Eternals 7 c Marvel Studios

Source: Marvel Studios


As we head into 2022, the UK’s film production landscape remains as buoyant as ever. Recently released statistics from the British Film Institute show that film and high-end television spend in the UK reached over £5.64 billion in 2021; a new record and far ahead pre-pandemic production levels. Of that, £4.77 billion was spent on inward investment and co-production; double the spend of 2020.

Indeed, the UK is playing host to what Adrian Wootton, chief executive of the British Film Commission (BFC) and Film London, describes as a “torrent of production”. However, given the UK is sailing in somewhat uncharted waters following its exit from the EU and the impact of the pandemic, it is evidently working hard to develop its European and international relationships and export opportunities.

“We have been working at pace over the past year on initiatives and activities specifically to support UK screen businesses looking to make new global partnerships and explore international markets including Europe,” notes Neil Peplow, the BFI’s director of industry and international affairs. “The new UK Global Screen Fund has had a strong start in its pilot year, investing £4.4m to date in 54 companies and projects, including 11 co-production projects. With continued Government funding for the next three years we are now in the process of rolling out further support for co-production, business development and international distribution.”

“It’s my job to join the dots and cement new partnerships,” says Wootton, pointing out that European networks are being established throughout the entirety of the UK’s nations and regions, and not just centred in London. “Streamers and studios want to work across borders. In a European context, my message is that we should collaborate for the greater benefit of those industry partners who are going to spend lots of time and money in our respective territories. Commissions, production companies and service companies have been very receptive to that approach.”

“As fellow national commissions, our mandates and missions align,” agrees Meghan Beaton, Film Commissioner, Norway. “This relationship has led to an exchange of talent and resources that has been so beneficial to our industry. Collaboration has allowed us to expand the market of our films, increase the competency within our industry and allowed us to access and share talent.”

In October 2021, the BFC signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Spain Film Commission, to encourage greater creative, commercial and cultural exchange, as well as support of film and high-end television productions in both territories. Recent projects to have shot in the UK and Spain include Marvel’s Eternals, which was based at Pinewood Studios and shot on location in London, Oxford and Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands, Netflix hit The Crown and Sony’s Spider-Man: Far From Home.

Strengthening bonds

Another production to have taken advantage of these European opportunities is recent Bond instalment No Time To Die, which was also based at Pinewood Studios and shot throughout London and the south east, Scotland, Norway and Italy.

“Working in the UK and Europe has been a delight,” says the film’s associate producer Gregg Wilson. “The regional film commissions are extremely helpful and knowledgeable about their locations, and their involvement is crucial for the smooth running of our production in the country.”

Collaborative relationships between the UK and its European partners are “imperative”, notes Wilson. “The exchange of information is also crucial. Without this, foreign producers would not have the same comfort level that is currently available.”

Location manager Alex Gladstone, who has scouted extensively across Europe and recently worked on Disney’s live action The Little Mermaid, which shot in the UK and Sardinia, agrees that the UK industry’s relationship with Europe is a huge benefit. “Reaching European partners is easy; you start with the BFC and work from there. Turning a long list generated in this way into a short list tends to either be through enlightened film commissions or local service companies. Norway, for example, provided free helicopter hours that formed the setting and story for Ex Machina.”

New relationships

As the effects of the pandemic and the UK’s exit from the EU look set to continue, the BFC is committed to ensuring European partnerships can weather the storm. “Ironically, Covid and our EU exit meant that we’ve worked more closely with European commissions in places like Spain, France, Italy, Hungary and the Republic of Ireland, because we’ve needed to support productions with things like travel restrictions and changing work permits,” notes Samantha Perahia, the BFC’s head of production UK. “We’ve made it our business to understand where our clients like to shoot as well as in the UK, and we are able to add value to the UK by demonstrating these partnerships.”

“We’re going to have conversations with our European partners in Berlin on the extension of relationships,” notes Wootton, who points to emerging territories like Hungary and Romania. “That way, we can ensure a frictionless situation and people will be able to carry on making content.”

“In the face of adversity, the future is bright,” agrees Beaton. “The film industry is experiencing such phenomenal growth, unbelievable technological advances, new platforms, expanding markets, audiences craving unique stories. Strong European collaboration is the key to our shared success.”