What does Brexit mean for British Cinema?

In this political pandemonium created by Britain’s vote to exit the EU where the value of our currency is dropping faster than the Labour shadow cabinet and angry posts litter your social media feeds, it seems that one very important area of impact is being overlooked: Culture.

Whilst freedom of movement, currency values, employment, political relationships and trade will all be affected by Brexit, there is very little concern, it seems, for the impact that it is certain to have on Britain’s cultural sector, namely, the film industry.

Many of you may be asking: “Hold on, what has the EU got to do with culture and the cinema?”, and the answer to that question would be: everything. Something that is not commonly associated with the EU is culture, and many people will assume that the only things that are dealt with by member states are politics, human rights and trade. However, the EU is a union of cooperation on all fronts, including culture.

Since 2014, the EU has been funding creative professionals and businesses through the Creative Europe organisation. Creative Europe is the “European Commission’s framework programme to support culture and audiovisual sectors” of EU member states. They provide €1.46 billion funding for 2,500 artists and cultural professionals, 2,000 cinemas, 800 films and 4,500 book translations across the EU Member states. It promotes the use of art to reach across borders and aid international cooperation within the EU, connecting the cultures through art. So, with Britain set to leave this band of member states within the next two years, our cultural economy is sure to be hit just as hard as our political and financial economies.

So, what will Brexit mean for British Cinema?

Well, it is hard to tell exactly what the circumstances will be but, currently, the EU aids British Cinema with funding, co-production legislation and distribution. What this means is that three main things will be affected:

1. Funding for Producing Films

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Because the UK will no longer be part of the EU, we will no longer be eligible for the Creative Europe funding that we currently receive. Therefore, there will be a lot less money to spend on the artistic sector, including businesses and events in the film industry. While the UK does have the BFI (the British Film Institute), which is a lottery funded institution that aims to help British film makers to create their art and host cinematic events nationwide, there will still be considerably less funding without the EU. This will consequently mean that there may be less British films produced because of a lack of funding and perhaps a threat of a 70s-Hollywood-style British film meltdown as a result.

2. Co Production Opportunities

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Britons looking for European input, and vice versa, will be in big trouble. What was once a relatively straightforward and centralised process under a group of central European convention rules, will shatter into a series of individual co-production treaties with each country involved in the co-production of the film. What this means is that if anyone from the remaining EU member states wants to work on a British film, they will have to go through a completely separate process to make this possible. Conversely before the controversial Brexit, it was all a universal European process. This will make international co-production much more difficult and, perhaps, less likely within the industry because of all of the hassle.

3. Distribution

Finally, both British and European films might have trouble finding screens in Europe and Britain respectively due to distributional laws. The restrictions on film distribution will widely work like trade restrictions, as rights to films are bought and sold by countries that wish to play them in their cinemas.

This basically means that British films probably won’t be screening in Europe unless they are extremely good. Ironically, this generally requires them to have had decent amounts of funding, which they will most likely not have because they will not be receiving it from the EU. European films will have even less screen time in Britain because the rights to them are bought in euros, which have become much more expensive with the fall of the pound’s value. Furthermore, Britain will not have the freedom to trade their films to the mass market of Europe, as in previous years, where around 40% of UK film exports have been to the EU over the past 10 years. Just as goods and commodities will have more trouble crossing borders, so will films.

Overall, film experts such as Michael Ryan (Chairman of the Independent Film & Television Alliance) have labelled Brexit as a “major blow to the film and tv industry” that “has blown up [their] foundations” and is “likely to be devastating”.

Hopefully, some sort of agreement can be reached so that Britain’s creative sector does not suffer too greatly from our decision to leave the EU. However, Brexit could have a profound negative effect on Britain’s cultural scene, and it is perhaps unsurprising that it is the arts and culture that are the forgotten victims in the Brexit chaos. It is therefore culture that is last in line of matters to be addressed in the mess post-Brexit Britain.

Originally written for The Indiependent

Also on The Kitchen Sink

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