“London is now probably the world’s leading centre for visual effects houses. They’ve taken the lion’s share of major work away from Los Angeles. Ten years of Harry Potter has helped them with forward planning. With the creation of the franchise, houses like Framestore and Double Negative have been able to plough capital back into their companies and compete in the international market.”
That’s a pretty peculiar admission by the film commissioner. As you know I argue, and David Stripinis agrees, that the reason so much VFX work is done in international locations is because of the film subsidies.
Film commissions that administer the subsidies usually claim that they are CREATING jobs. However in this case they admit they are TAKING jobs away.
But so what? Who cares?
Well the problem is the UK, US, and most countries have signed to join the World Trade Organization. It’s job is to encourage free trade by eliminating tariffs and subsidies. At the same time, it also has remedies to protect domestic industries where workers are being adversely affected by another countries subsidies.
It’s not just the US that is interested in this issue. The European Union is taking a look at the film subsidies with this question in mind:
does a subsidy race to attract major US productions undermine the effectiveness of aid to support smaller European films?
Instead of encouraging creation of their own films, US studios have squeezed out UK films for their own. Even one article written today entitled “Did Harry Potter Save or Destroy the British Film Industry” asks the same question:
One reason Hollywood likes filming in Britain is that the government offers generous tax credits to foreign companies shooting there as long as they put a sufficient percentage of Britons on the payroll. So those tax incentives (as well as the films’ profits) represent money not being plowed back into the local economy.
Still making strictly British films are independent production companies like Working Title, but otherwise, there’s no counterpart to the Hollywood studio system. As a result, only a few dozen British movies are made each year.
I’m pretty sure the UK will be fine but for the VFX artists in the US, this should be one of the catalysts for organization. While we bicker about things that I feel are distactions: For example, where the union stands on piracy.
We should be organizing and working with the US Trade Representative and going after these subsidies for what they really are: Illegal.