TV Production: How Indies can get Brexit secure

17 March 2021 / Insight posted in Articles, Operations

This article, by Moore Kingston Smith partner Val Cazalet, was published in Broadcast on 11 March 2021

There seems to be a cautiously optimistic outlook for the television industry. From my conversations with clients and industry professionals, everyone was really busy in the run up to Christmas and, whilst things are quieter again at the moment, there are jobs in the pipeline. Of course, the timing of when these can be commenced is still largely unknown but the roll out of the vaccine has brought confidence that this hiatus will soon be easing.

That said, uncertainty still lingers as production companies continue to navigate a path through this pandemic. Add Brexit into the equation, and it seems like there’s a two-pronged attack on forward planning for businesses.

So where does the UK’s production community stand? Well, for stability’s sake, the fact that the UK struck a deal with the European Union (EU) at the end of 2020 provides a sizeable amount of solace for producers. But, while the rules in general have been laid out, the detail is on some areas is unclear or lacking at all.

To take one example, many producers wanting to film in Europe may be wondering which way to turn right now. As it stands, if you are a tourist, you do not need a visa for short trips to the EU, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland – and you can stay for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. Travel is also permitted for certain business reasons such as business meetings or attendance at trade fairs. But what if you want to film in a European country for less than 90 days? As it stands there is no specific guidance on this.

What is clear though is that if you want to film for more than 90 days in the EU there is no ‘one size fits all’ rule. It is up to producers to check the regulations of each individual country they visit to see what visas are required. I think the easiest way of dealing with it is to think about each country now as a third party country just as they do when travelling to the US.

Operating in this environment is certainly going to be challenging for some time to come. With that in mind, below are some pointers on what you and your production company can do to ensure you are in as strong a financial position as possible in order to successfully navigate the changes over the next few months:

Offices in Europe

If your business operates in or has offices in EU territories, make sure you are still complying with the local legislation. For instance, in the Republic of Ireland, one of the requirements is for Irish companies to have an EU resident director. Now that the UK is no longer in the EU those companies which satisfied this rule by having UK directors will need to look at appointing alternative or additional directors to remain compliant.

Your EU staff

Your company may be an employer of staff who hail from the EU. If they have been residing in the UK for five years, make sure they have applied for ‘settled status’ before the deadline of 30th June. You don’t want to find that that valuable employee is no longer able to work for in the UK. Looking further ahead, if you are planning on employing more staff from the EU in the coming months or years, you will need to adhere to the new points system to enable them to reside and work in the UK. So it is even more important to look ahead to see what your staffing requirements will be as it will be a longer process to get these workers in situ.

Take care of the basics

It may sound trivial, but things that may seem small can end up being costly if overlooked. Roaming charges were not covered in the deal and, whilst the major providers have said they are not planning to reintroduce them, it is worth checking before you travel. Make sure your crew have the right insurance too if filming in the EU. Check all EHIC and GHIC cards!

Take advantage of the opportunities Brexit brings

Clearly, it is not all about protecting yourself from doom and gloom – there are advantages to Brexit too. The weaker pound makes the UK a more financially attractive place for those financing productions here in the UK and the rules governing tax credits also remain unchanged here in the UK. All co production agreements including bi lateral co production agreements and the European Convention remain in place. There may, however, be changes to the tax credits gained in EU countries, as UK crew will no longer qualify as EU citizens, and that may mean productions do not qualify for some EU members’ cultural tests and tax relief. Whilst this may mean that less UK crew are used on productions in the EU, it could encourage more productions to take place in the UK as tax reliefs here are unaffected.

Valuable funding schemes such as Creative Europe are now closed to new UK applicants but remains in place for those with funding secured before 31st December. What is reassuring is that the UK Government has brought in the Global Screen Fund with funding of £7m for the year 2021 to 2022 to partially replace the Creative Europe fund. There are also still some European funds that are still open to UK companies as well.

Account for extra administration and costs – and put it in a business plan

For now, it will certainly mean that there are more administration costs for those businesses planning on filming in the EU and you will need to dedicate more time to planning those shoots. Treat each EU territory as a third party country in the same way and dedicate the same amount of time as you would if filming in the US. As always, it is vital to have a strong business plan for the coming year in place. Make sure you know your staffing requirements and plan ahead for that, and ensure that your pipeline and cash forecasts are updated – that should stand you in good stead to survive and then thrive in 2021.