A COUNCILLOR has gone into battle against the makers of a Viking movie on behalf of residents who were forced into a “thirteen mile diversion” when roads in the Cairncastle area appeared to close ahead of schedule to allow cameras to roll, writes Nevin Farrell.
Ballygally Alliance representative Gerardine Mulvenna said that although filming of ‘The Northman’, starring Hollywood superstar Nicole Kidman, is most welcome in the Antrim hills some locals have been inconvenienced.
Speaking at a council meeting in Ballymena on Tuesday night she said Cairncastle has been one of the locations “for quite a prestigious film, and Nicole Kidman is starring in it, and there’s lots of interest”.
She said residents were told roads will be closed next week but added that there had been some difficulties with previous closures in recent days.
The councillor said: “Last Friday, November 6, they were filming at night time and they were to be closed from six o’clock at night to eight o’clock in the morning and, I mean it was fabulous to look up into the mountains and you would have thought it was the Northern Lights, all the lights that were on the hills.
“From the outset I think it is fantastic that these film companies are coming here on our doorstep and using our location to do that so I’m certainly not criticising that.”
However, she said at least three residents had issues travelling through the area.
The councillor said two of them were trying to travel to the Larne area “and they were stopped at four o’clock and they said they couldn’t get through. They weren’t quite aware, they assumed the road was closed and that they got their timings wrong but in fact they found out afterwards that the road was not closed until six o’clock.
“It is not fair on the residents and they had to do a diversion for twelve/thirteen miles, so just to highlight that that is not going to happen next week”.
She said a third person was aware the road was not to close until 6pm and “challenged them” and asked to see the site manager and “they just let them through”.
The councillor added: “I don’t know who monitors that. Again we are all very excited they are there but it is unfair when residents are scheduling their time to get through in time before it closes an hour and a half later”.
Alderman Mulvenna raised the matter with David Porter, Divisional Roads Manager, at the council meeting.
Mr Porter said in terms of temporary road closures he would need to check out the details regarding filming but he believed that is undertaken under ‘Miscellaneous Provisions’ legislation which is handled by the Council.
He told the meeting: “But I would agree with the point that you make because we go to great strides to make sure that local residents are aware of the closures and then access for them is facilitated.
“So if there is something that we need to do with the Council and ourselves to make sure that point is made I am happy enough that staff can engage with you to explain what we try to do in order to get the message out.
“And maybe some of these other people, particularly if they want to film and see a future in the film industry in Northern Ireland want come back, they certainly need to be good neighbours while they are doing that”.
A Northern Ireland Screen spokesperson told ‘Ballymena Daily’: “When a Northern Ireland Screen funded production requires roads to be closed this is done in line with relevant legislation and production teams make every effort to make local residents aware of the closures in advance.”
It is not the first time locals have had issues with film makers in the hills above Ballygalley and Glenarm.
In 2015 ‘The Lost City of Z’ was being filmed and noise generated by battle scenes – described by locals as “bangs, gunfire and exploisions” – had left livestock “terrified”.
One resident said at the time: “The explosions shook the house and windows and the boom echoed through the glen.
“My neighbour’s horses were in the field near the film set and they went spare, trying to jump the ditches.
“There was another explosion and my animals went daft. The chickens were squawking and the dog was outside, barking and shaking.
“I went to Larne and when I came back the dog was shivering under a chair and the hens had all gone. Another neighbour’s cow and calf jumped the hedge and the cows were bellowing in fear.
“It sounded like a war was going on, and later there was another explosion. My neighbour was feeding bulls in the field when it happened. They stampeded and knocked him and the feeding trough over,” the Larne Times reported at the time.