Country Focus: UK
Investors returning to the UK
by Naman Ramachandran
- Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, directed by Gareth Edwards
(This article has been published in the Cannes 2016 Market News daily by Le Film Français)
According to Adrian Wootton, Chief Executive of the British Film Commission (BFC) and Film London. Wootton says, “Unlike other countries where tax regimes can alter because of political change or a tax incentive can come and go out within the course of a year, or the pot of money gets reduced, we are stable. We keep on saying that we’re in this for the long term – and we mean it.” Wootton cites the examples of major studios like Disney and Warner Bros. who return year on year to the UK with major productions.
2015 was another hugely successful year for inward investment in the UK, with overall spend on feature films reaching £1.41bn – the first time spend has topped £1bn for two consecutive years. More than 83% of this was generated by 47 inward investment titles, including Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Doctor Strange, Assassin’s Creed, Wonder Woman and Jason Bourne. 2015 was also a significant year for high-end television production in the UK. Total spend in this sector was £759m, marking a 20% increase on 2014. Some 50% of this is attributed to inward investment and international co-productions. High profile television series like Game of Thrones, Outlander, Galavant and The Royals are returning to the UK for several seasons while new titles like Taboo, The Crown and The Dresser have chosen to shoot in the UK.
On top of supporting and facilitating production, the BFC also organises familiarisation trips for senior-level executives, bringing delegates to the UK to showcase the breadth of locations, facilities, crews and expertise on offer. Just this March, the BFC, supported by UK Trade and Investment’s (UKTI) Northern Powerhouse Fund, brought six key decision-makers from the North American film and television industry to the north of England for an overview of the region’s key crew, talent, facilities, studios and locations.
The steady increase in inward investment productions means that studio space is in demand. To this end, established studio spaces like Pinewood and Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden are expanding and the BFC has also supported planning applications for new studio spaces in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
BUILDING BRIDGES FOR CHINESE INVESTMENT
As in recent years, the BFC continues to play an active role in supporting the repurposing of non-traditional spaces for filming. “Excitingly, Church Fenton has now come online in Yorkshire. Screen Yorkshire consulted with us about that as they began to assess feasibility for taking that space on. They asked for our views, we visited it, gave them advice and ultimately endorsed their proposals,” says Wootton. Formerly a Royal Air Force base, Church Fenton has a 100,000 square foot hangar that has recently been repurposed. There are several such spaces across the UK, including Wardpark Studios, a former factory in Cumbernauld, Scotland, where the second season of Outlander has just wrapped; The Bottle Yard in Bristol, a former bottling plant where Poldark, Sherlock, and two seasons of Galavant have been filmed while the second season of Arctic-set Fortitude has returned to London for a second season, shooting at a converted warehouse in the capital city.
The US remains the biggest inward investor in the UK, but the BFC – in conjunction with the British Film Institute and UKTI –, is also focusing on China, conducting several trade missions there and hosting inward-bound missions from China to discuss film and television co-productions. This work is ongoing, and Wootton says that they have been very productive. “There is an awful lot of relationship-building going on, which is extremely positive,” says Wootton. Chinese investment is also coming in indirectly through Chinese co-funded US-based companies like STX Entertainment, who are bringing projects to the UK and through Chinese co-investment into US studio features based in the UK like Paramount’s Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation.
Meanwhile, efforts are on to ensure that supply continues to meet demand. Wootton says, “We obviously have to expand our infrastructure at an appropriate rate which allows us to meet not only demand, but also the high expectations the global industry has come to expect of our facilities, crews and talent. It is a constant juggling act, because we want to see the right facilities developed that are fit for purpose. We need facilities that are robust and that have flexibility and longevity. We are in constant dialogue with the industry, talking about studio space – be it permanent or temporary –, and that’s an ongoing challenge. I’m pleased, though – I think the UK has met these challenges magnificently.”
UPCOMING FILM AND TELEVISION MADE IN THE UK
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Star Wars: Episode VIII
Justice League of America
The Hitman’s Bodyguard
Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie
Alice Through the Looking Glass
The Legend of Tarzan
Now You See Me 2
A Monster Calls
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Bridget Jones’s Baby [+see also:
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Peaky Blinders Season 3
Outlander Season 2