Charlie Bloye

Source: Screen International/Theo Wood

Charlie Bloye

Charlie Bloye, chief executive of Film Export UK, the trade body for UK sales agents, is retiring after almost 18 years in the role.

Bloye has been a mainstay of the UK sales agent landscape, working for 26 years at companies such as Rank Organisation, Renaissance, Signpost and Peace Arch, before becoming the inaugural chief executive when Film Export UK launched in 2007, totting up visits to more than 150 markets and festivals across his career.

“There is a mood change in the air at the moment – many people would predict a change of government this year, and I think the association might benefit from having new blood, a fresh chief executive to communicate the opportunities of the future, better than an old fart like me,” smiles Bloye of his decision to retire.

Recruitment is in its very early stages for a replacement for Bloye, who will be stepping down in July. The Film Export UK board will manage this process, chaired by Simon Crowe of SC Films. “We’re discussing someone from the film community, rather than from a sales company,” said Crowe.

“We’re looking for someone who can cross the knowledge Charlie has of the sales and distribution industry, with someone who can deal with the lobbying and political aspect of the role,” Crowe continued. “Charlie has done a brilliant job of leading us over the years. Whoever comes on board will be facing a whole new set of challenges. We all know it’s never easy, but hopefully, it will be a fun journey.”

As Bloye heads into his final couple of months in post, he talks to Screen about the range of challenges facing the sector, from geo-blocking to enhancing diversity within UK sales agencies, as well as his hopes for the future of Film Export UK.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in your time in post? Brexit? Covid? The decline in theatrical?

For our members, the challenges always are always the same. It’s the fluctuations and unpredictability of demand in various markets, territory by territory, financial, geopolitical, macro stuff that affects how you’re going to do in the next market if you’re trying to sell films. Those are constant worries if you’re trying to sell films.

You say decline in theatrical – I think probably, long-term, the trend for cinemagoing is very gradually going up, except in Covid. What’s happening is there are so many more players competing for the indie section of the pie, the slices are getting very much slimmer. Decline may be a bit strong at this point.

If I were to pick one organisational challenge, it’s going back to when the coalition [government] came in in 2010, when [now chancellor, Conservative MP] Jeremy Hunt, who was then the culture minister, axed the UK Film Council without any planning. The bonfire of the quangos was the political motivation for it, we had about six months before it became clear that the people and the responsibilities were moving over to the BFI. We had six months of us and other advocacy bodies trying to make the case for support for the independent sector, pretty much from scratch.

Going forward, what is a key challenge for the sector?

Geo-blocking – the threat to geo-blocking, we keep knocking it down and it keeps coming back up. It’s like Whac-A-Mole. It would be seismic if it ever comes to pass. As a trade body we work very closely with counterparts in Europe, [and get] behind all the arguments against it. But the problem is politicians love to appeal to consumers, and they feel it’s an argument that can appeal to consumers even if it is incredibly harmful to the industry, and particularly the independent side of the industry.

How has Brexit impacted your members?

The Brexit impact on the film industry has been slightly tangential. For the movement of goods it’s been dramatic, we keep hearing from friendly trade bodies from completely different industries who have been seriously impacted with their exports, and seen some of their numbers falling off a cliff. I’m not sure how to ascribe any drop in exports in terms of independent film – there are niggles, there is waiting longer at the passport control and issues around moving productions and people from country to country, but it’s not been dramatic.

A completely incalculable factor would be the reputational damage of the way Brexit was perceived internationally as a xenophobic thing – that affected our soft power. People felt a little less warm towards British films.

Film Export UK supports umbrella stands at several key international markets, funded by the BFI and UK government’s Department for Business and Trade, but has not done so at the American Film Market (AFM) for the past couple of years, citing a lack of appetite from its members. Now the AFM is moving to Las Vegas, will a UK umbrella stand return?

I was surprised how up in arms people were about the problems with last year’s edition of the AFM. My conclusion was – you can’t get that upset about something you don’t care about. People want the AFM to succeed, and going to Vegas is obviously a throw of the dice.

What markets do you think are on the rise?

I would hope in the future we could get a reliably regular presence at an Asian market, whether it’s Filmmart or ACFM at Busan. I think there’s tremendous demand for sales companies to go to Asia and umbrella stands are probably the best way to do it.

We had [umbrella stands at] Filmmart before Covid and Busan was [most recently in] 2022. It’s been hard to get regular financial support from the Department for Business and Trade or the BFI.

Do your funders understand the importance of in-person market attendance for your members, particularly after the pandemic shifted so much business online?

The BFI is very enthusiastic about festivals, where there can be promotion of talent, where the inward investment case can be made for coming and shooting in the UK, where a combination of different things are achieved with an umbrella stand that’s also a screen embassy for the UK. Where it’s a down and dirty trade show, there has historically been some support from Department of Business and Trade and its predecessors for programmes that run across lots of different industries, but that has not survived Covid and we would definitely hope for that to be revived if or when a new government comes in.

Do you think a Labour government would better support the UK film industry?

The problem at the moment is there is very little to go round for whatever government comes into power. I don’t think there is any prospect of expecting a bonanza of state relief coming, whatever happens in the next election. The case for the importance of telling our own stories, for levelling up around the whole country, and diversity in the telling of stories, is something that should chime with a Labour government if they are elected.

The upper echelons of UK sales companies have typically been male and white. Is the tide changing?

In face to face and Zoom meetings, I have been happy to see a lot younger and more diverse faces in the community, it’s made me feel that we aren’t a zombie legacy business that at some point, maybe 10 years ago, I wondered if we were. There is a lot of great talent coming through in our member companies.

We always make the case that independent films as a whole are nursery slopes for talent in terms of production and creativity in the industry. But also from the executive side, I think people working in independent film sales will often blossom into production or finance or other executive roles, or can have a brilliant career in sales as well. It’s the nursery slope for business talents as well as creative talents in the industry.

What are your hopes for the future of Film Export UK?

The old We Are UK Film brand that the BFI has used at Cannes and other places is being retired this Cannes, and is being turned into Screen UK. My main hope is that film remains what Film Export UK is about, rather than just ’content’.

What’s next for you?

I’ll stay in touch with friends. I’m a Bafta voter so I’ll be fairly diligent about attending screenings and stuff like that. But I’m not planning to add to my collection of lanyards and badges.


“Charlie’s leadership of FEUK since its beginnings has been steadfast and true to the mission to support independents’ business globally. As a colleague, I’ve counted on Charlie to bring the long view (and some amusement) rather than turbulence to hard times and will miss him – but wish him the best for his next adventure.”
Jean Prewitt, president, Independent Film and Television Alliance (IFTA)

”Underneath this gruff exterior, Charlie always harboured a wealth of detailed knowledge about the film industry and the mechanics of international sales, as well as a refined intelligence. Collaborating with him on common causes was always a pleasure. With his decision to move on to pastures new, the business is losing one of its most accomplished and compassionate advocates. I miss him already.”
Bertrand Moullier, EU advisor, IFTA

“Europa International (EI) and FilmExport UK have been close partners, ever since the creation of EI in 2011, and Charlie Bloye was always of great help, expertise and support to the European film sales agents.”
Adeline Chauveau, managing director, Europa International