United Kingdom

Tax incentives are up and running

The scoop: The new U.K. tax credit for production expenditure within the U.K. is finally up and running like clockwork. The rebate is being paid to the penny, and well within the 28 days promised by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. It’s a complex formula, but in simplified terms, films that pass the British cultural test and cost under £20 million ($40 million) can claim back 25% of their U.K. spend (up to a maximum of 20% of their total budget); more expensive films can claim 20% (up to 16% of the total).

That’s particularly attractive for big Hollywood movies, such as “Sweeney Todd,” now shooting at Pinewood, because the British government will effectively pay a quarter of star Johnny Depp’s salary.

Exchange rates aren’t favorable at the moment, but in fact, the U.K. Film Council claims that when exchange rates are combined with other factors, the inflation of British production costs for American producers over the past five years has been less than in the other major overseas shooting locations, such as Eastern Europe or Australia.

But for Blighty, the ace in the hole has always been a quality of crew and a depth of local talent. Plus, everyone speaks English.

Bonus: While construction costs in Eastern and Central Europe are cheaper, insiders say you get what you pay for, and that Blighty’s builders provide some of the best skills around — poor workmanship means that final costs can diverge dramatically from the upfront budget.

Shot there: “Sweeney Todd,” directed by Tim Burton

Hot spot: The Paint Hall, Belfast, Northern Ireland, is a cavernous former workshop in the Belfast docks that has been transformed into a production studio for Walden Media’s “City of Ember.”Northern Ireland Screen has taken out a three-year lease on the space, and on a nearby gymnasium for art departments, costumes and the like, with the ambitious goal of keeping the Paint Hall going as a permanent film facility.

Link: U.K. Film Council: ukfilmcouncil.org.uk

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