Vikings are coming – Does one series make a sustainable industry?

After much anticipation ‘Vikings‘ goes into pre-production proper next week when Emmy winning production designer Tom Conroy and his art department will commence drawing up sets for the series.

Successful writer/creator Michael Hirst of The Tudors and Camelot was again assigned the task for the 10-episode drama Vikings, and will also be executive produce along with Morgan O’Sullivan, and John Weber of Take 5 Productions. ‘Vikings’ will depict the adventures of the leader of the Vikings, Ragnar Lothbrok and his fellow Norsemen who traveled by long boat raiding, plundering and traded in Ireland during medieval times, many of whom eventually settling here. (picture, Joe O’Connell at Ballyhenry Studios, by The Sunday Times)

This is the first high-profile TV project to be undertaken at MGM since it was restructured following bankruptcy. Canadian indie Take 5 Productions will co-produce with Shaw Media’s History Television and Morgan O’Sullivan’s World 2000. The series was awarded a production loan of  €250,000 by the Irish Film Board.

Shaw Media will be the broadcast partner in Canada, (who have previously produced the series The Kennedy’s), airing the show on History Television in Canada. MGM will distribute the drama outside of Ireland and Canada, and AETV’s History channel will air the series in the U.S. market. Morgan O’Sullivan’s World 2000 retains the rights to the Irish market.

The €30 million series of ‘Vikingsis set to shoot at Ballyhenry Studios, Ashford in July with location shoots throughout Northern Europe., it will be aired in 2013. This will be the first production at Joe O’Connell’s €25 million studios complex. Consisting of 3 studios, the largest The Gasworks Studio is 28,000 sq feet, The Box Studio and The Christmas Tree Studio both around 13,000 sq feet, all deriving their names from successful businesses of Joe O’Connell.

The opening of the new studios represents a real opportunity to put the Irish film Industry on a better footing. For too long Section 481 has helped conceal our lack of competitiveness and the fact that there has been no clear strategy to grow the industry. The focus now is firmly on The Irish Film Board, Screen Producers Ireland and collective unions to ensure the cost base in Ireland is competitive with our rivals for film production. The producers many of whom have done very well from section 481 must ensure that changes are made in their practices too, and The Irish Film Board must play a more hands on role in overseeing that state funding derives best benefit for the overall development of the industry.

The introduction of new U.K tax laws covering TV production, has guaranteed that the current run of  (4) British TV series will be the last to go into to production here leaving a huge void in Ireland’s production calendar. ‘Vikings’ represents the first real opportunity for a number of film crew to obtain a substantial work in 2012. Over the coming months much column inches will be publicise the success of ‘Vikings’, Ballyhenry Studios and the Irish film, but as I have written back in May of 2010, one series does not make a sustainable industry.

Images by Tom Dowling (except main photo) © Tom Dowling 2012

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Categories: Film and TV

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  1. “Vikings” Begins Production in Ireland

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