The UK post-production industry generated £1.39bn in revenues in 2002 and employs 15,000 people, according to a comprehensive new study of the sector published today (Nov 27) by the UK Film Council.
The report - Post-production in the UK - concludes that the UK post sector ranks with the USA and New Zealand as one of the top three providers of visual special effects for the global film industry.
The figures are likely to be far higher this year. Executives predict that 2003 could be a record year for the post production industry, with a wave of big budget features doing post work in London. They include Cold Mountain, Troy, Thunderbirds, Harry Potter And The Prisoner of Azkaban, Love Actually, Calendar Girls, Around The World In Eighty Days, Lara Croft And the Cradle Of Life, The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Underworld.
"There is definitely more work than this time last year," Framestore CFC joint chief executive William Sargent told ScreenDaily.com.
The report found that 1000 specialised companies carry out post production work across the UK's audiovisual industries and that work is split across three main areas: commercials (36.4%), film (29.3%) and broadcast (18.9%).
It found that the post sector grew by 4% over 2001/2002, despite the advertising downturn, and concludes that current growth is coming mainly from the increasing share that post-production is now taking from overall budgets. Post now accounts for a quarter of all production spend, up from 13% two years ago.
In terms of film, the report paints a picture of an industry where only a few large companies can accommodate an unreliable flow of several very large contracts a year, mainly from the US majors.
"Buying power is concentrated in the USA and this has a huge effect on the UK film post-production industry, as only the very largest UK companies have the equipment and skills to bid for and work on the top global movies'it is estimated that only a tiny percentage of film post-production actually leaves the USA."
It also argues that, for many companies, working on a big budget film is a loss making exercise.
"Anecdotal evidence suggests that UK companies, both to keep staff in work and to attract the important kudos of working on the latest global blockbuster, take some UK post-production contracts at a loss. Further anecdotal evidence suggests that companies use more profitable commercials work to effectively subsidise work on features."
The report also concludes that there would be a decline in post-production work coming to the UK if local fiscal incentives such as the Section 48 tax break were to be removed and not replaced.
It also warns that global competition for post-production work at the very top end is strong and likely to increase as new capabilities emerge in Eastern Europe, Asia and the Pacific Rim.
The report comes as companies within the sector prepare to launch a new industry body to raise the profile of and expand the post-production sector still further. The organisation will be funded initially by companies within the sector with the support of the Department of Trade and Industry and the UK Film Council. A chief executive is currently being recruited.
Unveiling the report, British Film Commissioner Steve Norris - who as head of the UK Film Council's International Department is responsible for attracting inward investment into the UK -said: "The UK has a wealth of creative and technical talent and it's important that we make the most of it. The post-production sector in the UK has a world-renowned reputation and this report points the way to ensuring we build on our current success in the future."