Brussels approval of UK high end TV tax breaks – spells trouble for the Irish Film Industry

B stage ArdmoreThe proposed tax credit system for high-end TV, animation and video games has been given approval by Brussels and now has the green light for an April start date.

The scheme, which was detailed in Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s budget earlier this month, will allow a 25 per cent tax break on qualifying projects. The government anticipates allocating £5m to the system for the rest of 2013 and for the amount to grow steadily over the next few years. The British Film Institute will be the certification body for the incoming tax credit system, the introduction of the tax credits has been widely welcomed by industry associations and the production sector.

Adrian Wootton, chief executive of the British Film Commission and Film London said: “This is fantastic news for the industry. That the TV tax relief is in place just a year after it was announced is testament to the Government’s understanding of how vital the production industries are to the UK economy in terms of job creation and investment. Building on the success of the film tax relief, the British Film Commission is already working hard with our partners both here and in the US to ensure that the UK has as much success in attracting major international TV production as we do in attracting major international features.”

While is not surprising that The British Industry has finally woken up to the fact it was losing out, after Julian Fellows 4 part TV series Titanic was shot in Stern Studios, Budapest. The real losers will be the Irish Film Industry. In 2012 there were 3 major BBC TV series and four ITV series shot in Ireland, similar productions are unlikely to be done here in the future. Ireland could also see some of the larger successful series such as Vikings  (€30 million) being poached from Ireland, or even part of the series being shot between Ireland and the UK to claiming tax incentives in both jurisdictions. Such a move would probably see most of the studio work done in the UK, so most of the technical crews would be hired in the UK along with cast, and probably some Irish scenery work done in Ireland providing little or no employment for Irish crews or service industry.

Tom Dowling (c) 2013

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Categories: Film and TV

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8 replies

  1. The Irish Film Industry and TV series production are separate sectors. Stop putting these together. If you don’t know the difference then stop writing these these articles.

    • Thank, for your comments but that is a very sweeping statement without any elaboration of what exactly you mean?
      I guess that you’re not talking about the fact that most of the companies involved in the Irish Film Industry, are also involved in making TV series? Or that same crews, actors, prop houses, special effects, editing and post production work on both? Or that the same fundamental flaws are not relevant to both. Or that when the minister speaks in glowing terms about the success of the Irish Film Industry, he is generally speaking about TV series, such as Love Hate. Or the fact that if TV series were not being made in Ireland at the moment no films crews would be working.
      I presume that reference you make relates to the fact that TV series are not directly funded by the IFB. So how exactly can we talk about one without the other?

  2. Here’s my elaboration: the industry here (schools, studios) was initially set up to make feature films not television. Unfortunately it failed and Irish cinema has mostly been a disappointment. That’s why the film crews would be out of work if these TV series stopped getting made here. We have a successful TV series industry but an unsuccessful film one. Work in Irish feature films has dropped because of smaller budgets, smaller crews, and a move away from the heritage genres. Love hate is a TV series and has nothing to do with the Irish film industry, our Minister is wrong. Just because the same people work on feature films and TV doesn’t make it the one. We’re really scraping the barrell by saying our film industry is doing well because of the Tudors! The British don’t mention Downton Abbey when they talk about their own film industry. We’ve had 20 years to get an Irish film industry up and running but it never happened. Now people like you have decided that our film industry includes TV drama production. It’s not making sense and covers over the cracks and failures of the filmmaking system in Ireland.

    • Thanks for your reply Eamon,

      You appear to be agreeing and disagreeing with in the response. The fact is they cannot be separated; film & TV, both bound by so many threads and with greater means of accessing on line content the divisions between both are becoming even more blurry. You are perfectly right of course that the British Film industry in the past did not mention TV dramas, however that has all changed, Recently they have now changed the taxing system to cover TV series as well as film production, this is a further indications of what I say is true. As for our own TV drama it’s not sustainable on its own, we need a vibrant film industry where people can develop their skills and that has not happened for more than 5 years.

      Our current “TV drama” industry if you want to separate has being propped up by the likes of The BBC, Channel 4, ITV and Sky for a number of years, that crutch will be removed next year when most of production house due to tax breaks will remain in the UK, or at least the majority of that work. With possible a few pick-ups in Ireland to avail of additional funding through section 481. Some years back section 481 was amended to support more indigenous film making, however most of the work has ended up screened on RTE as TV drama/features with no market to get into cinemas. Very little benefits has ever reached crews or the taxpayers, the real beneficiaries have been the production companies (through generous tax breaks), who keep producing scripts which have never been fully developed or have an intended market. Final the creative capital report commissioned by the Minister for Arts back in 2010 clearly sees film & TV as one industry. https://tomtdowling.wordpress.com/2011/07/29/film-and-tv-sector-could-be-worth-e1bn/ you may have missed that.

