Britain Analysis: How Brexit Will Damage the Film Industry

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PHOTO: Ken Loach’s Palme d’Or-winner I, Daniel Blake — it might not have been made if Britain was outside the EU


Rob Stone of the University of Birmingham writes for The Birmingham Brief:


What does the European Union mean for Britain’s filmmakers and filmgoers?

When the British Film Institute presented its five-year plan in 2011, “Film Forever: Supporting UK Film 2012-2017”, it was criticized by some UK producers for not pushing for the UK to rejoin Eurimages, the Council of Europe’s European Cinema Support Fund. Eurimages, which the UK left in 1996, takes in around €25 million from 37 member states and gives it out again, primarily to co-productions. Five films funded by Eurimages won big at Cannes this year: all five were co-productions that included France.

The EU offers funding to filmmakers through initiatives such as Creative Europe, which replaced the MEDIA and Culture programs in January 2014. It wields a €1.46 billion budget that funds workshops and industry events and responds to applications from aspiring filmmakers in member countries. UK applicants tend to approach it through regional offices that answer to the British Film Institute, which also administers Lottery funding to UK filmmakers.

Of the 23 films supported by Creative Europe at the 69th Cannes Film Festival in 2016, 11 won prizes, including British director Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake (2016), which won the Palme d’Or. The film, which describes how UK government policies of austerity affect the British working class, received almost €100,000 from Creative Europe for its development and distribution.

There are no co-production treaties in operation between the US and Europe. European filmmakers like Loach or their representatives can contact government-paid commissioners around Europe, who can also put them in touch with European producers seeking partners and investment opportunities for co-productions. US filmmakers also do this, if they qualify for European funding and if their films include elements sourced from European countries such as stars, crew or locations. Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight (2013) tapped into Greek funding through its producer Faliro House, which led to the film being made in Messinia with a largely Greek crew.

If British filmmakers lose out on direct access to European funding when the UK left the EU, they may still be able to apply to Creative Europe by fulfilling certain criteria. But if films are ineligible for EU grants and subsidies, European companies have fewer incentives to enter co-production agreements with UK companies, unless significant funding or tax breaks comes with them.

The knock-on effect of any separation of interests could also affect distribution. In response to any restrictions on UK access to EU funding, the British Government might establish a protectionist quota for the UK films that could be screened at your local art-house cinema. But British films might still have a hard job finding proper screens. So if such quotas did exist, it would mean filmgoers missing out on an already scarce supply of European cinema.

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