The film industry has landed in Ballykelly, and the company renting the former Shackleton army base said it wants to the buy massive site.
Jo Gilbert of Shackleton Studios said she was “blown away” by the size and potential of the former army base, which has been on the market since it was gifted to the NI Executive by the Ministry of Defence in 2011.
Demolition work is underway at the corner of the site, where the Department of Agriculture’s Headquarter’s will relocate with space for up to 800 staff.
The massive site, features a variety of office space, two airstrips and a massive hangar.
Ms Gilbert, who was involved in the former Paint Hall building in east Belfast, said the site will be “a media hub” for everyone in the creative industries, and will be better than the famous Pinewoood or Universal Studios. She said the company is looking towards “major film production”.
“Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, Martin Scorcese - I’m not saying that’s who is coming - but that is our target market together with the local industry,” Ms Gilbert told the ‘Journal’.
Shackleton Studios has been based in Ballykelly for five weeks and preparatory work is underway to transform the site into production office and studio space for rent for television and film shoots.
Ms Gilbert said the company is there for “the long term” and said it’s “100 per cent total and utter intent to buy the site”.
Ms Gilbert revealed one production is currently on site and two others are in the pipeline. She said the move to Ballykelly will benefit the local economy creating employment opportunities, the local hospitality industry and local suppliers.
Ms Gilbert said the company will work closely with Derry City and Strabane District Council, Causeway Coadst and Glens Borough Council and Donegal County Council.
An OFMDFM spokesperson said: “The Department has agreed to licence part of the Shackleton site to Shackleton Studios Ltd on an interim basis while the site is on the market for sale. We understand that Shackleton Studios is in the process of submitting a planning application to Causeway Coast and the Glens Borough Council for the change in use of the Site. The Department has agreed that Studios’ staff may be on site to prepare it for the planned change of use.
“Shackleton is currently on the market for sale and Shackleton Studios is one of over 40 parties that have registered an interest in purchasing the site. Potential purchasers will be required to submit proposals setting out how they plan to develop the site to deliver job creation, community and environmental benefits. The site will be on the market until 2 October and it is anticipated that the sale process will be complete early in 2016. Interested parties should contact Lambert Smith Hampton for further details on the sale process.”