The international film and television landscape has grown rapidly in recent years, helped in no small part by the growing support of global governments, writes Zoe Guilford
The creative industries generate approximately £92bn annually to the United Kingdom’s economy, with jobs and exports growing year on year. The UK is a global leader in this space because it has acknowledged and embraced this contribution – and thus can justify supporting it substantially.
Creative investing through tax relief is a big reinforcer for film, high-end and children’s TV programs, animations and video games. In the last 10 years, over £2 billion has been paid out to meet claims, which has provided a strong setting for local and international content creators alike. Consequently, the UK is benefitting from its highest levels of inward investment in this sector.
In the summer, the Irish government unveiled a €200m “action plan to transform” their film and TV sector with the aim of becoming a global production hub. Similar promises have emerged from numerous other jurisdictions – European countries, the USA, Canada and India are all putting a special focus on strongly supporting their creative industries.
Indeed, media is an emerging sector for the Isle of Man Government’s new Digital Agency: the aim is to build clusters around TV and film, animation, games and video, technology innovation and content distribution, to grow it all into a sustainable industry. A new strategy focuses on increasing media-related activity on the Island by encouraging companies to locate there, building on the positive financial, creative and economic success the industry is generating globally.
Smaller countries such as the Isle of Man will have to effectively build a technological ecosystem in order to create the ideal environment for a media hub. The Island has an existing environment for the eGaming sector, which is readily available in terms of connectivity and data centre capacity, so it’s now working with keen private sector partners to ensure it can produce the right conditions of quality and substance to cater for this new industry.
Beyond economic growth and exchequer benefit, there is the added opportunity for country branding for governments through content creation – for which there is a seemingly insatiable demand. An increase in domestic IP is a sustainable way for governments to see a return on their investment in terms of positive cultural identity and is socially rewarding for its people who need to buy in to supporting a sector so significantly. The internal marketing message must be that support for the creative industries leads to not only a healthy economy but also an enhanced quality of life through culture and stimulating innovation and enterprise.
The future is bright, but there are some upcoming challenges. Brexit will no doubt create waves through the industry as a whole: co-production activity across Europe is at an all-time high, with crews moving from country to country as producers benefit from European incentives. The indigenous filmmaking community will be looking to the UK Government to enhance its support if and when funding gaps start to appear.
With the UK already experiencing shortages of professional technicians in certain areas, Brexit could also accentuate widening skills gaps. Education and training will be a crucial part of future support: to retain British skills, talent and stories, more government assistance will be needed to ensure our national media sector doesn’t lose the momentum built up over recent years.
Though it’s not part of the European Union, the Isle of Man’s aspirations will also be affected by the impact on the UK, so it must be mindful to nurture its own creative talent and offer incentives for professionals to live and work there.
Investing in infrastructure has in the past been seen as imperative for governments wanting to create the right sort of setting to boost activity, but digital media is an eclectic community of diverse businesses who organically cluster together and will create their own environment. Governments who can take a more holistic approach to business-critical issues in this space will create a more sustainable future. Solutions can and will be found if appropriate time and attention is placed on skills development to increase the supply of creative talent, and a wide range of adaptable financing measures will be required.
Governments can foster greater economic growth through support for their creative industries, proved by those who have so far recognised this trend. They will need to become more strategic in finding new ways to invest, and forming public private partnerships with a range of business and educational stakeholders will become crucial.
Zoe Guilford – Media Business Development Manager at the Isle of Man Government’s Digital Agency
A former management consultant in London and the US, Zoe Guilford is Media Business Development Manager at the Isle of Man Government’s Digital Agency, tasked with growing the sector on the Island. Manx born Zoe has independently produced various media formats, including feature documentary The Watchmaker’s Apprentice, and has in recent years managed the Isle of Man Film Festival and the London Screenwriter’s Festival.