'Brexit' Hits The Big Screen: U.K. Film Industry Rattled By Referendum

Jul 2, 2016
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RAY SUAREZ, HOST:

We're moving beyond the strictly macroeconomic impact to look at how Brexit could affect our favorite movies and television shows.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "GAME OF THRONES")

LENA HEADEY: (As Cersei Lannister) When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.

SUAREZ: Take heart, Americans. It was just a rumor. "Game Of Thrones" is one series that isn't affected at all by the Brexit vote, but spirits are low among U.K. producers.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "PADDINGTON")

SALLY HAWKINS: (As Mrs. Mary Brown) He's a young bear who needs our help, Henry. What are you going to do now?

BEN WHISHAW: (As Paddington Bear) Probably just sleep over there in that bin.

HUGH BONNEVILLE: (As Mr. Brown) That's the spirit.

SUAREZ: The movie "Paddington" is one that benefited from European Union funds. Now that the U.K. has voted to leave the EU, people in the film industry there are very concerned about what it will mean for them. Here to explain it is NPR's Elizabeth Blair, who's been talking to filmmakers.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: Hi.

SUAREZ: Elizabeth, for the part of the industry that's affected by the EU vote, what's the reaction?

BLAIR: The reaction has been pretty dismal. As it turns out, the EU is a great source of funding for filmmakers, for production, for development, for distribution. I spoke with Mike Goodridge who's the CEO of Protagonist Pictures, and he sort of explains it this way.

MIKE GOODRIDGE: People are literally tearing their hair out with anxiety about what this means. We won't be able to co-produce films with Europe as easily. Europe won't look to us to co-produce films because we won't have anything to offer.

BLAIR: And the other part of this is that a lot of movies Americans are familiar with - the documentary "Amy," "Slumdog Millionaire," "Paddington," as we heard - they all received grants from the EU. I mean, in the U.K. alone, the EU spent about 100 million euros from 2007 to 2013.

And now these filmmakers fear that that money will just be cut off to them. Being a member of the EU meant that it was fairly easy for actors, cast members, crew to move pretty freely from country to country. And now they feel it's just going to become more complicated.

SUAREZ: Now, the American industry probably used Britain as a conduit as its - a way into the EU - both market for cultural products, but also a place to put together deals. Is there any upside for Americans in the Brexit vote?

BLAIR: The upside would be that it's going to be a lot cheaper to do business in the U.K. now that the pound is so weak, and American studios will be more interested in taking advantage of the generous tax breaks that the U.K. offers.

I mean, already "Star Wars" movies have been shot in the U.K. Marvel shoots movies there like "Guardians Of The Galaxy." Warner Brothers shoots the "Harry Potter" movies there. "Game Of Thrones" is shot in Northern Ireland. So while the local film industry there might suffer, they will see probably increased production from U.S. studios.

SUAREZ: Thanks. That's Elizabeth Blair, NPR senior arts and culture correspondent. Good to have you.

BLAIR: Thanks, Ray. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.