UK Film Production drops rapidly

PoundNotes.jpgBad news for the UK film industry with production reported to have fallen by 40% in 2004. The Guardian reported today:

According to figures assembled by the journal Screen International, the number of indigenous films that started shooting in 2004 was 27, as opposed to 45 the previous year.

Adam Minns, Screen’s UK film editor, said the biggest single factor in the downturn was the government’s crackdown on tax loopholes to end the practice known as “double-dipping”.

We talked about the double-dipping before and explained what the UK Government was up to, the effect on movies was quite drastic:

Many of those films in production and preproduction at the time of the government announcements ended up stillborn, though The Libertine, starring Johnny Depp, was salvaged when it moved to the Isle of Man.

However, some movies weren’t so lucky, and the movie Tulip Fever starring Kera Knightley passed away.

On a Clear Day, the UK film starring Peter Mullan and Brenda Blethyn that opens the Sundance film festival next week, was also saved. But only by the skin of its teeth, according to its producer, Dorothy Berwin, since the movie lost 40% of its financing on the first day of preproduction.

It’s not going well at all. However, it’s not just the tax changes that have affected movie production:

Chris Auty, a producer behind such films as Crash, My Summer of Love and In This World, said the industry had been hit by “three hammer blows” – the tax-break crackdown, the “sudden and rapid” reduction in the availability of lottery money, and the gradually increasing costs of film-making. “As the UK economy has done so well the cost of production has got higher. But the market has gone down,” he said.

His concern is not for the films that are US financed like Harry Potter, or the smaller film budgets that are developed under people like Channel 4 Films, but the higher profile UK funded movies such as Vera Drake, movies that have a larger budget and are widely acclaimed.

The one interesting comment that came out from Andrew Eaton, a producer heavily favoured by Michael Winterbottom, currently at the Sundance Festival with the film Nine Songs, was regarding John’s favourite subject, the growing up of the movie industry and the understanding of the growth of the audience:

But independent British film-makers should focus, he said, on wising up to the trajectory of the home entertainment industry, and embracing a future where it will be possible for film lovers to download movies from the internet.

“Just as in the music industry, these changes could really help the minnows. If the smaller companies can produce our own downloads and DVDs, we would have much more chance of getting a return on it than we would using the big distributors. The economics of the film industry are very old-fashioned. We have got to get much smarter.”

Wise words indeed. I think he’s been reading the MovieBlog! There’s an interesting thought for the British Movie industry though, if they can lead the way with the move to the Music industry model, offering Internet downloadable movies, it could be the move that saves them. It could also mean that in the future, for a short time at least, they could pioneer the Movie industry. Now if only people in power would listen to him.

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