'The Veil'

Source: FX

‘The Veil’

“We have been committed at the British Film Commission to re-cement our creative relationships with European countries in the post-Brexit era,” says Adrian Wootton, CEO of the British Film Commission (BFC). As evidence, he cites the memorandums of understanding the UK has struck with Spain, Italy, Austria and Malta, as well as other initiatives that have brought producers from the UK and other parts of Europe together. “We want to be part of a network where there is mutual prosperity, mutual employment, mutual creativity and mutual promotional benefits for us working together.”

“We are very much European and share a wide range of historical and culturally European references,” agrees Lyndsay Duthie, Chief Executive Officer of The Production Guild of Great Britain, summing up the UK film industry’s outward-looking frame of mind when it comes to coproduction. 

Indeed, there have been multiple recent projects which have filmed in — and capitalised on the collaboration between — the UK and other European location. The second season of House Of The Dragon (HBO) filmed in the UK, Spain, Portugal and Croatia, while Poor Things (Walt Disney) used locations in the UK and Hungary. New series The Acolyte (Disney+/Lucasfilm) filmed in the UK and Portugal, and Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part 2 (Paramount) filmed across the UK, Norway and Italy.

UK filmmakers are also establishing increasingly strong links with their French counterparts. At the Cannes Film Festival, Duthie moderated a BFC and Film France-CNC masterclass entitled ‘Lifting The Veil’ which explored cross-border collaboration on the production of upcoming FX thriller series The Veil. Created by Steven Knight (Peaky Blinders) and starring Elisabeth Moss, the series shot in France, the UK and Turkey. 

Speaking on the panel, producer Adrian Kelly hailed the realism of the project, and the refusal to simply rely on VFX. This required meticulous planning - and very close collaboration between coproduction partners. French national agency CNC helped the filmmakers obtain permits for shooting in night-time Paris. “My team is the go-between for the production and the municipalities,” noted fellow panellist Daphné Lora, who heads up CNC’s film commission department, Film France.

The Veil’s production crew included more than 90 members from the UK and the US, and getting them smoothly into Turkey required co-operation and ingenuity. “They didn’t have time to do the administrative process from the US or UK [to get visas] and so it was actually the French embassy in Turkey that helped them,” Lora noted. CNC officials were also able to advise on what was needed to pass the cultural test in order to receive a 40% tax rebate in France. 

“We were on schedule and on budget,” said series producer Xavier Roy, also on the panel, who pointed to the achievements of the Franco-UK-Turkish crew in challenging circumstances, which included shooting in a refugee camp high in the mountains during freezing conditions.

'Lifting the Veil' Cannes panel: Adrian Wooton, Lyndsay Duthie, Daphne Lora, Xavier Roy, Adrian Kelly

Source: British Film Commission

‘Lifting the Veil’ Cannes panel: Adrian Wooton, Lyndsay Duthie, Daphne Lora, Xavier Roy, Adrian Kelly

Wootton likewise celebrated the close collaboration between UK and French partners. “It gives the lie to the idea that the UK and the rest of Europe aren’t collaborating. [The Veil] has mixed crews. You’ve got both tax credits [French and UK] being claimed. You have got a collaboration between American financiers, a British scriptwriter and an Irish producer [in Kelly]… this production ran on rails and it is just a really great example [of UK-EU coproducing].”

Other examples of this “cross-border, cross-cultural collaboration” cited by both Wootton and Lora are Coralie Fargeat’s Cannes Competition title The Substance, produced by Working Title and Universal and shot in France, and the new series of Apple TV’s espionage drama Slow Horses.

As Duthie explained, this collaboration “is not just about physical production. Productions filming in one country can choose to hop over the channel to finish the VFX in the UK, or vice versa. And there are close working relationships being built through producer initiatives between the BFI and the CNC – inbound and outbound trips last year, for example — to further aid creative and industry collaboration.”

Strong incentives

In Cannes, UK representatives were busy trumpeting the new 40% UK Independent Film Tax Credit for projects up to £15mn as a big reason for European co-productions to head to the UK. 

“If my anecdotal conversations with European producers are anything to go by just in the couple of months since the budget announcement [in March that confirmed the tax credit], there is an awful lot of [UK-European co-production] activity being talked about now. The Independent Film Tax Credit absolutely plays into the same budget zone as the majority of European productions,” says Wootton. “It opens up that possibility [of co-production] in a way that hasn’t existed for many years.”

“We’re already hearing of substantial interest internationally in making more of these films in the UK,” Duthie confirmed. 

For all these productions, the ability to stick to a schedule is of paramount importance. “They know they have a limited number of days to complete the shoot and will be sure to base the production where they can stick to that timetable,” noted Kelly. “The incentives kick in too. If the location is right and the tax credits work, they will jump.

“The competition then starts to peel away,” continued Kelly of the advantages for productions filming in the UK and other European locations. “Then you get into collaboration. As soon as you’ve got something that fits your jigsaw, then you’ve got a show.”

“Let’s not forget that, in terms of financing, it might be that one or two last deals and packets of funding that help get a project across the line,” added Duthie.

Yet the most compelling arguments for co-producing are creative and financial and, from the experiences of The Veil, crew members also gain a great deal by working together. 

“The filmmakers don’t care about bureaucracy and borders,” said Wootton. “They just want to get the job done. Yes, we might compete about where certain things get based but a lot of the time, it is about the specifics of what the film or television programme requires. Our job is to facilitate that. Our colleagues [in Europe] have seen that we genuinely do want tp support projects to work across Europe, and we want to collaborate.”