Pull the Trigger’s Max Brady explains why the biggest TV show in the world made its production home on the island of Ireland
Just as New Zealand became J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth to the world’s tourists in the early 2000s and has stayed that way, Northern Ireland is one of the real-life locations that became Westeros in HBO’s Game of Thrones. Production company Pull the Trigger has been working with HBO’s promo department as a service partner, to bring George RR Martin’s world to life in the show’s promos for the past four years. All of which is sadly coming to an end now as the final season comes together. But, as it did in New Zealand, the filmmaking legacy of Game of Thrones will live on in Ireland.
Despite providing services north of the border, Pull the Trigger are based in Dublin and have all the know-how required across the Republic of Ireland, too. LBB’s Alex Reeves asked executive producer Max Brady for the lowdown on how filmmakers can make their very own Westeros (or Caribbean island or even Georgian London) on the Emerald Isle.
Location: Tirraun, County Mayo
LBB> What’s so iconic about the range of location photos you’ve shared with us?
MB> These locations are so iconic because they are Irish, with all that being in Ireland gives you. Wildness, beautiful light, vibrant greens, proximity to airports and the capital cities of Dublin and Belfast, and of course, some of them are iconic because they feature in the world’s current biggest show, HBO’s Game of Thrones.
While we may not have the height of New Zealand, or the weather of South Africa, we have a very unique beauty in light and landscape that is not seen anywhere else. Even our UK-based clients comment on how very different it is here compared to our nearest neighbours.
Location: The Glens of Antrim
In Game of Thrones: Runestone, the ancient seat of the 'Bronze Kings' of old from House Royce. In Season 5, Petyr Baelish and Sansa Stark observe the young Robin Arryn miserably failing to use a sword here
Location: Glendalough, County Wicklow
LBB> Are there any locations that you think are underrated / underused in Ireland?
MB> In particular, I think the West Coast, along the Wild Atlantic Way, is very underused. It is Europe’s longest coastal road, of over 1500kms, has the highest cliffs in the world, the Cliffs of Moher, empty long stretches of beaches, spectacular sunsets, some of the best cold water surfing in the world, giving spectacular wave pipes, and when the sun is shining parts of it can look like the Caribbean, without the palm trees of course (our palm trees are a little different to Caribbean ones!).
Locations in Northern Ireland are also underused. Many parts of the province have been used in Game of Thrones, with locations that have never been seen elsewhere - castles, mountains, crypts, but also city shots, and new modern buildings that are sprouting up all over both cities, Belfast and Dublin.
Both cities have modern elements, but they also have older parts to them, that can replicate other cities. Dublin is very Georgian, with Belfast being more UK-looking. We often use Dublin for period London for example.
Location: Audley's Field
In Game of Thrones: Used during Season 1 as King Robert Baratheon and his retinue arrive at Winterfell. It's also the backdrop of Robb Stark's Camp in Season 2 and the place where he first meets Talisa, his future queen. It's also where Alton Lannister is imprisoned with Jaime (Spoiler alert! He doesn't last very long.)
Location: Baily Lighthouse, Howth Head, Dublin
LBB> Doesn’t it rain all the time in Ireland? What are your top tips when it comes to weather?
MB> It is true to say that it often rains in Ireland, but that’s what gives us the green. I’d say that the rain is occasionally a problem, but that we are very used to shooting around it. You won’t travel here for weather. You travel here for the diversity of locations and the technical expertise of crew. In saying that…. when the sun shines, or when it we have perfect mix of cloud and sunshine, it is gorgeous. Our climate is so temperate, never too cold, or too hot.
LBB> How about the practical stuff? What considerations need to be made around getting permits in both ROI and NI?
MB> It depends of course on the location. Private locations are usually pretty quick to permit. Northern Ireland permitting can take a bit longer than the South, but Northern Ireland Screen are amazingly helpful and are pushing for more work to come here, so they do tend to make it easy for you.
In the South, it is very easy. Most permits for county council’s can be turned around in five working days, less if they’re not too complicated. And Dublin City Council Events are incredibly film friendly. In particular DCC Events love commercials because we’re so fast - in and out in days rather than weeks - so you can often find that they will come up with production friendly ways for road closures where they can.
Both NI Screen and DCC Events see production as a positive to both areas both economically, but also in terms of continuing to generate work for the technicians that are based here.
Location: Toome Canal
In Game of Thrones: A canal in the ruins of Old Valyria that Jorah Mormont and Tyrion Lannister passed through in Season 5
Location: Pigeon House Harbour, port of Dublin
LBB> What crew are available where and what needs to be taken into account around getting access to the right skillsets?
MB> We pretty much have all crew departments available here now. What I’ve noticed in the past few years of working on the Thrones promos with HBO in the North in particular is the professionalism of the crew. There is nothing like watching the well-oiled machine that is Thrones swing into action. Everyone knows exactly what they’re doing, they are constantly trying to get three shots ahead. You rarely are waiting for a set up. Everything is in place long before it needs to be. It is a testament to the local crews in NI just how much they want the local film industry to work and grow, to see how much they have developed over the past decade in particular.
This is also the case in the Republic of Ireland. The technicians in ROI are vastly experienced and have a level of professionalism that always makes me proud to introduce them to visiting international productions.
Of course, there are some technicians that have to come in, but they tend to be very specialised.
Location: Quoile River
In Game of Thrones: Several scenes set at Riverrun were shot on the banks here, including a Tully funeral attended by Robb and Catelyn Stark
Location: Rossnowlagh Beach, County Donegal
LBB> When it comes to kit, what is available on the floor and what has to come in?
MB> Pretty much everything is here, and if it isn’t, we can easily get it. Sky panels, cranes, specialised tracking arms, MoCo, etc, all of it is easily transportable to either Dublin or Belfast, and we have a system set up to get the equipment in. We tend not to keep too much specialised equipment on the floor here, but that would be the case in any European city outside of London and other major production centre capitals.
Location: Quintin Bay
In Game of Thrones: Stokeworth, where Jaime Lannister asks Bronn to travel with him to Dorne
LBB> How does a shooting day work in Ireland? What's useful for people to know about?
MB> A shooting day in Ireland for international productions is a 10-hour day, in ROI that is to include a one-hour lunch. NI Crews work to the APA rates out of London, and their criteria. ROI crews work to the criteria put in place by the Commercial Producers Ireland (CPI) organisation.
Location: The Derrybawn Bridge, Laragh, County Wicklow
Location: The road between Kenmare and Castletownbere
All Game of Thrones location photos provided by NI Screen.