INDUS TRY. WHY THE UK?
Production in the UK is thriving, and it’s having a big impression on infrastructure, with new studios cropping up every day. Why is this? ADRIAN WOOTTON: The demand for making film and TV in the UK has gone through the roof. It’s having a huge impact on infrastructure, because the only way we can continue to welcome it is by building more studios and providing more skills. What we’re seeing is the result of two things. First, it’s the work that the UK film and TV industry – in partnership with the government – have been doing to create the conditions that make the UK so attractive for international production. And this coincides with a boom in content – which shows no signs of abating. With the battle of the streamers and, quite frankly, the world’s eyeballs wanting more programming, it’s only the beginning. What has the UK done to make the country so attractive to international production companies? AW: We put together a critical package that has meant we’ve been able to take advantage of this demand. At its heart was getting the government to understand that there was an opportunity for billions of pounds of revenue to come
STAR POWER During its production, Game of Thrones created over 6000 jobs in Northern Ireland – making a skilled workforce
The UK tax relief has been a crucial component in inward investment. It’s transparent, tough, and very fraud proof. It doesn’t involve a lot of middlemen: companies just have to pass a cultural test saying that they will use British talent, British stories and British locations. Are these incentives muscling out British production companies? AW: Without the tax relief, which was introduced in 2007, nothing would get made in the UK. Every film – independent or domestic – is supported through this incentive. And then when we introduced the high-end TV tax relief in 2013. That really supercharged things, because it supported the broadcasters, the international TV and satellite channels, and now the streamers. But I wouldn’t say this muscles out British production companies. There’s more production going on in the UK than there ever has been – and that benefits everybody. TV production is not just based in London, it’s all over the country: in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales; it’s in Yorkshire, Manchester and Bristol. It’s driving our industry forward in such a way that we’re going to need an extra 20-30,000 people coming in over the next five years. How many other industries can say that? This sounds great, but how do we avoid being complacent? AW: We did a series of confidential surveys with private investors, that essentially asked: if skills and studio shortages weren’t a problem, how much money would you want to spend and bring into the UK economy? They told us that if we provided the space and crew, they would double their spending in the next five years. And it’s not just investment from our industry,
into the UK, and to create and sustain thousands upon thousands of jobs. And we won the financial argument. It was never the glamour; it was always about hard economic facts and being able to show the government how the UK would benefit. The tax relief that the government has given to the country’s film and TV industry has gifted us a seat at the table. Lots of other nations want the economic benefits of production, but unless you have a fiscal incentive to prompt the companies to choose you over other territories, then you’re not going to reap the rewards. The UK has an effective and intelligible process – one that isn’t like other regions, where the tax relief is capped at a certain level, is reviewed by state legislators every six months, or only has a certain amount of money given to it each year. There’s usually a whole bunch of restrictions, and no matter how much other countries rave about their tax relief, the UK has proved time and time again that its system works for the industry. How does the tax relief affect taxpayers in the UK? AW: The fact is, production can claim up to 25% of their expenditure on qualifying budgets, and for every pound that is spent by the exchequer, the UK gets £8 back from the production company. So, it’s almost not costing us anything. For everything we spend, we get it back – that’s why the investment levels are in the billions. In 2019, we saw a record-breaking £4bn spent on production, as high-end TV drove growth. Even last year, when production stopped for four months while we put health and safety procedures in place, we still achieved one of the highest levels of output on record in the last quarter. Now, we’re back up to levels beyond 2019.
Adrian Wootton CEO, Film London & British Film Commission Adrian Wootton OBE is CEO of Film London, the agency charged with developing the screen industries in the capitol, and the British Film Commission, the unit responsible for promoting the UK as the best place to produce feature films and high-end TV. Prior to becoming CEO in 2013, Wootton was acting director of the BFI and, before that, was founding director of Broadway Media Centre in Nottingham and director of the Bradford Playhouse & Film Theatre. He is also programme advisor to several film festivals in the UK and Italy, and regularly broadcasts and reviews films for Radio 4, The Guardian and Sight & Sound.
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