Monday 26 September 2016

'I can't believe they let us shoot there' - Behind-the-scenes video of Star Wars' Skellig shoot released

The Fáílte Awakens

Published 04/01/2016 | 11:58

Tourism Ireland has commissioned Lucasfilm to create a behind-the-scenes video of its Star Wars shoot on Skellig Michael.

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The video, filmed during the 2014 location shoot for 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' in Southwest Kerry, was released today.

In it, Episode VII director JJ Abrams and other crew members discuss how and why they chose the Unesco World Heritage site as a Star Wars location.

"I can't believe they let us shoot there," Abrams says. "It was so beautiful." 

Tourism Ireland commissioned the video (above) as part of a Star Wars marketing campaign targeting potential visitors to ireland.

It reveals the serendipity behind the Skelligs shoot, set in motion when Production Designer Rick Harper stumbled across a photo of the islands.

Composite image of Skellig Michael (Photo: Valerie O'Sullivan/Fáilte Ireland) and Star Wars director JJ Abrams on location (Screengrab: Tourism Ireland/YouTube).
Composite image of Skellig Michael (Photo: Valerie O'Sullivan/Fáilte Ireland) and Star Wars director JJ Abrams on location (Screengrab: Tourism Ireland/YouTube).
Little Skellig. Photo: Fáilte Ireland/Raymond Fogarty

The photo was forwarded by email to his producer and director.

"JJ immediately wrote back and said 'I love you! This is the best'," according to Executive producer, Tom Harper.

"When we flew in it was special," he adds. "And we knew it."

Star Wars has been smashing box office records since it opened, placing an epic scene featuring Skellig Michael (and a careering Millennium Falcon) in front of a global audience of millions.

Coomnaspic View. Photo: Fáilte Ireland
Coomnaspic View. Photo: Fáilte Ireland

Up to 35pc of tourists are impacted in their choice of destination by what they see on screen, according to Tourism Ireland - which has also developed extensive campaigns around the filming of Game of Thrones in Northern Ireland.

It now plans to share the film, which also features contributions from James Hickey, Chief Executive of the Irish Film Board, and Heather Humphreys, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, in 14 different markets.

"We are taking every opportunity to capitalise on the publicity around the film, to help whet peoples’ appetites to come and visit,” said CEO Niall Gibbons.

Tourism Ireland paid Lucasfilm €25,000 in total for the video, it said.

A further €110,000 was invested in Phase One of its Star Wars marketing campaign, which includes a specially created page on Ireland.com.

It remains to be seen how Skellig Michael, access to which is via weather-dependent local boat trips, copes with any extra visitors.

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