How Ireland's VFX Community Is Courting Hollywood

Courtesy of HBO
Dublin's Screen Scene has done post work on 'Game of Thrones' since season one.

With Dublin-based Screen Scene already working on 'Game of Thrones,' the nation's thriving effects houses have banded together to service more ambitious projects.

If you're in L.A. or London and you close your eyes and think about Ireland, you don't necessarily think about visual effects," says Jim Duggan, managing director of Dublin-based postproduction house Screen Scene. "You think about green fields and castles and locations." While the country's lush scenery may always remain the top draw, its growing post and VFX offerings are beginning to grab the world's attention. Screen Scene has worked on Game of Thrones since the first season (on which it did all the post), something Duggan admits has been a "big flag waver" for the company.

An updated version of Ireland's tax incentive program, allowing projects to apply for the tax break at any time during the production process — rather than just at the beginning — also has added a significant boost to the attraction. "It's simplified the process," says Duggan, who adds that it once was mostly TV and films made in Ireland that would consider using Screen Scene's post facilities, but now he's chasing projects shot in Europe and Canada.

To bolster this international sell, Screen Scene teamed with the country's other top vendors, Egg, Piranha Bar and Windmill Lane Studios, to form the VFX Association of Ireland. If a major production requires capacity beyond the means of one outfit, the association allows the others to step in and help while keeping within the tax jurisdiction.

"We ended up being one of the first VFX companies to avail of the tax credit directly," says Gareth Young, co-founder of Egg. That came on the now-canceled Jenna Elfman comedy Imaginary Mary, but like Screen Scene, Egg is making inroads in film. "We now have nine features at various stages of production, which three years ago would have been unheard of," he adds.

"There's a tremendous transference of technology of skills," says veteran executive James Morris, who founded Windmill Lane, which recently applied its VFX skills to the Netflix feature The Siege of Jadotville. "Honestly, my experience with all the artists and clients is that they just love working in Ireland."

This story first appeared in the Oct. 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.