Should we be worried yet? Daniel Theophanous crunches the numbers on Brexit and its potential impact on the UK film industry.
It is no surprise that the creative industries have hardly had a mention and, dare we say, have been almost completely overlooked in any Brexit conversation, despite accounting for 7% of all UK jobs. Eight months since the EU referendum of last June, the dust is still yet to settle and the eminent invoking of the decisive Article 50 will see the country, in this instance, the film industry plunged into the depths of the unknown. Every suggestion of the effects, I have detailed below is very much a guessing game, and is very much a collage of points already put forward by various industry professionals.
No doubt, one of the biggest challenges will be funding. The organisation Media Program, set up by the EU to support the European audio-visual industries through its programmes such as Creative Europe has been providing: training, development, distribution, promotion, support and research into new technologies since 1991. Creative Europe has also helped thousands of organizations and professionals in film, TV, Games, publishing. Music, heritage and performing and visual arts, with a current budget of 1.46 billion euros, with the UK taking a 100 million bite of that amount. Post-Brexit, this fund will not be available. Films that have received funding over the years through Media Program include major British releases such as: Trainspotting, The Full Monty. Billy Elliot, This Is England, Slumdog Millionaire, The Queen, The Iron Lady, and that’s naming only a few of the big hitters.
As Brexit creates a period of uncertainty and transition; new legislation will need to be implemented for UK film rights, as well as new tax treaties be renegotiated with each country in the EU. This translates to an arduous procedure of bureaucratic red tape which means delays on decision-making and a postponement of projects; which is likely to result in a loss of money and jobs.
The next challenge is the involved issue of visas and work permits making matters more complex for European executives, cast and crew coming to work in the UK – and vice versa for British staff going to work in the EU. Added to this, is the fact that movement of equipment between countries, such as movie cameras, costumes, vehicles etc. are likely to require special customs permits which may prove costly.
We are likely to see a decline in co-productions; the EU made this very easy for film and TV crews to work with each other financially and physically; even allowing for further funding. Previously a film using the expertise of a Belgian or Dutch crew, could apply for funding from their corresponding country’s government; co-production is likely to still exist post- Brexit, but perhaps not at the current rate, as the costs will be far higher.
EU member states have quotas to fill for the amount of EU content they show and there will probably be less appetite for UK films, as they will cost more and will be competing with US films which have bigger marketing and distribution. As it stands, this quota allows for independent films from the EU to be shown in the UK and for UK independent films to be shown in cinemas across Europe.
The expected long period of delay until Britain finds its feet post-Brexit could also have a detrimental effect on the country’s thriving post-production industry, which has taken years to build and includes some of the world’s best behind the scene talent in: filming, effects, sound, animation, editing etc. Production companies from outside the UK are likely to look for cheaper post-production services within other countries of the EU and possibly see them step in and take over London’s domination.
It might not be all doom and gloom though! Creative Europe has confirmed that all applied-for grants that have been secured pre-Brexit will thankfully not loose their funding. Furthermore, it is suggested that the UK government could pay the money it was paying into the EU film fund, Creative Europe, to UK based film makers instead. The exchange rates since Brexit have already become 13% percent cheaper for international companies to film in the UK than before Brexit.
Without EU regulation, the UK government could offer major concessions for UK and foreign film productions. The UK’s creative industries and talent are still highly sort after and offering substantial tax relief will be an incentive. There could be greater flexibility as the UK will not be part of the ‘Single Digital Market’ where films will have to be released simultaneously on all online platforms across Europe, as one territory. With the UK outside the EU it could offer more flexibility for releases for film makers.
The UK’s film output still holds great value within our European, and also global counterparts; this alone may keep the industry alive and afloat. However, talent and past successes may not shield the industry from the unknown that comes with Brexit. The unknown may bring a prolonged period of uncertainty which may result to a lack of investment and consequently detrimental effects for one of the world’s largest film industries.
Finally, the most important point to consider is that the UK’s booming film industry was created by its diverse and skilled workforce; which is not only attributed to local, but also includes EU and global talent. Film is a thankfully diverse and varied employer and art-form and hopefully this thread will survive the coming political storm.