Top U.K. Producers Discuss How Upcoming European Union Vote Will Affect Future Projects

On June 23, the U.K. will hold a referendum to decide if it remains a member of the European Union. Polls show the result is too close to call. Those in favor of staying believe Britain is stronger economically and more secure as part of the E.U.; those who want to leave think the U.K. needs to wrestle back sovereignty over its borders and laws.

The British film and TV industries overwhelmingly support staying with the E.U.; a poll of members of the producers’ body PACT found that 85% intend to vote “Remain,” while a poll of the Creative Industries Federation, which represents people working in TV, film, architecture, fashion, design, and other fields, was 96% in favor of staying.

Variety asked some top producers to discuss how the result will affect them.

Pippa Harris

“From our point of view, it’s a no-brainer to remain in Europe. ‘Penny Dreadful’ is a quintessential example of what it means to be able to collaborate across borders in Europe. We developed the show [in London], but we [shot] it in Dublin, with many Europeans alongside our British cast and crew.

“When you went on the set of that show, it felt like the best possible example of what European cultural collaboration is all about, which is being able to move freely around Europe, to work with the people you want to work with, and create exceptional television. … I know the people in film and theater would say the same.”

Pippa Harris is executive producer of Showtime’s just-ended “Penny Dreadful” and the BAFTA-winning “Call the Midwife,” and chair of BAFTA’s film committee. She is Sam Mendes’
business partner.

Stephen Garrett

“Leaving the E.U. would be fairly catastrophic for the creative industries in Britain in general, and for film and TV in particular. It would be a hugely retrograde step at a time when our membership of the E.U. entails almost entirely beneficial consequences.

“On the TV side of the business, there are stringent quotas for European content, which as E.U. members we qualify for. If that door suddenly shuts and the material we make no longer qualifies as part of the European quota, the most important market for British content outside of the U.S. just disappears at a stroke.”

Stephen Garrett is an executive producer on the BBC/AMC spy drama “The Night Manager.” He’s also developing the supernatural series “The Rook” for Hulu with Lionsgate and “Twilight” author Stephenie Meyer’s Fickle Fish Films.

Jane Tranter

“For the majority of the world, when they think about coming to work in the U.K., they like it because it is part of Europe.

“If the U.K. is going to become disassociated with [Europe], it will be a big turnoff for a lot of the American investors, and it will make the U.K. feel out on a limb, an isolated island, while the rest of Europe continues to work well together to create great crew supply, great studios, and all of those support systems that go into making a production. Our productions in turn will become smaller and less ambitious, as Europe joins together to gain strength through collaboration and some attractive production grants.

“To be balanced about it, there would be an advantage — I look for the silver lining in everything — if we were to leave. We would no longer have State Aid rules [which govern how national authorities spend E.U. funds and on whom], and that would empower us to be able to deal more directly with the U.S., and to work with the public sector in a slightly different way. And I guess that ties in with the idea that ‘wouldn’t it be great to leave because we could all be free to do whatever we wanted.’ But I think the arguments for ‘Remain’ are much more … nuanced. They are subtler and much more cultural.”

Jane Tranter is producing the BBC/New Line Cinema TV series “His Dark Materials.” As a BBC senior executive, her credits included “Doctor Who” and “Da Vinci’s Demons.”  

David Heyman

“It won’t affect, I suspect, American films coming here, but it will have an adverse effect on international movies and TV dramas being made in this country, and also affect our ability to make them in the rest of Europe.

“One of the reasons the U.K. attracts such a tremendous amount of VFX work from the U.S. and beyond … is because of the quality of people we have working here, and some of those people are non-U.K. E.U. members. Not only do such artists help attract the work (which benefits the U.K. workers) and bring their tremendous talent to the productions, but they also transfer their training and skills to young homegrown animators.

“You could say these positions could be filled by British people — well, no. There would simply be a hole in the talent pool.”

David Heyman is the producer of the Harry Potter movies, “Gravity,” and “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.”

