The UK’s exit from the European Union could have substantial implications for fixers, producers, journalists and crew members across the globe.
Since the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union, there has been considerable debate over the implications for the audio-visual industry. As us media professionals know, the industry is heavily dependent on cross border collaborations for financing, employment and distribution. Will Brexit place these under threat?
For the past two years Brexit has dominated the headlines. Indeed, the news is beginning to sound like a broken record. While it is all too easy bury our heads in the sand and try to ignore the issue, impending alterations to legislation could prove game changing.
Earlier this year, May used the Mansion House speech to pledge her commitment to the creative industries post-Brexit, and the Government’s July white paper attempted to outline the UK’s future relationship with the EU. Yet, the Creative Industries Federation (CIF) warn the future of mobility frameworks, broadcasting and intellectual property rights are still worryingly unclear.
What do the experts predict?
Last year the British Film Institute (BFI) published a comprehensive study exploring the possible outcomes of an “independent” Britain, mapping the consequences of various exit scenarios. Labour, financing, as well as training and education are all set to change under new legislation, however, the extent to which this will damage or boost the industry hinges on the UK’s new relationship with the European Economic Area.
The BFI concluded “most exit scenarios result in net adverse impacts on the screen sector”. Under many scenarios there are severe restrictions on labour mobility. As all members of World Fixer are only too aware, projects rely on dynamic international labour and financing structures; visas and permits are essential for hiring international cast and crew. A study by the Creative Industries Federation in 2017, revealed 75% of businesses employed EU nationals, while in the visual-effects sector alone they accounted for 30% of the workforce.
Thus, legislative barriers obstructing UK based organisations hiring from within the EU, or for foreign media professionals pursuing contracts inside the UK could prove devastating. Freelance journalists, crew members and researchers, based in the European Union may have reason to fear for their employability in the UK. Similarly, production companies with arms in the EU and UK, could struggle to manoeuvre employees between projects.
Sonia, manager of Fixers in Spain said, “Of course, we feel that Brexit has a direct incidence on our line of work as we have a lot of UK clients.”
She added, “We fear that the return of “borders” between UK and Europe might imply more bureaucratic difficulties such as the need for a Carnet for example or visas, but we really hope not.”
Loss of financial support from EU investment channels could also be disruptive. Access to financing from Creative Europe, Horizon Europe and education support from the European Development Fund has been critical, with Creative Europe providing over 100 Million Euros to the UK film industry between 2007 and 2013. The UK’s membership of Creative Europe has been secured until 2020. However the CIF caution the latest white paper’s pledge to “explore continued involvement” in Creative Europe does little to reassure industry professional both in the UK and overseas.
An opportunity for new networks?
Nevertheless, Brexit could open up new avenues for UK audio-visual industries, creating new international networks. A depreciated Sterling has the potential to raise the competitiveness of British production as foreign producers will extract more value for their money when investing in the UK. This could strengthen international networks between organisations and individuals inside and outside of Britain, driving up wages and opening up new employment opportunities. That is good news for producers outside the UK looking to invest in new projects here.
This position was adopted by Munira Mirza, art advisor to the UK government, at the panel discussion, “The Creative Industries Beyond Brexit” earlier this year. She highlighted the new opportunities for collaboration with Asia and Latin America after 2019. As opportunities for production in China and India evolve, we could see growing need for long distance partnerships.
The status quo continues?
At the same time many contend exit from the EU will not have a significant impact on the audio-visual industry. Earlier this year Minister for digital and creative industries, Margot James maintained that Brexit would not affect studio space or tax relief, key factors drawing international investments.
Isabel Davis, head of International at the British Film Institute affirmed this position. She indicated bilateral agreements, tax credits and alternative domestic funding has the capacity to provide adequate support after Brexit.
Unfortunately, as with everything Brexit based, nobody has a definitive answer. The key word is “uncertainty”. Everyone is espousing contradictory opinions, nobody has definitive blueprint for future relations, and each day the situation appears to change. Teresa May’s insistence “Brexit means Brexit” has never been so ambiguous.
Many organisation have begun devising avenues for a post-Brexit landscape, even if most are reluctant to reveal their plans. However, until negotiations with Brussels make more headway and critical questions are answered, plans cannot be put into effect.
Headlines like “Could Brexit break the British film industry?”, and “Brexit Britain to be boosted by film industry” continue to throw everyone into a frenzy; nevertheless, the future remains a guessing game. And it doesn’t look like the situation will change any time soon. With cabinet reshuffles, calls for a second referendum, and fears of “no deal” looming, no news is good news.