Written by Shona Smith on Oct 24, 2019. Posted in On Location

Northern Ireland hosted main shoot for Dublin Murders

Set in Dublin, Ireland, the series follows an investigation into a murder of a girl found at an ancient stone alter deep in Knocknaree woods, where twenty one years earlier three boys went missing. Out of the twenty-six weeks spent filming on location, the production spent just two in the Republic of Ireland.

Supervising Location Manager Andrew Wilson notes that the look and feel of the show was at the forefront of the production. Described by the BBC as “part psychological thriller, part police investigation, with a shiver of modern gothic”. Wilson says “the whole creative team were excited by the challenge of doing something stylish and different from what has been seen before in this genre. The designer, DoP and director's all referenced a lot of the Scandinavian drama genre and also shows like True Detective”.

For Wilson’s location department, this meant “using places to suggest the supernatural, that things aren't quite what they seem. Some houses having front doors upstairs and bedrooms downstairs for example, to try and create an almost ethereal feel to the 1980's flashbacks in particular - but also the claustrophobia of the woods and never being far away from them”. Filming took place in two forests, Belvoir Forest close to Belfast and Tollymore Forest Park further to the south.

One important creative decision taken early on was to use real locations, with sets kept to a minimum. The housing estate where Katy lived in Knocknaree was heavily used and it was in the village of Drumaness near Ballynahinch. “That could have been a nightmare but the local residents there were brilliant and really embraced the filming” says Wilson.

The other main location was the Garda Station, played by a disused bank on Custom House Square in Belfast, a city centre spot used by events such as concerts and beer festivals. “Initially we thought that could rule the location out, as sound recording would potentially have been impossible but we loved the location and decided to press on” explains Wilson. “It just meant we were tied to certain dates with the location for each block of work which was a headache for the 1st A.D. It worked incredibly well and we used every inch of the place”.

To make maximum use of the short two weeks in Dublin, production prioritised locations that would establish the city. Location Manager Gordon Wycherly looked after the filming in the Republic of Ireland which included “as much driving and exterior as we could" and things that Belfast couldn't double for such as the Dart train system. "We also had to shoot any dockland scenes in Dublin as Belfast Harbour isn't accessible for filming” says Wilson.

Logistically, “the length of the show and not having all the scripts to begin with meant that we never knew if a location would be a repeat location or not and that posed all kinds of problems, especially for dressed sets in living and working environments" explains Wilson. "It also made it very difficult to budget effectively as we were doing deals of which the terms of changed constantly”.

Moreover, a major car crash in episode four which required a road closure and large diversion and posed some challenges. According to Wilson, “generally road closures in N.I are almost impossible to get in less than between one and three months notice, so with changing schedules and scripts this was also logistically challenging”. “It is also difficult to keep the morale of a small team going through twenty-six tough weeks but I was lucky to have the team I did and would not have been able to manage it without them” he adds.

Northern Ireland Screen Fund provides a maximum investment of GBP800,000 for feature film and television production, up to a ceiling of 25% of overall project budget. The funding is intended to assist in completing budgets on productions which are almost fully financed, and which contribute to building a sustainable screen industry in Northern Ireland such as ITV's Torvill and Dean series.

High-end national and co-produced TV productions with a minimum core expenditure of GBP1 million per broadcast hour can access the UK High End TV Tax Relief.

Image Credit: Euston Films/Starz - Photographer: Steffan Hill

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