Some European Film Players Shrug at Brexit

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PARIS — British voters’ decision to leave the European Union has sent political shock waves through the region. But within the film industry, several players in Continental Europe said they didn’t expect much of an immediate impact on deal-making and co-production opportunities.

In France, Europe’s second-biggest film market, Xavier Lardoux at the National Film Board greeted Britain’s referendum result with something of a Gallic shrug.

“The co-production treaty between France and the U.K. will be unchanged because it’s a bilateral agreement which isn’t officially related to the European Union,” said Lardoux, head of film at the film board. He said only three or four films per year were co-produced with the U.K.

“The business model of Europacorp is not impacted by Brexit. Our decision centers are in Paris and Los Angeles. The U.K. represents a market like any other for the distribution of our movies,” said Edouard de Vesinne, the deputy CEO of Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp (“Lucy,” “Taken,””Valerian”).

David Grumbach, president of Bac Films — the Paris-based production, distribution and sales outfit which just announced a new mandate to ramp up English-language projects — said his company would learn to adjust to the new reality. It will take at least two years of negotiations before Britain is completely detached from the E.U., during which time the industry can prepare for the coming changes.

“The U.K. will no longer be part of the European Union, but what will remain is an economic union, a business relationship. We’ll co-produce with the Brits the way we co-produce with countries like Norway, Switzerland and Canada, which aren’t part of the European Union either,” Grumbach said.

He added: “It’s undeniably a sad day for the British people and for the idea of a big and strong Europe with a capital E. But business-wise, it was already complicated to work with the U.K. so it won’t get worse.”

In fact, Britain already operated outside of E.U. institutions to some degree. Although it received funds through the E.U.’s Media Program, it was not eligible for funding from Eurimages, one of the E.U.’s biggest sources of public money for film and TV productions.

“The U.K. industry was not very integrated within the European funds system. They did not belong to Eurimages,” said Andrea Occhipinti, head of Italian distribution outfit Lucky Red and president of Italy’s distributors. “What I think is significant is that there is lots of anti-Brussels sentiment, because they are bureaucrats. This is a political consideration, but one that we all need to think about.”

Britain’s exit from the E.U. — or Brexit — could even prove an opportunity for some industry players because of a plunge in the value of the British pound, which flirted with 30-year lows against the dollar Friday.

“As sales agents, we are sensitive to currency fluctuations,” said Nicolas Brigaud-Robert, co-founder of Films Distribution (“Son of Saul,” pictured above), which just co-launched the London-based finance/sales outfit Film Constellation. “You want to buy in the weaker currency and get paid in the stronger one. If the pound remains weak, we will be able to invest in British movies with an advantage as long as we sell in dollars or euros after.”

Veteran Italian distributor Valerio De Paolis, who will be releasing Ken Loach’s Palme d’Or winner “I, Daniel Blake” in Italy, said: “All the British directors and talents continue to be top notch, Brexit or not. They will continue to work in U.S. movies, just like they always did. I think the U.S. [studio] investments in the U.K. will continue.”

But in Germany, Martin Moszkowicz, the boss of Munich-based Constantin Film, said he was “shell-shocked” by the referendum result. He said it would “have massive effects on the U.K. and European film and TV business. It is difficult to predict the exact consequences but I am afraid none of them are good.”

Nick Vivarelli in Italy contributed to this report.