Gladiator 2 production crew member shares behind-the-scenes secrets from Ridley Scott sequel with future filmmakers

A Co Tyrone movie production crew member has landed the job of a lifetime, securing a role on the set of Ridley Scott's much-anticipated Gladiator 2.

Cookstown native Donavan Gallagher found himself jetting off to Morocco and Malta last year, where he joined the camera crew as a grip for the blockbuster sequel that stars big names including Denzel Washington and Paul Mescal.

In a recent move to inspire budding filmmakers, Donavan shared his expertise and enthusiasm for film production with aspiring young talent through the Into Film ScreenWorks programme. Supported by Northern Ireland Screen, this initiative offers free career experience workshops to 14-19 year olds, providing them with direct access to industry experts from various sectors including Film, TV, Animation, Gaming, and Visual Effects.

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"Working on Gladiator 2 was a once in a lifetime experience. The scope and spectacle of this film was truly awe-inspiring and it's something I will never forget," Donavan expressed.

During the ScreenWorks session, he recounted his journey to becoming a grip, a role often overlooked in the film industry.

His path began with a Media Studies degree from Ulster University in Coleraine, which he completed in 2009. Uncertain about his future career and facing the challenges of a recession, Donavan initially worked at a video rental store in Cookstown.

His search for opportunities continued as he took up a position at Belfast City Airport, working in the bar while keeping an eye out for his next big break.

"I was so lucky as just then a trainee scheme with Northern Ireland Screen came up and there were a number of departments offering placements on Game of Thrones in 2014. I'd never heard of a grip before but I researched it and decided that's what I really wanted to do," he said.

The Gladiator 2 crew on set -Credit:Donavan Gallagher
The Gladiator 2 crew on set -Credit:Donavan Gallagher

A decade on, his expertise has grown significantly, contributing to high-profile projects such as The Northman, Overlord, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, Line of Duty, Succession, and Blue Lights.

His role as a grip involves setting up the camera equipment, whether it's mounting it on a tripod, laying dolly tracks, operating cranes, or rigging it onto vehicles. His recent work included preparing gear for shooting on a boat between Rathlin and Ballycastle for Greg Davies' comedy series The Cleaner.

Working closely with the camera operator and under the director's guidance, he finds himself right beside the action and the actors. He points out that the job is physically challenging and requires extensive knowledge of the equipment and its interaction with the camera.

During a ScreenWorks session, he engaged young participants in practical learning, giving them the opportunity to handle the equipment and learn about rigging a car.

Sean Boyle, the lead of ScreenWorks, stated: "The key to our programmes is getting access for the young people to industry experts like Donavan with his wealth of experience and love of the industry. It's important to us to highlight all the jobs within the screen industries and the grip department is often over-looked as a career option."

Donovan expressed that his only regret is not starting his career earlier as he can't imagine doing anything else.

"There's a fantastic camaraderie among the people who work in the screen industry in Northern Ireland and we all help each other. In fact, it was through a colleague that I was asked to work on Gladiator 2. It's very important for the young people to learn about working closely with others and building a network who like working with you," he said.

ScreenWorks has been instrumental in providing opportunities for young people to step into the industry. This year alone, they have organised 31 different work experience sessions for young people, with many more still to come, including topics such as story development, virtual production, music composition for screen and costumes creation.

In addition to these, there are also two summer projects a week-long Game Jam creating an original video game and location management and sustainability.

ScreenWorks, run by educational film charity Into Film, offers workshops in various locations. For further information, visit

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