Thursday, 21 July 2016

Film Making, Brexit and Beyond it's not all doom and gloom but let's be realistic. WhiteScreen opinion on Brexit and the future of the British Independent Film Industry...

We will be feeling the effects of the momentous referendum outcome to leave the EU for some considerable time. Reality, it seems, has hit everyone with a terrible force but it is still proving hard going to get to the facts. I had hoped that the spin and tedious fear mongering would have ceased but, if anything, there has been an increase. Sifting through the endless opinion and scenario setting articles is a thankless task when all we want to know is 'what does it actually mean'. The honest answer is no-one is certain but for those that work in the film industry this is not a comfortable or helpful answer. With film scheduling typically difficult at the best of times the ambiguity surrounding Brexit is almost intolerable. How can you plan where or how to shoot a film when the costs for the project are even more impossible to budget for? What is certain is that there will be changes and as we are about to move into uncharted waters the facts are what need to be gleaned. With that in mind I was privileged to attend a meeting chaired by Alan Moss, a Partner with Harbottle and Lewis. I have detailed below the key points as highlighted by a firm of lawyers who are experienced in all aspects of entertainment law.

1. Film Tax Credit- No reason to believe it will be withdrawn and it may even be renegotiated at a better rate. Films that meet the criteria for this tax break can receive a cash rebate of 25% on the qualifying expenditure. For more details and to apply please click on the link here

2. Sterling / Dollar Exchange- Increase of activity and productions since Brexit result. Co Production in Europe will be more expensive. But expect to see an increase in American led productions capitalising on the strong Dollar exchange.

3. Funding From Creative Europe- It is fair to reason that this funding will not continue after Brexit but will depend on the deal that is struck. May be replaced by something else.

4. Co Productions In Europe- No Effect on Co Production agreements currently but may have other effects with free movement of workers.

5. General Uncertainty - No immediate reduction in deals and film negotiations are still being completed. Business as usual.

It is worth pointing out that Mr Moss was at pains to mention that this is very much a shifting landscape and that any of the key issues surrounding funding and movement of workers depends on what is agreed by the Government and the EU member states. It would be also worth reading an excellent article published by Stephen Follows which lays out both positive and negative Brexit scenarios. Thats the problem with Brexit, there is no precedent for this sort of action. Your opinion on the future will depend on whether you are a Leave supporter or voted to Remain. One thing is for certain, Independent Film Makers will continue to find the challenge of raising finance for their projects a frustrating and time consuming one. Equally, there will still be supportive and experienced companies and individuals who are just as passionate and willing to help truly wonderful films to reach optimum audience levels. But I would also draw your attention to the following by way of encouragement.

The Film Industry is in the midst of a paradigm shift and in this new digital age, an age where film makers can stream their projects directly into viewers living rooms, we have never been better placed to give the consumer what they desire. Hollywood is currently in a deepening crisis and movies such as Independence Day 2 and Alice Through The Looking Glass perform far, far worse than expected. The so called Box Office smash seems to be impossible to predict and, with main stream studios at a loss to explain this sudden downturn, this trend is likely to continue. Look at the films that have returned a substantially smaller return than were forecast, these are big budget, spectacular films with huge stars attached to them. Is it possible that audiences are getting bored of the same old, formulaic output and are starting to vote with their feet? I would suggest that this is a prime opportunity to give audiences some choice in what they watch and turn them on to the wonder of Independent Film. With the cost of a trip to the cinema likely to increase the desire to find entertainment in a more satisfying and cheaper form will grow. Let us continue to support in each other in our passionate creation of films that push the envelope and achieve what Hollywood seems to be unable to. We are in the business of show so let's seduce people away from the big, loud and blatantly ripped off and back to innovative and interesting.

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