The high-end drama tax breaks have helped attract £150m of foreign investment in the UK industry, according to the latest figures from the British Film Institute (BFI).

A total of £233m ($383m) was invested by both British and overseas companies in drama productions during the first nine months of 2013 following the launch of the government’s tax relief scheme.

CBS’ Elementary and HBO’s Game Of Thrones and Veep were among the 31 qualifying shows, with the £150m ($247m) foreign investment accounting for 64% of the total spend. 

The findings have emerged following a panel debate held at BAFTA to discuss the impact of the fledgling financial credit.

Carnival Films managing director Gareth Neame pointed to the growing number of content distribution platforms as driving the global appetite for UK drama.

“It is a golden age in my opinion. Three years ago there was a barrier across the Atlantic. There are no barriers at all now,” he said.

“Platforms are fantastically important in all of this. If you’ve got Apple TV or Hulu you can watch new UK shows before they reach a TV network. That more than anything else is making UK shows global”.

Far Moor founding director Justin Thomson-Glover agreed that US executives are now “much more open” to working with UK indies.

Skills shortage

However the panel, which included Grant-Thornton partner Christine Corner, warned that there was a shortage of production space and crews in the UK to meet the growing demand.

Thomson-Glover, who executive produced drama The Fall, said that the BBC2 series was forced to compete directly for crew with Game Of Thrones.

“We could only shoot during a particular window because [HBO] could pay significantly more than [us]. The same was true on Death Comes To Pemberley.

“There were two US network shows incoming and everyone was terrified about losing crew. US networks can overpay and crew will go to those shows however loyal they are.”

Speaking to Screen’s sister publication Broadcast ahead of the Sargent Disc-sponsored panel, Neame said that growing the number of apprenticeships would help meet the increased demand for skilled UK crew.

“This can be turned around within five years. It’s not a generational problem. It only takes a number of newcomers to work on this year’s crop of productions in apprentice roles so that in five years you have a greater trained workforce,” he said.

He pointed to countries including Hungary and the Czech Republic which had benefited from tax breaks and trained a “generation of technicians”. Neame added that the UK must capitalise on US interest while the opportunity existed.