Teenagers in Northern Ireland build their own R2-D2 with ScreenWorks

03 May 2024

7 mins
ScreenWorks - R2-D2 build
ScreenWorks - R2-D2 build

The Force was strong with a group of Northern Ireland teenagers recently, as they built a life-sized, fully-functioning version of Star Wars favourite R2-D2 in just five days as part of an Into Film ScreenWorks project.

Using more than 1,000 parts that were either created on a 3D printer, made of plywood or sourced from suppliers around the world, the young Jedis came together to build a version of the iconic movie character that moves, makes sounds and lights up just like the original.

Created through Into Film's ScreenWorks project, supported by Northern Ireland Screen, R2-D2 made his debut at Belfast City Hall ahead of Star Wars Day on May the Fourth.

The droid will now be visiting schools and careers fairs to tell young people about ScreenWorks, our work experience scheme that gives young people in Northern Ireland unparalleled access to industry professionals across all five screen sectors - Film, Television, Animation, Gaming and Visual Effects.

"In the words of Yoda, ‘Do. Or do not. There is no try'", said ScreenWorks Lead Sean Boyle. "We had this idea to do something amazing that would capture the imagination of the young people for this prop workshop and show them what was possible right here at home. With the screen industries growing in Northern Ireland, you don't have to go to Hollywood to create something amazing."

These young people were totally amazing. They had such enthusiasm, creativity and talent. It was an honour for us to work with this next generation of screen talent.

Victoria Arundell from Temple Props

Many of the young people who attended the workshop plan to go on to careers in the film industry. Beth Nihell, aged 17, from Bangor, plans to study film at Ulster University next year, and said: "It was a real team effort to create something like this together in just five days. I'm hoping for a career in props or the art department so this was really helpful to give me real life experience in the industry."

Meanwhile, 15-year-old Nathan Loughlin from Belfast, who is studying GCSE Moving Image Arts at St Mary's Christian Brothers, added that he liked the hands-on approach of the workshop. "It was amazing to see everything come together in the end. All these parts that we had created, primed, painted were put together to build this amazing R2-D2."

The prop workshop was held at Temple Props in Templepatrick under the guidance of industry experts Denis Rush and Victoria Arundell, who have more than 20 years' experience in the industry. In addition to the support of the master prop builders, we also had advice from leading Star Wars droid builder Lee Towersey, from England, who started his career as a hobbyist and went on to work for Lucasfilm.

ScreenWorks participants pose proudly with their self-made R2-D2.
ScreenWorks paricipants pose with their very own R2-D2, along with Into Film's Sean Boyle and Northern Ireland Screen's David McConnell.

More about ScreenWorks

Our ScreenWorks programme is free to all participants, and has been supported by Northern Ireland Screen since the project began in 2018.

David McConnell, Head of Education at Northern Ireland Screen, said: "The ScreenWorks programme is a real success story and has grown exponentially, offering young people varied and exciting work experiences with leading industry experts in all facets of screen industry. Its aim is to create a pathway where children can learn from a very young age about potential careers in this growing industry."

This year ScreenWorks have devliered 31 different work experience sessions for young people, and there are still many coming up, including ones focusing on the grip and camera departments, story development, virtual production, music composition for screen, and costumes creating. There are also two summer projects - a week-long 'Game Jam' that will see young people creating an original video game, and one on location management and sustainability.

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