Page last updated at 06:16 GMT, Tuesday, 30 June 2009 07:16 UK

Derry filmmakers part of US doc

By Freya McClements
BBC News

The Brassneck team, including, centre, producer Felicity McCall
The Brassneck team, including, centre, producer Felicity McCall

Her record-breaking flight put Londonderry in the spotlight almost 80 years ago, but now it's the turn of a film company from Derry to make Amelia Earhart a household name once again.

Local film-makers Brassneck Productions have been commissioned to shoot the Irish sections of a US television documentary which will be shown from coast to coast to coincide with the October release of a Hollywood biopic about Earhart's life.

Shots of Ballyarnett County Park, Amelia Earhart's cottage, and even City of Derry airport will feature in the hour-long documentary, as producer Felicity McCall explained.

"Most of the rest of the documentary is going to be based in America, so even though we only have a small part in the film the fact that it takes it beyond the confines of the US is fantastic," she said.

"Sometimes it takes an anniversary to make people sit up and take notice of the history on their doorstep, and two years ago was the 75th anniversary of the totally unexpected landing in Ballyarnett which put Derry totally unexpectedly into aviation history.

"We've had the book, which is now making its way into primary schools and the American market, and really this couldn't have been better timed.

"Not only is there the forthcoming biopic starring Hilary Swank, but there's also a huge degree of interest amongst the younger generation because of the film Night at the Museum 2, where the character of Amelia Earhart comes alive."

Keith O'Grady at the shoot outside the Amelia Earhart cottage in Derry
Artistic director Keith O'Grady on location in Derry

Ms McCall believes the resurgence of interest in the Amelia Earhart story can only be a good thing for the city.

"It's good in terms of tourist potential, it's good in terms of establishing our place in history, and from a purely selfish point of view, it's establishing the fact that we have a very vibrant film industry here that's quite happy to work with its American counterparts," she said.

John Thompson, a lifelong Earhart enthusiast, agrees.

At the forefront of the campaign to save the museum at the so-called Earhart cottage in Ballyarnett from closure, he believes the Earhart biopic could put Derry on the map.

"I think this is all part of a grand plan by Amelia Earhart, wherever she is, to make sure her memory's not lost," he said.

"I've pointed out several times that I believe that what the Lord of the Rings did for New Zealand this film could do for tourism here.

"The field where she landed was famous in 1932, and it's thanks to people like Felicity and Brassneck that her memory has been kept alive.

"The great thing is that it's a community-based production, so we have a local company filming locally about a local issue - but it's a local issue that has global implications.

"We have the Amelia Earhart story, but if it was anywhere else in the world you wouldn't be able to get to the field where she landed for the souvenir shops."

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