Brexit and the film industry

Brexit and the film industry bchellingworth February 4, 2019

Will it leave the British screen industries out in the cold?

The British screen industries have enjoyed a golden period in recent years, with film production expenditure alone reaching a record high of £1.5 billion in 2017. When the TV and gaming industries are included, spend rose to nearly £6.2 billion. Meanwhile, UK cinema audience figures continue to rise.

On the negative side, British film distribution companies have suffered, with the larger independents finding it hard to make a profit due to the double whammy of US domination of the market and high overheads.

Creatively this year the Brits have once more showed that we’re a force to be reckoned with, following wins by Olivia Coleman, Ben Whishaw, Christian Bale and Richard Madden at the Golden Globes awards. And the British-American joint venture, Bohemian Rhapsody, clinched the Best Film Drama.

However, Brexit has been the shadow lurking ominously in the background, and it’s casting an uncertain pall over the future. Brrrr…

Baby, it’s cold outside…

At the time of writing, the UK is due to leave the EU at the end of March – although, with so many twists and turns in this particular plot, this could change. But if Brexit goes ahead, what impact could it have on our screen industries? Opinions vary but most people seem convinced that it’s more likely to be harmful than helpful.

One big worry is that the UK will no longer be part of initiatives such as Creative Europe, which has provided many millions of pounds to our screen industries over the last few years. Some foreign companies might decide not to film in the UK if they can no longer access EU finances from sources such as the European Regional Development Fund.

Another major concern is restrictions on the free movement of people and equipment, particularly with so many workers currently coming from the EU. This could mean extra costs in terms of visas and work permits, longer delays at borders…

Money, money, money…

And that’s not all. Since Brexit first reared its head, the British pound has been struggling against the dollar and the euro, making life harder for British companies filming abroad. However, it does mean that some of the larger US production companies regard the UK as an even more attractive location for filming, due to the lower costs involved. This will mean more work for British film crews and studios.

Brexit might also bring opportunities for greater collaboration with companies in other countries, such as China. And the British Film Institute is working hard to maintain strong links with the EU.

Like everything else relating to Brexit, the future remains unclear for the British creative industries. There’s an atmosphere of doom and gloom, although there are chinks of light in the darkness. Let’s hope that somehow these will prevail so that our film and TV industries can continue to thrive in the future.