The Other Side of Film

Since June 24th, I’ve been pondering the Referendum result and its implications for film and film societies. The future looks depressing.

Film societies work in different ways but they all serve the same purpose, namely to bring their members the widest possible range of films, especially those not on the mainstream circuit. These come from around the world, but particularly Europe. Once we leave the EU, this flow of exceptional films will slow to a trickle, if not dry up altogether.

Here’s why. Once we’re out, funding from Creative Europe (the Union’s programme for the audiovisual
industry, worth over €100m to film in Britain since 2008) will stop. This cash currently enables producers to set up joint ventures across the continent, providing money to get films made and guaranteeing much wider distribution.

Successful UK films like The King’s Speech, The Iron Lady and Slumdog Millionaire were beneficiaries of this scheme. Equally, European films such as Of Gods and Men, A Prophet, The Great Beauty, Amour, Potiche (all films we’ve shown in recent seasons) were placed here. In future, availability and distribution of such films in the UK will be threatened, potentially damaging our programming options.

The bigger picture looks no better. Creative Europe’s funding also supports independent cinemas like The Broadway in Nottingham and The Showroom in Sheffield. This will go, threatening their status and the choice and diversity they provide. David Sin, head of cinema at the Independent Cinema Office told me, “Independent and community cinemas have received some capital support from European funds – especially in economically deprived regions. This source of capital funding will no longer exist.”

The wider economic impact on the industry could be dire. 2013 figures – the most recent I’ve seen – show that film, TV, video-gaming and animation combined earned a huge amount for the UK. Film exports alone to the rest of the world were worth nearly £1.4bn, double the achievements of any other service sector. Film employs 40,000 people – more than 8,000 in film tourism alone – and that’s before any contributions from TV and video games. It’s a massive success. Brexit threatens that achievement.

Moreover, if freedom of movement stops, analysts suggest industry professionals would be unable to apply their skills on the continent: and if work dries up here, the chances of graduates from the University of Lincoln School of Film and Media pursuing their dreams could be at risk. When I asked for their views, a source told me the University isn’t commenting yet, though I was told ‘creative people have a way of finding creative solutions to problems’. However, graduate David Brook (from Blueprint Film, a Lincoln business) told me he’s worried about funding implications.

There may be some benefits. Making films here (we have talent second to none) could be cheaper if the £ falls, helping producers (especially US ones who spent £7.7bn here between 2006-15). Film Tax Relief (which generates £12 for every £1 granted and produces a healthy return for the Treasury) could be rewritten more specifically in favour of the UK film industry.

But there are no guarantees. With other priorities already demanding support, & Government attitudes towards the arts lukewarm at best, the £10bn of ‘our money’ won’t plug the gaps. Choice, diversity, opportunity will all be harmed.

As I said, Brexit is bad news.

Written by Richard Hall, originally published in the Lincolnshire Echo.