Northern Ireland as a location plays a starring role in drawing film and tv companies here to shoot major productions.
Now top local location manager Adam Wilkinson – who’s previous credits include the likes of Game of Thrones, The Fall, Krypton, Morgan, The Frankenstein Chronicles and The Lost City of Z – will be sharing his industry insights with young people as part of a free work experience programme.
Adam will be running a special free Location Management workshop from January 29-31 as part of ScreenWorks, the programme run by Into Film in partnership with NI Screen that aims to help young people learn more about careers in the screen industries.
He said: “Northern Ireland is the perfect place to film because you can go from Belfast City Centre to the middle of nowhere in 15 minutes. It is a brilliant hub as it is small but has a really diverse landscape.”
It is also the warmth of the people that encourages companies to return time and again to film, he added.
“You can’t have a film industry in Northern Ireland without the people who live here. Film production companies are blown away by how accommodating, patient and helpful residents of Northern Ireland are. I’m very proud that as part of local location managers and talented crew that we are able to showcase Northern Ireland on a global stage.”
He is passionate about his work. “People think it is just about choosing a location but there’s much more to it than that. You have so many logistical issues to deal with, like the noise of air traffic, vehicles, local schools, a building site two streets away and of course people who need to get on with their everyday routine – you must be aware of everything.”
“There is a real need for new blood coming through; the ScreenWorks programme gives a taster of life in this industry and we hope that we can build up the skills of the young people.”
Adam will be taking a group of students on mock film recees to various locations to get them to work out logistics of filming. This intense workshop will involve three days of practical hands-on work that will give them a chance to experience all aspects of location management.
ScreenWorks Project Co-ordinator Sean Boyle from Into Film said it was exciting to see top professionals like Adam pass on their practical experience and knowledge to the next generation of film-makers.
“This is a great opportunity to get out on location and learn from the best. There are lots of openings in all aspects of the screen industries in Northern Ireland and I would urge young people to seize the chance to find about more about potential careers.”
Adam secured a BA and Masters in TV Production at Teesside University in Middlesbrough before working on factual and entertainment programmes such as the X-factor and The Great British Menu. His break in location management came back home when he met Andrew Wilson, one of Northern Ireland’s leading location managers.
He said: “Andrew explained what the location department was. I didn’t really understand what they did. In factual TV I had been used to working as a jack of all trades which meant dealing with the public, trouble shooting and keeping the production ticking along. Andrew kept my number and a week later he rang and said his trainee had moved on and did I want to work on The Fall Season Two. The hours were exhausting and relentless.”
Adam was thrown in at the deep end, having to make quick decisions and think on his feet. After The Fall he was offered a location assistant job on Game of Thrones.
“I loved it, but I wanted to step up and get more responsibility. On my first week of Game of Thrones Andrew rang me and offered me Unit Manager on The Frankenstein Chronicles Series One which started in six months.”
The main skills involved in location management are problem solving, common sense, initiative and an ability to work alone as well as being organised and being good with people.
But in the end, it is about finding the perfect location: “Some of my favourite locations are Myra Castle in Downpatrick and Greyabbey Estate, Greyabbey. One thing my favourite locations all have in common is fantastic owners and the relationship I’ve built up with them, we’ve become good friends over the years. I love driving around the countryside looking for new locations. I recently found Holestone House in Doagh which we used as a house in Co Donegal for a new Channel Five thriller, The Deceived. No-one had filmed there before. It’s a lovely old house, again with fantastic owners,” he added.