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The HETV Skills Fund is tackling crew shortages in Northern Ireland by funding training for local people

There has been plenty of activity that highlights the current boom in High-end TV (HETV) production in Northern Ireland.

BBC1’s Blue Lights, which dramatises the work of Northern Ireland’s police service, the filming of BBC3’s second outing of schlock horror series Wreck in County Antrim, an ITV three-parter in production in Belfast, and prep for Amazon’s Blade Runner 2099 in Belfast Harbour Studios all indicate that the industry is thriving in the nation.

As the industry-led body for the screen industries across the UK, ScreenSkills has supported this boom by developing the workforce in Northern Ireland through its HETV Skills Fund.

Last year, former BBC executive Liz Barron joined ScreenSkills in a newly created role as training liaison manager for Northern Ireland. Her first action was to set up the ScreenSkills Northern Ireland HETV working group.

“Money comes into the HETV Skills Fund from production companies and streamers working all over the UK,” says Barron.

“It’s vital that money goes out to support those at every stage of their career so that companies working here in Northern Ireland have access to the volume of crew and the range of talents they need. ScreenSkills’ investment decisions are made by industry professionals, who are able to identify what the skills gaps are and which shortages each production faces.”

“We decided to go looking for new talent”
Louise Gallagher

The working group is chaired by Louise Gallagher, founder of Gallagher Films and co-executive producer of Blue Lights alongside Stephen Wright of Two Cities TV. Gallagher is also a Belfast-based development producer for Hat Trick Productions, so is at the heart of Northern Ireland’s HETV.

“We decided to go looking for new talent,” says Gallagher, explaining that the group funded a programme to equip accountants and money managers with the tools to join a production accounts team.

Louise Gallagher

Louise Gallagher

“ScreenSkills contracted local Production Guild member Louise Morrison from Feather and Fortune to work with 12 participants from all over Northern Ireland,” she says.

“There is a real shortage of production accountants here and it should make a difference to have newcomers to the industry ready for work placements that the HETV Skills Fund will subsidise. It’s a real win for productions – they get experienced team members to lighten the workload and funding to pay them.”

New career paths

Mary Wylie, from County Antrim, is one of 12 beneficiaries of the Production Accountant Transfer training. “I learned to manage books when I ran my own business,” says Wylie.

“Then I managed accounts for community radio stations and a boy band. In recent times, I worked in money and debt advice, but I have always loved TV drama and I am really hoping that the excellent training I have received will open up a whole new career path for me.”

Other transfer training includes a standby props programme run through Sarah Speers and Shane Bunting of Stags Head prop hire in Castlereagh, Belfast.

“We selected a civil engineer, a security guard, an animator and a fine art graduate who is forklift-certified – two men and two women,” says Speers. “They all have the practical and people skills and the gumption to work well on set, servicing the many requirements of cast and crew.

“At a time when production is booming in Northern Ireland, it’s great that ScreenSkills is creating opportunity for people to join our industry – and great to know that over-worked props teams will have a new source of support.”


For more information about what the High-end TV Skills Fund brings to Northern Ireland, go to: