By now you’ve probably already asked the question of the day: What the hell is Brexit? In short, Great Britain has voted to exit (or Brexit, because it’s clever) the European Union, and even though the process could take two years – although the EU wants it done ASAP – people are losing their minds today. Gold prices are up, the pound took a massive dive, and the stock market is as “uncertain” as it will ever be, because, really, nobody has a clue what happens next. It’s unprecedented and it seems like some voters didn’t even know what they were doing.
For the more apathetic and non-British among us, there’s probably a strong attitude of “Who cares?” but if there’s anything that can shake some sense into the indifferent masses, it’s that Brexit could do some serious damage to the upcoming seasons of Game of Thrones. But the show business world doesn’t necessarily revolve around the Seven Kingdoms, as there seems to be much more at stake here for the entertainment industry as a whole. At least that’s the impression we get from combing through the day’s trade headlines.
First up, Variety breaks down how this decision all comes down to money, from the funding provided by the EU’s Media Program to the general confusion that Brexit will cause in the immediate future. The decreased value of the pound is important because while it will make productions cheaper in Britain, thus attracting more studios and projects, it will also make the acquisition of foreign films more expensive. At the same time, popular British shows, including those that are loved by Americans could find less demand in Europe, driving their acquisition prices down.
The silver lining for Britain, however, is that it could ultimately create better incentives than the EU’s countries, which would obviously mean more money. But again, Variety notes, no one has a clue how this will play out, and the attitude from industry people makes it seem like competition is not the solution.
The Hollywood Reporter paints a bleaker picture, calling Brexit a “major blow” to Britain’s film and TV industries, and amplifying that aforementioned confusion as a much bigger problem. The entertainment industry, they report, was heavily in favor of remaining in the EU, so the sky is definitely falling.
“The decision to exit the European Union is a major blow to the U.K. film and TV industry,” said Michael Ryan, chairman of the Independent Film & Television Alliance in a statement. “This decision has just blown up our foundation — as of today, we no longer know how our relationships with co-producers, financiers and distributors will work, whether new taxes will be dropped on our activities in the rest of Europe or how production financing is going to be raised without any input from European funding agencies. The U.K. creative sector has been a strong and vibrant contributor to the economy — this is likely to be devastating for us.”
In May, more than 300 actors and entertainers offered their support for remaining in the EU. Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Patrick Stewart, and Jude Law were among the more prominent names on the list, but the overall message was clear: “Leaving Europe would be a leap into the unknown for millions of people across the U.K. who work in the creative industries, and for the millions more at home and abroad who benefit from the growth and vibrancy of Britain’s cultural sector.”
Elsewhere, Deadline has been on top of industry reactions, including Harvey Weinstein calling Brexit “a disaster,” and saying that British people “voted out of fear” because they “don’t want Muslims in the country.” Sounds familiar. As for the entertainment aspect of his speculation:
“I think there will be discrimination now against some of the product and what it means to be European product. A lot of TV stations in Europe are under quotas. When you do War And Peace, that was accepted as European. It could be very costly in the movie and TV industry in terms of content branding. European branding is very important. It’s a big deal for these young British filmmakers.
“I’m hoping in 60 days the country wakes up and says ‘Can we have a do-over?’ You know, watching the stock market and Cameron coming back and saying, ‘These are the things that are happening; it will get worse. Let’s do it again.’”
Deadline also notes that this move is bad for China’s own entertainment industry. One exec told the site that Brexit will be viewed as “very bad” in China because the U.K. was supposed to help China with its own progress in the rest of the EU.
Just as Deadline featured some producers relating this event to the “horrors” of the pre-EU era, The Guardian paints a worst case scenario as a return to “a ’70s-style British film meltdown.”
The question is: will the slowdown be temporary, or are we in for a two-decade fallow period comparable to the Hollywood pullout of the early 70s? Back then, the number of UK production starts crashed under the pressure of falling audiences, competition from TV and the disappearance of Hollywood funding as studios ended their practice of subcontracting production overseas in favour of retrenching in California. Despite occasional mini-renaissances – usually around individual companies, such as Goldcrest – it took two decades for a concerted revival to occur. It could happen again.
While this will obviously continue to unfold over the coming weeks and months, I can’t help but wonder if this uncertainty will affect the possibility of a sequel to Brexit: The Movie, a British-made documentary that called for people to vote in favor of leaving the EU. Good thing those guys got this one into theaters before all the money dried up.