Saturday, July 09, 2016

StudioCanal UK film biz risks Brexit sinking

This is a great overall look at the operations of StudioCanal, a key player for both Warp and Working Title, and also a producer itself now (notably Paddington and a forthcoming sequel)

StudioCanal UK are already seeing costs up by 15% as sterling (the UK currency) has nosedived in value since the referendum. Their CEO, Danny Perkins, explains that the UK will need a specific treaty (as Switzerland has negotiated) to gain continued open access to EU cinema markets - which could take years, if it ever happens. Euro-financing has also been made more difficult to access. If US studios fill that void, they are MUCH less likely to support ideas which reflect British culture instead of taking a more generic, commercial approach.

Consider the practicalities too of StudioCanal personnel trying to visit other Euro branches, or even just pre-production visits and research if UK citizens require visas to do so.

Perkins [Danny, StudioCanalUK CEO] is well positioned to assess what the unravelling of the UK’s position in the EU will mean in practical terms. StudioCanal UK is quietly celebrating its 10-year anniversary – dating from the 2006 acquisition of independent distributor Optimum Releasing by the French film giants StudioCanal, Canal Plus’ production arm – and in that time have become the leading non-Hollywood studio in the UK. Their move into production with 2010’s Brighton Rock has seen them steadily accrue success, culminating in Paddington’s stellar performance in 2014, and the subsequent green-lighting of a sequel, Paddington 2.“Anything you are looking to acquire has become 10-15% more expensive. Anything we are looking to invest in, our contribution is suddenly 10-15% less.” The UK’s post-Brexit vote currency crash, affecting both dollars and euros, has seen to that. The European qualification, says Perkins, is vital to penetrate markets where Hollywood, with its all-consuming output deals, has consistently dominated. “For any of us in the business of exporting British content, it’s going to be harder because I don’t think anyone is warming to us right now. Culturally, we have just given two fingers to the rest of Europe.
Perkins’ concerns are part of the mosaic of Brexit-related crises engulfing the British film world which – just like other cosmopolitan trade sectors – is still grappling with the changes that lie ahead once Article 50 is invoked. Not only will funding from EU agencies dry up (meaning European films will struggle to find berths in UK cinemas, and British producers will find it more difficult to place their films abroad), but the system of European co-production treaties that enable British producers to find backing for their films will have to be scrapped and renegotiated. US-based producers appear chipper about stepping into fill the gap – but their priorities are likely to be very different from the Europeans, and less interested in helping British film-makers concerned with the UK’s cultural identity.However, to some extent, Perkins can keep StudioCanal UK’s head above the fray, insulated as they are by their parent organisation. “We are fortunate,” he says, “that we are part of a big international company, so we can manage our operations around the legislation that lies ahead. If we were still an independent outfit, it would be a lot tougher.” Restrictions on freedom of movement will hamper the exchange of staff between the company’s various national outposts, and red tape will vastly increase (“It’s a huge opportunity if your’e in the bureaucracy business,” says Perkins. “Whoever prints passports is going to do really well”).
Disaster looms if British film disconnects from Europe, says studio head.

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