THROUGH the clearing strode a medieval knight and a mutinous-looking prisoner – without a film crew at my side it would have been easy to believe that I had somehow managed to stumble into a time machine and the scene before my eyes was entirely real.
The armour and swords looked completely natural against the backdrop of the old trees and stone bridges in the grounds of Shane’s Castle, just outside Randalstown.
However, the good old Ulster weather was suitably unimpressed by the sparkle of Tinseltown and rain poured down relentlessly yesterday morning as filming took place for the forthcoming third series of Game Of Thrones.
Despite the predictable downpours, Frank Doelger, executive producer of the hit TV series, smiled wryly and confessed that in the previous two series – which were also filmed in Northern Ireland – they sometimes added in rain with special effects in the post-production stage.
“The thing is, if it rains when we are filming a scene that is okay, but if it is suddenly sunny the next day when we are filming, that can be difficult,” he said.
“But we can add in some rain or even thunder later on.”
I watched five takes of the short scene – to appear in the second episode of the new series – between Knight Brienne of Tarth and Jaime Lannister.
Without giving too much away, the scene is part of Brienne’s mission to escort Jaime back to his family at King’s Landing for Lady Catelyn Stark. She believes the Lannister family – who include the mother of the young King Joffrey – hold her two daughters captive and hopes to get them back in exchange for Jaime.
Brienne is far from your standard knight – firstly, she is a woman – but she has emerged as one of the most interesting characters since being introduced in series two.
The production team film for around 12 hours each day, which amounts to around roughly four minutes of footage.
Around 70 per cent of the crew are from Northern Ireland. Mr Doelger said that each time they return they get most of the same crew back again, which he described as unusual.
He also said that, since first filming here, they had noticed the industry is developing.
“As other films are coming to Belfast, people are finding they can make a career from this, so skills are going up and you are developing a workforce more skilled in this sort of work,” he said.
Game Of Thrones follows a number of powerful families in the fictional world of Westeros as they vie for power and for the Iron Throne in the main city, King’s Landing.
It is filmed mostly in Northern Ireland but also in Iceland, Croatia and Morocco to capture all the landscapes of the fictional world the epic story is set in.
By the end of the filming of series three in November, the crew will have shot in every county in Northern Ireland – however their main locations are at the Painthall in Titanic Quarter, Castle Ward, Shane’s Castle and Tollymore forest.
Some of the many other locations include Audley’s Tower, Strangford; the north Antrim coastline; the Mourne mountains; Clandeboye Estate, near Bangor; and Banbridge.
Mr Doelger said he had never been to Northern Ireland before filming here, but admitted the beauty of the north Antrim coast had taken his breath away.
“I fell completely in love with the coast, and also Tollymore,” he said.
Series Three of Game Of Thrones will be shown on Sky Atlantic from the end of next March.