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Soft Money: U.K. Funding for American Filmmakers 

Original publish date: March 28, 2024

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Almost every captivating film you’ve ever seen has faced one crucial test: finding funding. Accessing funding is critical to determining the success or failure of a project. For American filmmakers eyeing opportunities beyond their borders, the United Kingdom holds a great deal of promise, offering a plethora of soft money sources.

But how do you navigate the intricacies of accessing public film funding, tax relief, and public funds in the U.K.? Start by understanding the landscape. Leveraging this information effectively can help you get cameras rolling faster. 

What is soft money in the film industry? 

Soft money in the film industry refers to financial resources that are not directly tied to the commercial profitability or box-office performance of a film. Instead, it comes from sources that have other objectives or incentives for providing funding.

This can include government grants and subsidies, tax incentives and credits, co-production treaties, cultural funds, and foundations. Soft money doesn’t generally need to be recouped or repaid, making it an attractive option for filmmakers.

Examples of soft money sources include grants, subsidies, tax credits or rebates, and in-kind contributions such as free or discounted services, equipment, or facilities provided by sponsors or partners. 

What are the different types of soft money available in the U.K.? 

In the U.K., filmmakers have access to various forms of soft money to support their projects. This includes public funds from national and regional agencies like the British Film Institute (BFI)’s Lottery funding, Screen Scotland, and Film4, as well as regional investment funds such as the Yorkshire Content Fund and Liverpool City Regional Production Fund.

Additionally, filmmakers can benefit from tax incentives like Film Tax Relief and High-End Television Tax Relief, offering rebates on qualifying production expenditure. Non-profit grants from organizations can also provide financial support for artistic endeavors, including film and media. These diverse sources of funding play a crucial role in fostering creativity and sustaining the U.K. film industry. 

What are the requirements of submitting for public funds and tax relief? 

To qualify for public funds, filmmakers must demonstrate that their project aligns with specified genres, formats, and themes, meets British content criteria, and showcases experienced talent. They will be required to submit a detailed budget and finance plan, provide a production schedule and distribution strategy, obtain legal clearances, and comply with all other funding guidelines.

For tax relief, films must pass the U.K. Government’s cultural test administered by the British Film Institute, ensure a significant portion of production expenditure occurs in the U.K., have the production company recognized, meet budget thresholds, adhere to qualifying expenditure types, maintain detailed documentation, submit claims within specified deadlines, and comply with all regulations set by HMRC (His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs). 

What are some legal structures regarding production in the U.K.? 

In the U.K., these structures encompass various aspects such as business nexus requirements, co-production agreements, and engaging with escrow managers for international collaborations.

Business nexus in the U.K. may entail meeting tax, registration, and compliance criteria. Co-production agreements can include bilateral, multilateral, minority / majority, service, equity, or distribution deals, facilitating collaboration between production companies from different countries. Engaging an escrow manager experienced in international co-productions is crucial for effective fund management and regulatory compliance.

Consulting legal advisors and financial institutions specializing in international co-productions ensures comprehensive guidance throughout the process. 

How can an American film producer access funds? 

To access funds as an American film producer, leveraging opportunities in the U.K. can be advantageous. This includes utilizing U.K. tax incentives, partnering with local production companies, accessing U.K. film funds, tapping into the country’s film infrastructure, navigating international co-productions, exploring private financing options, and staying updated on regulatory requirements.

Additionally, indie film producers can network within the industry, utilize online platforms and crowdfunding, seek out grants and film funds, partner with production companies and producers, and develop strong business plans and pitch decks.

Networking at European and U.K. based events such as the Berlinale and the Berlinale Co-Production Market, Festival de Cannes, BFI London Film Festival, Raindance Film Festival, Marché du Film, and Film London Production Finance Market can also be beneficial. Furthermore, hiring an international sales agent and engaging in co-productions with different countries offer avenues for accessing funds and expanding the reach of projects. Co-production agreements play a vital role in managing financing, ownership, and responsibilities across international collaborations. 

We’re here to help 

Want to learn more? Reach out to [email protected] directly and stay informed. When you do successfully land a film in the U.K., our team at Sargent-Disc in England is ready to help with all your British payroll and software needs.  

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