Alarm grows in UK film industry as US strikes begin to cause shutdowns

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The UK’s heavy reliance on US productions means the British screen industry is already feeling the impact of the ongoing WGA strike. 

The film industry might be one of the UK’s ongoing success stories when it comes to the billions of pounds it brings in every year, but it isn’t anywhere near self-sufficient. As you likely know, it relies heavily on outward investment (largely via the US) to swell its coffers and keep our crews and facilities in work.

With the obvious exception of the pandemic, that hasn’t been a problem during a decade of peak TV and an even longer era of blockbuster filmmaking, as the UK offers one of the most attractive destinations in the world with its world-class crews, facilities and competitive tax breaks.

However, one of the dangers of not being self-sufficient is if that investment dries up, you have a clear problem and that’s a quandary that the industry is beginning to reckon with as the US writers strike enters its second month and begins to bite. The reported suspension of Amazon’s Blade Runner 2099 TV show has sent concern rolling across the industry, not to mention suddenly leaving Belfast’s Harbour Studios with a colossal gap in its schedule according to Screen Daily

That show is now unlikely to resume until 2024 and things could get worse yet if other unions go on strike too, with the director and actors’ guilds set to engage in crunch talks with Hollywood studios.

Most of the bigger UK studios will be fine as they have multi-year contracts with US studios that will see them through, but some UK crew are already feeling the loss of work.

“There has been a noticeable change already in the number of larger projects that are coming on stream,” said Graham Beswick, CEO of Mad Dog 2020 Casting, which provides extras for many major movies and TV dramas. “We have had a number of second ADs [assistant directors] who work with our clients saying they are out of work and they are not being booked for future projects.”

Hopefully, the situation will soon be resolved but it could get worse before it gets better. Given the way the UK industry is structured, it’s somewhat vulnerable to a recalibration of the sector that results in lighter demand. We’ll keep you posted on this story as we hear more, and hopefully those talented and hard-working folks who do so much to bring entertainment and joy to our lives will be okay until things pick up again.

Image: BigStock

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