like never before
Filming of the second series of BBC One police drama Blue Lights began in Belfast this week, with cast members including Sian Brooke, Katherine Devlin, Martin McCann and Nathan Braniff back in the city for the follow-up to the successful series one.
The show, written by Declan Lawn and Adam Patterson, follows a group of rookie PSNI officers as they learn the ropes and discover the dangers of policing in the city.
Series one, which aired earlier this year, proved popular, with the first episode averaging over six million viewers.
It’s expected series two will hit our screens in spring 2024.
Staying with police dramas, and filming of the third series of Hope Street has been ongoing over the summer in and around Donaghadee.
Set in the fictional town of Port Devine, the drama will have an extended run of 15 episodes this time.
Hope Street stars a host of local talent including Ciaran McMenamin, Brid Brennan, Kerri Quinn, Niamh McGrady, Rachel Tucker, Aaron McCusker, Niall Wright and Des McAleer.
Additions to the cast this season are Karen Hassan and Finnian Garbutt.
Also shooting is the second series of BBC Three and BBC iPlayer comedy horror show Wreck.
It stars Oscar Kennedy as Jamie, who takes a job on board a cruise ship to investigate the disappearance of his sister.
The cast includes Co Down actress and Doctor Who star Thaddea Graham. It is expected to air later this year.
Coming soon to BBC One and iPlayer is new Gothic thriller The Woman In The Wall, which was made on location here. It stars Bafta winner Ruth Wilson and Bafta nominee Daryl McCormack.
The fictional story is inspired by Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries scandal and features Wilson as a survivor of one such institution, whose baby is cruelly snatched from her after birth.
Returning for a third series is Channel 5 detective drama Dalgliesh, due to shoot later this year or early next year.
Starring Bertie Carvel as Chief Inspector Adam Dalgliesh, the locally-shot drama is based on the books by PD James.
Series two, which kicked off in April, was filmed in different locations around Belfast including Corpus Christi College, Union Street and Lady Dixon Park, as well as The Gobbins and Brown’s Bay.
Also on its way is new ITV drama Breathtaking from Line Of Duty creator Jed Mercurio.
Starring Joanne Froggatt as a doctor, the drama will tackle the Covid pandemic in its early days.
Co-written by Rachel Clarke and Prasanna Puwanarajah, it was filmed in Belfast and will air in three parts on ITV, with a date still to be announced.
Two upcoming movies starring former James Bond Pierce Brosnan are awaiting release dates — The Last Rifleman and Four Letters Of Love.
The Last Rifleman, written by Kevin Fitzpatrick and directed by Terry Loane, centres on a WWII serviceman in a care home, who is determined to join his regiment in France to mark the 75th anniversary commemorations of D-Day.
Based on the true story of Bernard Jordan, The Last Rifleman was shot over six weeks in 2022 in Belfast, Antrim, Helen’s Bay and Lisburn.
Brosnan was back in Northern Ireland earlier this year to film Polly Steel’s romance Four Letters Of Love alongside Helena Bonham Carter and Gabriel Byrne. The movie was shot in Belfast and Ballycastle, as well as various locations in Co Donegal.
One of the most anticipated films of the year is the Netflix thriller In The Land Of Saints and Sinners, starring two of our best-known actors, Liam Neeson and Ciarán Hinds.
Written by Mark McNally and directed by Terry Loane, the action is set in a remote Irish village, where a newly retired assassin finds himself drawn into a lethal game of cat and mouse with a trio of vengeful terrorists.
The movie was shot in Donegal and features an all-star cast alongside Neeson and Hinds, including Desmond Eastwood (Blue Lights, Normal People), Seamus O’Hara (An Irish Goodbye) and Conor MacNeill, recently seen in BBC One drama The Sixth Commandment. The film also stars Jack Gleeson, Sarah Greene and Kerry Condon of the Oscar-nominated dark comedy The Banshees Of Inisherin.
In The Land Of Saints and Sinners will premiere at the 80th Venice International Film Festival next month.
Hitting the big screens this September is A Haunting In Venice, the third Hercule Poirot mystery starring Kenneth Branagh as the Belgian detective.
Described as “an unsettling, supernatural thriller”, this instalment is inspired by Agatha Christie’s Halloween Party.
A Haunting In Venice was filmed in the Italian city and at Pinewood Studios near London. As well as Branagh at the helm, it stars local actors Jamie Dornan and Jude Hill, reunited with the director of Oscar-winning film Belfast, in which they both appeared.
Dornan is back on the small screen again either at the end of this year or early next in the second series of The Tourist.
Series two of the BBC One drama will see the action relocate from the Australian outback to Ireland as Dornan’s mysterious character Eliot heads home with Constable Helen Chambers (Danielle Macdonald) to discover more about his roots. Filming wrapped in Dublin earlier this month.
And the Co Down man also stars in Netflix film Heart Of Stone, which landed on the streaming platform this month.
Dornan plays an MI6 operative opposite Gal Gadot’s secret agent Rachel Stone.
And Netflix is the home of Kevin Hart’s upcoming heist movie, Lift.
The actor and comedian made Belfast his home while filming Lift last year, delighting fans with several appearances at comedy gigs in the city.
Lift sees a band of expert criminals recruited to prevent a terrorist attack by robbing the rich, with the heist taking place mid-flight.
The film is due to hit the platform in January.
Other upcoming locally made productions include Old Guy, starring Christophe Waltz, Lucy Liu, Cooper Hoffman and Desmond Eastwood, which filmed here in spring; Sunrise, starring Guy Pearce; and the Sky Christmas special, Joy To The World, which was filmed in Belfast earlier this year.
It stars James Nesbitt alongside Timothy Spall, whose recent performance in The Sixth Commandment was critically acclaimed.
And Belfast woman Stacey Gregg’s bittersweet comedy drama Ballywalter opens in cinemas next month.
The film, shot in Co Down, stars Seana Kerslake and new The Late Late Show host Patrick Kielty in his movie debut.
Meanwhile, a number of big budget productions have been put on hold due to the ongoing strikes in Hollywood involving actors and writers, including How To Train Your Dragon and Bladerunner.
Both productions were due to film here, with the former planned for Titanic Studios and the latter Belfast Harbour Studios.
The strikes have caused a global shutdown of the sector and it is not known when filming will begin on the two multi-million-pound productions.
Richard Williams, chief executive of Northern Ireland Screen, said that local productions were shooting, putting locations and talent here at the forefront of the film and television industry.
“Audiences across the UK and farther afield are in for a treat with a host of locally made projects hitting our screens soon,” he said.
“There’s something for everyone — be it a period drama, a documentary, a thriller or even a Christmas movie.
“Production is also under way on Hope Street, Blue Lights and Wreck, all of which are coming back with new series.
“These projects not only show off Northern Ireland’s spectacular scenery, but they also highlight the incredibly talented people we have working here in our screen industry with local writers, directors, producers and highly skilled crew across all disciplines attached to these projects.”