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Uncertain times for UK animation after Brexit

‘‘It won’t destroy our industry because there is so much talent and we’ll find a way to collaborate." Acamar Films' Mikael Shields is among the UK animators reacting to Britain's decision to leave the European Union.
June 27, 2016

In the aftermath of Britain’s historic Brexit vote last Friday to leave the European Union, UK kids media organizations and independent production companies are facing uncertainty with regards to business issues like international co-productions, tax breaks, staffing, broadcast sales and potential company closures and re-locations.

”It is hard to process at the moment how it will affect business across the UK, but if there are detrimental effects, we need to do everything we can to support the industry,” says Greg Childs, editorial director of London-based nonprofit The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF).

”The CMF supports the kids industry to be the best that it can be for UK kids, and our role is to look after the interests of the audience, but [with Brexit] there will certainly be question marks over British companies’ abilities to access the media grants that help them pull together funding for co-productions. And there could be effects on the capacity for British companies to be involved in European co-pros. We cannot say what the real outcomes are going to be.”

For Colin Williams, creative director and founder of Belfast-based studio Sixteen South (Lilys Driftwood Bay), the news came as a shock.

”The entire country is reeling in dismay. It was not something that any of us saw coming,” Williams says.”From our point of view, it is about business and wondering what we do next. We are a Northern Irish company so we are part of the UK, but we are also Europeans, which is something that we love and is essential for doing business.”

According to Williams, the company is taking advice on what its next steps will be. ”I called a staff meeting with all our crew on Friday when the news broke because everyone was terrified, and quite rightly so. I told them we will do whatever it takes, not just to get through this, but to thrive. If we have to relocate then that is what we will do,” he says.

”For us in Northern Ireland, the only good thing about this is we are one hour away from the Republic of Ireland, which is staying in the EU. As locals here, we have dual nationality already, so we can probably make big plans, but for the rest of our friends in the UK it is not good,” Williams adds.

London-based Acamar Films (Bing) is another indie studio feeling the effects of Brexit.

Co-founder Mikael Shields, who is Scottish, says he’s very worried about the rights and entitlements of young people, in particular, to work across the 27 European nation states.

”Because our area of filmmaking has been less well-financed historically, we find intelligent ways of working across borders,” he says.”For our last production, we had several hundred people working in five different locations. That is completely natural to us. As an industry, we’re progressively minded and very international in our outlook.”

Despite the news, Shields remains optimistic about the future.

”It won’t destroy our industry because there is so much talent and we’ll find a way to collaborate, notwithstanding. It will, however, change the mobility of people,” he says.

”As for tax breaks, they are UK government-based initiatives so I don’t see why this (Brexit) should necessarily change that. It does change our entitlement to lobby for EU funding. But the thing that is so terrible is that so many of us have loved ones, friends and colleagues who now feel unsettled and anxious about their position in the country. It’s a tragedy.”

Childs notes that the opening policy session on July 6 at the upcoming Children’s Media Conference in Sheffield will take a much different approach in light of Brexit.

”We agreed to shift the focus so that we can address the implications of the Brexit decision. We were mainly going to focus on the future of the BBC, contestable funding and a few other issues. We now need questions and answers on Brexit,” he says.

About The Author
Jeremy is the Features Editor of Kidscreen specializing in the content production, broadcasting and distribution aspects of the global children's entertainment industry. Contact Jeremy at jdickson@brunico.com.

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