Movie Wars; It's Lights, Cameras, Action in the Battle for Hollywood's Millions
Gorrod, Joe, The Mirror (London, England)
The cameras are rolling north in a movie exodus that is putting Ulster in the big picture.
Rocketing costs in the Republic are making even the Hollywood moguls turn pale.
But waiting off-screen across the border is an undiscovered star.
Richard Taylor, boss of the newly-formed Northern Ireland Film Commission, has been given the money, the talent and the scenery to make sure Ulster gets its big close-up.
"There is a huge boom in drama for the big screen and television and Northern Ireland deserves a piece of the action" he said.
Next month a crew will begin filming a pounds 3million production of Divorcing Jack, the best-selling book by newspaperman Colin Bateman, with a major star to be signed up for the lead.
Weeks ago the French Revolution spectacular St Ives was shot in Co Down with stars Anna Friel and French sex symbol Jean-Marc Barr.
And teams of writers, technicians and actors have already cut their teeth on a series of 10-minute "calling card" movies with help from UTV and Belfast City Council.
The quickies are designed to impress producers at film festivals, but will get a public screening too. Richard said: "They are little gems, all with a storyline and a plot, and not one of them is about Ulster's troubles."
Movie chiefs have been treated to a flashy photo album of spectacular locations like Killyleagh Castle and Ulster Folk Museum.
Richard said: "The amount of interest so far indicates film projects could bring in pounds 10million very quickly."
It would be even nicer if cameras were the only things doing any shooting in Northern Ireland.
"Uncertainty and security fears are still a big problem" Richard admitted.
"But the scenery, the empty roads and the friendly people will still be here when the terrorists are not."
An impressive supporting cast shares the Commission's faith. Sir David Puttnam said: "There is a rich variety of locations, from rolling hills and craggy coastlines to the harsh streets of the inner city. …