Why are Hollywood productions fleeing to the EU?
Film & TV productions: Taking a Euro trip
To fend off the countries and states increasingly luring the entertainment business away from its birthplace, the State of California shelled out $330 million in annual tax incentives last year in an aim to get film & TV producers to stay put. As FD discussed in Filmmakers Flee LA for greener pastures, it seems in some cases the money’s not enough, and according to a recent study by FilmL.A., filming in Tinseltown has now hit a five-year low.
On the other side of the pond, a rather different story is unfolding. New data from the British Film Institute has shown the UK had a banner year for film & TV production, where spending hit a record of nearly $4 billion – an 11% increase from the previous year.
It’s not just the UK experiencing this trend – various European countries such as Czech Republic, The Canary Islands, and Ireland are drawing in an increasing amount of production teams. In the last several years Ireland has attracted numerous shoots including Star Wars: The Last Jedi, The Man Who Invented Christmas, I Kill Giants, Sing Street, Brooklyn, The Lobster, Room, The Widow, and The Breadwinner, to name a few.
Ireland: The land of the free (and the green)
Several reasons lead production studios to go continental with their site choice. The Emerald Isle, for example, offers experienced production companies, talented crews, world-famous locally based actors, not to mention stunning landscapes. Plus, to sweeten the deal further, “the Inward Production department of the Irish Film Board is on hand to help facilitate the production process, and filmmakers can avail themselves of a 32% rebate on qualified spend”, 90% of which is available as an interim payment.
The country’s Film Board is also dedicated to helping its visitors by offering a “Green Production Toolkit”, providing tips on how to create an environmentally friendly film set in areas such as catering and craft services, transportation, utilities, wardrobe, location work, cameras, sound, post-production, and visual effects.
Prague: Capital of the Eastern European film world
Prague has also joined the incentives race to nab its share of the movie-making business. Prague Studios US Representative Tomas Krejci told Film Daily about the many major productions that have come through its doors, including Hellboy, Blade II, Van Helsing, AVP: Alien vs. Predator, Wanted, Red Tails, The Adventurers, Underworld: Blood Wars, and numerous other titles.
When discussing filming in L.A., Krejci offered that the city will always mean Hollywood, a history one can’t erase. However, “L.A. is expensive and there are obvious economic advantages to shooting in other parts of the world. There has very rarely been a film concept that actually had the funding to support the director’s vision in its entirety. The reach always exceeds the grasp in art. But if the story needs an army of soldiers running up the hill, you can get one hundred times more soldiers in places like the Czech Republic. It’s more bang for your buck.”
Krejci described how the Czech Republic was slow compared to other EU countries with regards to tax breaks. However, “thanks to recent film incentives, the Czech Republic has reappeared on the film world map and demand for stagespace is growing. Prague is where you can rest assured that your production will go smoothly, your client will walk away happy, and your film will look breathtaking. It’s the capital of the Eastern European film world.”
The Canary Islands: Sun, sea, and so many incentives
Last year, Spain suddenly upped its tax incentives for film & TV too, a move which boosted the consolidation of the Canary Islands as one of the most attractive filming spots in Europe. The Islands’ incentives were increased by roughly twenty percentage points higher than the main parts of the Peninsula. Meanwhile, Canary Islands’ fiscal regime also includes the Zona Especial Canaria (ZEC), which allows companies that film in the Islands to pay just 4% corporate tax.
Perhaps as a result of these tasty sweeteners, last year alone the Canary Islands hosted more than thirty productions – features, series, documentaries, and animation – the biggest of which was Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Coordinator of Canary Island Film at the Audiovisual Department of the Canary Islands Natacha Mora told Film Daily the country receives an increasing number of productions each year – from 10 in 2013, to 32 in 2017. Big productions like Exodus: Gods and Kings, In the heart of the Sea, Jason Bourne, and Allied chose to shoot here.
“Our tax incentives include a 40% tax rebate for foreign production, 45%-40% tax credit for national production or co-productions, and 4% corporate income tax. Meanwhile, our location is like a continent in miniature: we have the best weather in the world, more than 4000 hours of natural sunlight per year; we have excellent connections, experience, and crew; and this is a European region, meaning it is safe in juridical and health terms. As such, there are more than enough reasons to come and shoot in the Canary Islands.”
The UK: Cashing in on its crown jewels
As for the UK and its “banner year”, British Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries Margot James recounted: “From Star Wars to The Crown, the UK is a creative powerhouse for developing many award-winning films and shows enjoyed by millions globally. We have world-class studios, a talented workforce, and highly competitive tax reliefs, and these fantastic stats show investment in our screen industries is booming.”
The country’s reputation as a filming hotspot has been helped by a 25% tax credit, extended to include bigger-budget productions in 2013. Samantha Perahia, head of production UK, at the BFI, added, “We’ve got this perfect storm now with the tax relief having been delivering consistently for some years. The impact has been enormous.”
Grabbing the opportunity by the horns
Of course, this doesn’t mean Europe has overtaken North America as the filming location of the world. But the film industry has changed dramatically since the golden age of Hollywood, and as the statistics show, the playing field has been leveled somewhat. Production companies are choosing European locations thanks to the sunny weather, beautiful landscapes, and financially beneficial tax incentives on offer. It’s a time for change and, in order to gain from this shift, film organizations must take advantage of the opportunities at hand.
According to British Film Commission and Film London Chief Executive Adrian Wootton: “Global competition remains fierce and the landscape continues to shift, meaning we can’t afford to rest on our laurels when it comes to supporting our industry and the highly skilled workforce that drives it” – advice that could be applied to every country looking to draw in studios and host the next big thing in cinema.