      My attempt on this blog is not to cover up any crack but highlight the great inadequacies of both policy and vision of TV and film production, as far as I am concerned are 2 sides of the one coin.

  3. Film and TV can and should be separate. It’s like saying opera and stage musicals are the same! The setup in Ireland from the Ardmore studios to our film schools is to help people make movies that no longer get made here. It was an out-dated model full of aspirations but with no long-term benefits. That’s why these people are now working on rubbish like Raw. Lots of Irish directors and technicians have now moved into TV productions and that’s the best place for them.

    The reason that “most of the work has ended up screened on RTE as TV drama/features with no market to get into cinemas” is because our movies are too similar to television. That’s a result of merging of the two industries and a general ignorance of the differences between the two types. Lots of Irish feature films over the years look like telefilms-of-the-week material. They were impressively made but not particularly good or commercial. Anyway, we never had a ‘vibrant film industry’, it was all hype. It gave people jobs for a few years but most Irish films lost money.

    The Irish Film industry does not exist anymore. Too many titles bombed at the box office or failed to get released. The productions that gave everyone jobs are gone and the well-paid work is on TV series.
    The people who will continue to make feature films will be the ones similar to the directors from the 1980s. Personal filmmakers who write their own scripts and produce their work on the cheap without union interference. The kind of people who wouldn’t even watch the Tudors never mind work on it! The people in it to make a decent living will end up emigrating. Anyway even without the tax credits system most British production companies prefer working in Northern Ireland to the Republic.

    • Going back to what I said earlier both are merging and must adapt to the new realities of, illegal downloads, Netflix, Sky Movies ect, smart TV’s. Ireland needs to recommence to entice the large Hollywood movies back to Ireland. Two examples I will give you is New Zealand the Government spent millions to encourage The Hobbit there, changed working laws that made it possible, and the economy will reap the benefits for years to come, as will the entire Industry in New Zealand it now boasts one of the largest SFX house in the world. The Czech Republic has a very small indigenous TV/Film industry producing in their own language, the sector could not continue to sustain its self without bring major producers from Italy, France and as far away as Korea. !0 years ago on the back of bringing in the likes of Mission Impossible they developed their Studios from its time behind the Iron curtain to one of the best in Europe. This development has assisted it TV production by ensuring that there is a new pool of technician’s and artists coming through all the time. In Ireland the money came in from the early 90’ right up to the late noughties and no one had the vision to see that some of the money needed to be reinvested in the future of the Industry.

      On your point of UK companies preferring to work in Northern Ireland, a production company will make their project anywhere the market conditions are right, at the moment labour costs are lower and more flexible. Crews in the Republic through outdated union practice have pretty much priced themselves almost out of the market, and the likes of Screen Producers Ireland the umbrella group for producers have not only failed to tackle the issues but have in some cases rewarded those involved even more. It’s been far too easy for film/TV production companies to make a good living from tax incentives without any incentive to either produce a quality show, or address out dated work practice. If on the other hand you examine the Animation sector here you find its young production companies who have gone out done the market research, developed a good business model and are competing at the highest level on the world stage. It’s all part of the same problem and nobody is addressing it Eamon.

  4. SFX houses, technicians, artists? That’s your problem Tom. You see our film industry as some big unionised system, using a studio with lots of craftspeople and 100s employed. That was the dream of many but we’re too small a country for that nonsense. It happened a decade back but is now on its knees, those TV series are all that’s left but not for much longer. What’s with this enticing rubbish Hollywood movies back to Ireland lark? The big movie productions here are finished and these TV series will follow, good riddance! The future of Irish film is with these new low-budget digital features such as King of the travellers. That’s what will remain in a few years. People writing and making their own movies cheaply that aren’t technically impressive but get decent reviews. Last year’s Galway Film Fleadh was full of this stuff. Anyone who wants regular work on large-scale productions should pack up and emigrate.

    • You obviously haven’t read many of my blog posts 🙂 I care naught for the big unionised system……We are not too small to have a proper functioning film industry such as New Zealand (similar population to Ireland) Denmark, The Czech Republic, and Hungary. I was at Galway Film Fleadh last year and I was very impressed with the low budget films, but they are just a stepping stones as Gerard Barrett has proved. In fact I am working on one right now, it’s good for people learning their craft, but you cannot make a living on them. That where a sustainable industry with a vision for where the industry is going is what’s lacking in Ireland. The main reason I understood Irish Government pumped €16 billion into the film industry over the last 20 years was that it would make a return for the taxpayers, did I get that all wrong too? And to say all those wishing to have a career should all emigrate, tut-tut Eamon.

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