Skip to content

Industry experts debate impact of Brexit on UK film industry

Posted on 8 September 2016

Researchers at the University of York’s Department of Theatre, Film and Television were joined by leading industry experts to debate the impacts of Brexit on the UK film industry as part of the European Screens Conference this week.

From left: Duncan Petrie (University of York); Amanda Nevill (BFI); Tim Bevan (Working Title); and Huge Heppel (Screen Yorkshire)

The conference, hosted at the University, marked the conclusion of the HERA-funded ‘Mediating Cultural Encounters through European Screen’ (MeCETES) project, which aimed to improve understanding of the production, funding, distribution and policy contexts that enable European films and television drama to travel across Europe.


Chief Executive Officer of the British Film Institute, Amanda Nevill; Chairman of Working Title Films, Tim Bevan; and Head of Investments for Screen Yorkshire, Hugo Heppel, took part in the panel debate following well-publicised concerns for the future of the UK film industry post-Brexit.

Film industry experts have been outspoken about the uncertainties around how relationships with co-producers, financiers and distributors could change since the UK announced its planned exit from the EU.  British film is reliant on Hollywood backing, National Lottery funding and EU support, but experts fear that British films could see a decline in European cinemas and vice-versa.

Huge appetite

Professor Andrew Higson, Head of the University of York’s Department of Theatre, Film and Television, said: “The MeCETES project demonstrates that the EU is a key market for British film and television drama. There is huge appetite for British films across Europe, as demonstrated by big-budget blockbusters like the James Bond and Harry Potter, to mid-range dramas, comedies and family films like Paddington and The Imitation Game, and to smaller art-house titles,

“UK film also benefits enormously from European cooperation. For example, UK/European co-productions attract 14 times more admissions in mainland Europe than purely domestic UK productions. British film exports funded by the EU’s Creative Europe MEDIA programme are seen by significantly more cinemagoers than those without distribution support.

“So whatever the political outcomes of the Brexit negotiations may be, it is vital for the strength and vitality of the UK film industry than Britain continues to maintain strong cultural and economic links with European partners.”

Most popular

In 2015, UK films accounted for 28.4% of the German box office, 25.3% of the Italian box office and 21.4% of the French box office. Amongst the most popular film and TV exports to Europe over the last ten years has been the recent James Bond franchise, featuring Daniel Craig; TV period drama, Downton Abbey; and the Oscar-winning biopic, The King’s Speech

The most popular non-English-language film to be received in the UK from Europe has been Pedro Almodóvar’s Volver, followed by the Oscar-winning Lives of Others, while the most popular TV series include the German historical drama Deutschland ’83, French horror The Returned and Danish-languagecrime drama, The Bridge.

Amanda Nevill said: “We have a role in ensuring confidence in the British film industry.  Film cuts across languages and cultural barriers, so we need to make our voices heard to ensure financial incentives to make movies in the UK and collaborate with partners remains strong.”

Obvious concern

Tim Bevan commented: “The obvious concern is over free-movement.  Projects that are co-produced with European countries employ local people and there will be a question over how we continue to make this happen.

“As digital platforms, such as Amazon and Netflix, come to dominate our industry it is important that British, European and other global movie makers work together to respond to the opportunities and challenges of the future.”

The panel highlighted that although Europe is a significant market for British films, the opportunities for co-productions with China and the US will now be a particular focus for film makers wanting to break into new markets.  It is predicted that China’s booming film industry will overtake the US in 2017.

Hugo Heppel added: “Brexit doesn’t mean leaving creative Europe.  It is ultimately up to us to maintain our culture of collaboration and our relationships with our European partners.”

For more information about the European Screens Conference please visit:

Further information:

For more information about the University's Department of Theatre, Film and Television please visit:

Media enquiries

Samantha Martin
Deputy Head of Media Relations

Tel: +44 (0)1904 322029