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TV and Film

TV & Film: Why the UK?

updated
June 7, 2021
Published on:
January 9, 2020
January 5, 2021

1. History and influence

The UK has created some of the most influential and loved cinema and television in the world. Its reputation in filmmaking, TV production, animation, and special effects is recognised globally.

Successes include the imaginative fantasies of Harry Potter and Doctor Who, the compelling TV series Game of Thrones, Line of Duty, The Crown, Broadchurch and Peaky Blinders, the Planet Earth and Blue Planet nature documentaries, and action movie franchises including the Bond series, Star Wars, and Avengers: Infinity War.

The independent television sector is responsible for some of the most iconic and ground-breaking television formats seen around the world. From formatted shows like The X-Factor, Strictly Come Dancing/Dancing with the Stars, Who Wants to be a Millionaire? and Love Island to scripted dramas like Sherlock and Downton Abbey, the UK’s original programming has become must-see viewing from China to the Czech Republic.

In film, more than £1bn was invested in UK film by Hollywood studios producing blockbuster titles in 2020 (Source: BFI). By early 2021, movies that had started production in the UK included The Batman, and the latest instalments of the Mission Impossible, Fantastic Beasts and Dr Strange movie franchises. The UK also attracts a significant number of Indian film productions with 12 based in the UK in 2020, including Bell Bottom (dir. Ranjit Tewari), The Chef (dir. Ana Sasi) and Paani Ch Madhaani (dir. Vijay Kumar Arora).

The UK's history of excellence in film, television, publishing, music, theatre, and heritage, provides rich source material for screen storytelling. This cultural depth enables the UK to promote its diverse and vibrant way of life, influence how the world sees the UK, drive cultural exports, and help others tell their stories through international collaboration and inward investment.

2. Skilled and versatile workforce

The UK's highly skilled and versatile workforce in film and television is often cited as a draw by international studios that have invested in the UK, and one of the reasons behind the expansion of groups such as Pinewood Studios. Investment in new skills and training, and in ensuring the pipeline of UK talent into the industry is well supplied and diverse is part of the work of bodies such as Screen Skills.

In growth areas such as virtual production, the UK is developing national standards for training in high-tech roles to ensure the UK becomes a global centre of excellence in this field. Programme-makers have increasingly been adapting technology such as real-time engines from the video games industry to create new opportunities for more sustainable production processes.

Building on the huge expansion of studio space seen in the UK, technological innovation is set to support continued recovery from the pandemic and future growth that will require thousands of screen professionals from entry level apprentices and trainees to heads of department.

3. Unique locations and facilities

Film and high-end television production generates local business activity and jobs across the UK, as productions take advantage of state of the art facilities and locations that encompass gritty urban scenes, unique historical sites, and attention-grabbing natural backdrops.

For instance, the HBO series, Game of Thrones, made Northern Ireland a long-term production home, and in 2020, filming locations for The Batman took place in the North-West, the East of England, and Scotland.

UK locations attract screen-related tourism, generating about £600m in 2016, according to the journal Screen Finance, and support jobs and UK tax revenues. Visit Scotland estimated that about 8 per cent of visitors to the country were influenced by a TV or film programme, and picked out as one example the international appeal of the Scottish-film TV series, Outlander.

The UK also has internationally respected film and television schools, including the London Film School and the National Film and Television School, as well as highly regarded courses in Bournemouth, Leeds, Falmouth, Edinburgh and other areas. The UK’s visual effects industry often leads the way in innovation – the CGI which wowed audiences in Gravity, The Dark Knight Rises and the Harry Potter series was created by UK-based VFX houses.

Watch clips from high profile UK-made films below.

4. Infrastructure and Financial incentives

Tax reliefs for film, high-end television and animation have made production in the UK more attractive than ever.

As of August 2020, there were 300 British films completed in 2019-20 which claimed Film tax relief (FTR), with UK expenditure of £2.5 billion. These figures are likely to increase as more claims are received by HMRC. Since the relief was introduced in 2007, 3,470 films have made claims, accounting for £18.4 billion of UK expenditure.

There were 110 British high-end television programmes completed in 2019-20 which claimed High-end Television (HETV) tax relief, with UK expenditure of £1.5 billion.  Since the relief was introduced in 2013, 635 programmes have made claims, accounting for £8.0 billion of UK expenditure.

In addition, there were 35 British animations completed in 2019-20 which claimed Animation tax relief (ATR), with UK expenditure of £83 million. Since the relief was introduced, 305 animations have made claims, accounting for £519 million of UK expenditure. Full details from the HMRC.

In addition, there is a publicly funded programme of support – via the British FiIm Institute (BFI), its partners including the agencies in the nations and regions, Screen Skills and Into Film, the British Council, the BBC and Channel 4 – for the development and promotion of creative and technical talent, for business enterprise and for audience development.

There is also the work of internationally recognised organisations such as BAFTA and the NFTS. A well-capitalised, digitally equipped exhibition sector has the capacity to show films in increasingly diverse ways, and the UK has one of the most developed VODs market in Europe (Source: Ampere analysis published by Ofcom).The UK’s rollout of super-fast broadband and well-established 4G mobile networks are likely to provide huge new opportunities for UK TV and film in partnership with the UK’s thriving technology sector.

5. Size and future growth potential

The film and television sector is a major contributor to the UK creative industries economy, with a key role to play in the UK's cultural and economy recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Before COVID struck, the TV and film industries were on a robust growth path.

In 2019 the TV sector's revenues were £3.3bn, up 11 per cent on the previous year.  This figure includes £1.25bn of international revenues, a reflection of UK companies' reputation for creating formats and finished programme content that appeal to TV industry buyers worldwide. (Source: Pact)

The core UK film industry was estimated to contribute over £4.6 billion to UK GDP and support over 117,00 jobs, taking into account direct and indirect employment. (Source: Oxford Economics study for the BFI)

According to official industry data from the British Film Institute (BFI), in the pandemic-hit year of 2020 film and high-end television production spend in the UK was £2.84 billion, despite the disruption to filming caused by restrictions and shutdowns as part of social distancing measures. Inward investment and co-production spend on film and high-end television in the UK accounted for £2.36 billion of this figure.

There was a notable recovery towards the end of the year, with the third highest spend on record during the final three months of 2020.

UK domestic (independent) film production spend totalled £119.5 million, or approximately 9% of total spend. UK animation TV production generated £61m spend; 73 per cent from co-productions and inward investment.

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