After the triggering of Article 50 earlier this year, Brexit now looms over Britain and continues to resemble the most tedious and exhausting disaster movie imaginable. Over a year on from that fateful night in June 2016, the full impact of Brexit on independent film in Britain remains unknown.
You could point to the crucial funding and assistance in distribution offered from EU programmes as a sign of Brexit’s impending doom for film. However, it is possible that independent British film will emerge as a more appealing prospect for American investment. But is this really what we want? For our film industry to become a lucrative Hollywood playground, in which Johnny Depp incessantly rams the impotent dregs of profit-orientated cultural production down our gullets, allaying us with a disarming tip of his pirate hat. Though of course, any international investment is an exciting prospect and should be welcomed, but we can’t so easily forsake our European friends.
“we can’t so easily forsake our European friends”
The general mood in the British film industry was summarised by Michael Ryan, the chairman of the Independent Film and Television Alliance, and a partner at GFM Films, who expressed deep concerns over Brexit. He stated that ‘we no longer know how our relationships with co-producers, financiers and distributors will work, whether new taxes will be dropped on our activities in the rest of Europe, or how production financing is going to be raised without any input from European funding agencies’.
Ryan’s final remark is particularly poignant as acquiring sufficient funding can be exceedingly difficult for independent projects. The assistance from EU cultural programmes has been vital for British film, injecting £105 million into the industry between 2007 and 2015. This was carried out by the MEDIA programme from its creation in 2007, until it was subsumed into the new Creative Europe programme in 2013. This new project continues to promote the development and distribution of thousands of films, with a budget of €1.46 billion. Nonetheless, soon Britain will turn its back on the supportive cross-cultural cooperation of Creative Europe, and somewhere Alex Jones will toast the downfall of the globalists.
What we will really see is that independent British productions will struggle to market their films on the continent without the help of this financial and distributary framework. Between 2007 and 2013, the MEDIA programme granted €44,561,008 to European distributors to release UK films, including support for such titles as Fish Tank and Shame (an excellent Michael Fassbender double-bill), which were distributed around 29 and 27 European territories respectively. Over the past decade, 40% of the UK’s film exports have been to the EU, so this issue must not be overlooked. The current renegotiation period has already damaged Britain’s EU funding avenues and is costing independent film companies precious resources. Matthew Butler, co-founder of Fizz and Ginger Films, has heard of projects being suspended as European companies postpone until they see what will happen
Butler has also described how ‘films of all sizes received money through co-productions with European companies. These are now in jeopardy’. Co-production treaties enable the pooling of financial resources and provide access to the government incentives and subsidies of other countries. Last year’s Palme d’Or winner I, Daniel Blake, was a co-production that joined with Why Not Productions in France, a country with a routinely high box office for Ken Loach’s films. If Brexit disrupts the current co-production treaties, such productions could become much scarcer and life will be even harder for independent British filmmakers trying to get their projects off the ground.
“it’s more important than ever to support independent film in Britain”
The vacuum to be left by EU funding has not disheartened British producer Paul Duddridge, who believes that ‘international funds will be queuing to get in’ after Brexit. The falling value of the pound against the dollar will certainly make UK based film production a more attractive prospect to US investors. But what will this mean if independent British films become increasingly dependent on US funding? American priorities might spell less experimentation and more box-office friendly casts and productions. Maybe Star Wars films will soon form the backbone of the UK’s economy and Mickey Mouse’s face will be plastered on to Big Ben, the future remains unclear.
All we know for certain is that it’s more important than ever to support independent film in Britain. This means checking out film festivals (plenty can be found here: http://film.britishcouncil.org/festivals-directory?p=1&country=United%20Kingdom), getting down to your local screenings and giving independent film the attention it needs and deserves. Let’s ensure that Brexit doesn’t cost us a generation of filmmaking talent.