Some key UK film production companies have been scouting in Hungary for partners to work with after BREXIT.
Executives from the UK have shown up at Hungarian film studios in Budapest to start talks and explore working together. There is nobody who is not struggling to grasp what the future post-Brexit will be like for Britain, even Boris and Brussels, but it certainly make sense not to have all your eggs in one basket. In Hungary they can find film crew and support companies who speak fluent English and who are masters of their craft, plus have that famous East European work ethic and can-do attitude.
The British film industry peaks?
Fortunately for the British film industry, they themselves are really rather good and need many less paid tea breaks that the proverbial British ‘Painter and Decorator’. So good that Pinewood, Shepperton and Leavesden Studios have been fully booked, but having no more space can also be an issue. They have been expanding to meet the demand but are they now at the peak? Is that new space going to be sitting empty thanks to Brexit?
Hungary, a fairy tale location
Brexit may be the reason the interest in Hungary has risen of late and why Disney+ (Marvel) have started production of their Moon Knight series in Budapest. Their other location is Pinewood Studios in the UK. Perhaps with the many uncertainties of Brexit, which seem ever far from being solved, a country in the EU was a safer bet as well as all the other factors that would draw a film production to Hungary. And if Disney likes shooting in Budapest, it will surely bring more business to the capital. Speculation is afoot that negotiation for the 2nd season of Moon Knight is already under way.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. These big UK film service companies can enjoy a generous tax rebate of 30% when using Budapest, which is now a kind of HUB for film making in this region.
Hungarian roots in both UK and US film making
You could say British film making is ‘coming home’, having been established by the Hungarian Alexander Korda (Sándor Korda). He founded London Films in 1932. After the war he owned the film distribution company British Lion Films. Korda produced such classics as The Thief of Baghdad.
Hungarians have certainly been leading lights historically in film worldwide – Adolf Czukor with Paramount Pictures and the fox behind Fox was Vilmos Fried, also known by alias William Fox.
Goodbye to EU funding
We’re curious to see if any film or TV series budgets get reallocated away from the UK and to the EU in the next year or two, rumoured to have been the case this year. EU grants are also likely going to be closed off to the UK, such as over £300,000 of EU money that was awarded to fund the film Paddington. I, Daniel Blake made by Ken Loach received £100,000 of funding from Creative Europe, which also funds other activities such as film festivals and training that all served to strengthen the UK film industry. Millions were spent purely on bringing UK films to a EU audience, for example €1,339,104 were spent on Slumdog Millionaire to reach 24 European countries.
Co-productions with EU counterparts going forward are a good thing as historically these were used a lot to access more funding streams. The majority of Ken Loach’s recent films have been co-productions. Hungary is open for those wishing to follow suit.
Losing the stamp of EU origin
TV networks in some countries, like France with a figure of 51%, have a quota to fill on EU produced entertainment. So now not only will content of UK origin not be as welcome, but the US won’t be able to work with the UK to get a foot in the door.
Hiring issues when freedom of movement stops
The biggest wound is the lack of free movement of people. While the UK has a bed of talent, this has always been bolstered by the professionals either side of the camera from the EU that were free to come to work in the UK without the bureaucracy, especially for productions looking for the ‘best in class’ which means ‘best in the world’ or ‘best in Europe’ for easy employment without work permit issues.
It’s estimated that up to 40% of those working in post-production and visual effects/animation are not British passport holders. While those currently in the UK can apply for just £65 the future would-be immigrants will have to pay significantly more. Immigration Lawyers Edmans & Co explain “currently, an Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) application for non-EU nationals costs £2,389 plus optional add-ons such as expedited processing of £800. The fees are paid per applicant, so the family of four will be required to pay application fees in the region of £10,000, ouch!”. Ouch indeed.
Logistical issues and bureaucracy back
It’s not just people and funding. Back in a 2018 Guardian article Jeremy Thomas, Film Producer (Last Emperor, Stealing Beauty, Pinocchio and many others), explained the bad old days before EU membership:
“There was the transportation of equipment. You’d have a truck containing maybe 1,000 little pieces of equipment, and every piece would have to be taken out and checked and put back in. It was a rigmarole. It took days to do it. You’d need carnets and work permits for people. Now it all works in quite a sophisticated way, but maybe that’s all over.”