Indies raise fears of skills shortage over UK tax break
The UK drama community has raised concerns of a skills shortage if the imminent high-end TV tax credits prompt an influx of US drama.
The tax credit applies to productions worth more than £1m per slot hour and is expected to attract a wave of productions that might otherwise have been shot in Europe, Ireland or South Africa – generating millions of pounds in extra revenue for the UK.
There is widespread support for the measure, which is set to take effect on April 1, but concerns are starting to emerge, such as the production and post-production talent base being under-resourced.
Artists Studio creative director Gub Neal said: “I don’t think we will have a shortage of above-the-line talent. The UK has a tremendous resource in the acting, writing and directing community.
“But below the line, where there have been cutbacks in training and people laid off, there may be fewer staff available. If we are going to meet the challenge of servicing [the credit] from a production point of view, some companies are going to have to move quite quickly. They will need to hire people or bring them in from abroad.”
Kudos film and television chairman Stephen Garrett echoed those concerns. He said: “I know there are serious concerns. We are always struggling to find the range of quality of people we need. It is something we should take very seriously and address across every pay grade and craft.
“The bigger, high-end productions will always have their pick, but that can impact further down the line. This is all hypothetical, but everyone is aware of the potential, very serious shortage.”
The issue was raised recently by Panavision managing director Jeff Allen, who warned the UK was heading towards a “train crash” in critical areas of production at the British Screen Advisory Council Film Conference 2013 this month.
Specific areas he highlighted as potentially facing a chronic shortage included: stereographers, digital imaging technicians, data wranglers and broadcast engineers.
Creative Skillset is already aware of the shortage of skills in some pockets of the industry and will be ploughing £8m ($12m) of funding into address those needs and providing training at the right level.
But concerns remain. Specialist advisory firm Far Moor argues that “George Osborne will have missed his target if major US Studios are the principal beneficiaries”.
Executives Justin Thomson-Glover and Patrick Irwin said: “The Americans will be coming in their droves to the UK to utilise the UK TV Tax Credit. Unless UK producers come up with a rapid and effective plan to meet this competition, they will end up marginalised in their own production sector.”
Showtime’s Penny Dreadful, which is being made by Neal Street Productions, is among the first examples of US drama taking advantage of the credit.