What Effects Will Brexit have
for the Irish Film Industry?
Brexit: the world is currently in the grip of the most tempestuous divorce in living memory, and despite impassioned protestations to contrary, nobody really seems to know how things are going to pan out. One thing is for sure, international businesses of every kind are going to experience considerable re-orientation, not least the film industry. We’re going to look at the three main areas for concern for Irish Directors: Irish Directors working in the UK, Attracting Overseas/Hollywood Productions to our Shores, and The Future of Irish/UK Co-Productions.
Irish Directors working in the UK
Brexit is creating uncertainty for directors primarily in relation to funding, currency exchange rates, and perhaps most crucially, freedom of movement. One major area of concern is for Irish directors working in the UK: will Britain’s exit of the EU now require the issuing of new work permits, or the use of carnets (detailed shipping documents which allow the transportation of filming equipment without having to pay import duties and taxes each time)?
Luckily, there are many reasons to be optimistic about this situation. The rights of Irish workers in Britain will remain unchanged during Britain’s trade negotiations with the EU, and freedom of movement is an issue which the EU are unlikely to compromise on. If Britain wishes to retain access to the EU common market (like Norway), they will most likely have to accept freedom of movement, as Norway does, as a price for access to the common market. So in the long term, Irish directors working in Britain are likely to retain their current rights.
Prior to the referendum, a group of 20 top-line figures in the British film industry, including Bond producer Barbara Broccoli and Layer Cake/X-Men: First Class director Matthew Vaughan, came out strongly in favor of remaining, citing freedom of movement as a crucial factor in the film industry:
“At present, British film and television crews, actors, vfx artists, games programmers, writers and directors can all work in other European countries without a work permit and all equipment travels “carnet” free. (For those of us that remember the horror of carnets the idea of having them back in our lives is a terrifying thought!) All of this would be at risk if we were to leave.”
The British film industry also faces uncertainty in relation to funding – the 20 influential producers argued that the EU’s MEDIA Programme had contributed some €130m to the British film industry between 2007 and 2015, including the recent development of Palme d’Or winner I, Daniel Blake, directed by Ken Loach. The Irish and British industries are so closely related that we cannot but experience Brexit fallout – the extent remains to be seen. Two areas in which Ireland may be affected are were those in which we compete directly with Britain – attracting big Hollywood productions – and in Irish/British co-productions where we work together.
Attracting Overseas/Hollywood Productions to our Shores.
One area of concern for the Irish film industry is that Britain, no longer beholden to EU regulations, might be able to make itself far more appealing and competitive for major Hollywood/overseas productions. On the other hand, this remains uncertain; Ireland’s Section 481 film and TV tax credit may make it an increasingly attractive option, depending on how future British administrations tackle the issue. For the moment, the many rumors swirling around Game of Thrones seem to have been unfounded. HBO have confirmed that the Brexit Referendum will have “no material effect” on the show’s production in the North of Ireland, since the show hasn’t received EU funding for a couple of seasons now.
The Future of Irish/UK Co-Productions.
The UK are our closest production partners, and Irish/UK co-productions have played a crucial role in the recent international surge of the Irish film industry – the Oscar-nominated Brooklyn and Room and cult hit Lobster being prime examples. Brexit leads to several uncertainties in the funding and distribution of these co-productions in the future. If, for example, the pound continues to devalue against the euro, this may lead to less British productions choosing to shoot in Ireland. Similarly, British productions may no longer have access to EU funding and quotas, and the funding and distribution of these projects will inevitably become more complex in the immediate future.
These difficulties are likely to be only short-term. Film is by its nature a borderless, internationalist enterprise, and the many fluctuations caused by Brexit in the movement of people, equipment, distribution networks, funding and currency is bound to cause uncertainty in the immediate future. However, there are reasons for cautious optimism: Irish film has had an incredible year, and Irish and British locations remain highly desirable and in-demand for large-scale overseas productions. There is a considerable will and determination in the film industries of our two countries to continue this forward momentum and fruitful co-operation and competition. It’s not the end of the world – yet.