Jeremy Thomas

“I’ve made films in France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, and Scandinavia. I’m very much an internationalist. I always have been. It’s the way I look at the world. I don’t look at Britain in isolation. I love being British, I love being European, and I love being a world citizen.

“Producers don’t flourish without co-productions in Europe. There will be a realignment of all of the co-production treaties if Britain leaves the E.U., as well as the reintroduction of [trade barriers] like withholding taxes and customs duties. It will make everything more difficult. Working with multinational crews, as I have done since the 1970s — it became much easier when Europe became integrated.”

Jeremy Thomas has been an independent film producer since the 1970s, most recently of “High-Rise.” He won an Oscar in 1988 for “The Last Emperor.” 

Rebecca O’Brien

“From a personal point of view, I think it would be really dangerous and an extremely bad idea…. The value of being part of Europe is untold when it comes to the work that I do, and I’m very much dependent on our European partners. That’s not to say that work would stop, but in lots of ways it would begin to make our lives much more difficult.

“When we’re not seeking to finance 100% from the U.K., we have to look to Europe and if that option becomes more difficult, then we have just shot ourselves in the foot, haven’t we?”

Rebecca O’Brien is the producer of Ken Loach’s films, including this year’s Palme d’Or winner “I, Daniel Blake.”

More Biz

  • The dark Manhatten skyline, seen from

    StubHub Refunds $500,000 to Customers Shut Out by New York Blackout

    Saturday’s blackout in New York had an outsized effect on the city’s nightlife, with Madison Square Garden and the entire Broadway district seeing multiple shows cancelled due to the the power outage. As a result, StubHub has refunded more than $500,000 worth of tickets for cancelled events. According to a statement from the company, the StubHub [...]

  • Weapons Cache

    D.A. Files 64 Charges in Bel-Air Weapons Stockpile Case

    The L.A. County District Attorney’s office has filed 64 counts against Girard Saenz, the man who allegedly kept a stockpile of more than 1,000 weapons at a Bel-Air home linked to the Getty family. Saenz is accused of illegal possession of assault weapons, transferring handguns without a dealer license, possession of short-barreled shotguns, and possession [...]

  • 9-1-1: Angela Bassett in the series

    Fox Sees Primetime, Sports Ad Gains As TV Upfront Wraps

    Fox Corporation is the latest to benefit from stronger-than-expected trends in TV ad spending, as the company notched strong gains in advertising commitments for its next cycle of programming – its first since selling off a large chunk of its media assets to Walt Disney. Ad demand was stronger than many executives anticipated, according to [...]

  • BMI Promotes David Levin to Senior

    BMI Promotes David Levin to Senior VP of Licensing

    BMI today announced that David Levin has been promoted to Senior Vice President of Licensing, effective immediately. In his newly expanded role, Levin is responsible for all of BMI’s domestic licensing and revenue generation, encompassing radio, television, digital media, cable, satellite and general licensing.  Levin, who will oversee teams in New York and Nashville, reports [...]

  • Warner Music Group Logo

    Warner Music Acquires Musical Theater Indie First Night Records

    Warner Music Group has acquired First Night Record, an independent record label for West End and Broadway musical theatre cast recordings. The company will be overseen by WMG’s Arts Music Division, led by President Kevin Gore. First Night co-founder John Craig will join the Arts Music team under a multi-year consulting agreement to identify and record musical theatre productions in [...]

  • Woodstock 50 to Hold Open House

    Woodstock 50 to Hold Open House for Local Residents Before Permit Review Tuesday

    If nothing else, the producers of Woodstock 50 are persistent. After two permit applications to hold the troubled festival at the Vernon Downs racetrack in Upstate New York were rejected by the town of Vernon codes office, the producers and venue owner Jeffrey Gural today invited the local community “to embrace the Festival’s spirit of [...]

  • ILM Star Wars The Force Awakens

    ILM to Open Latest Effects Facility in Sydney, Australia

    Sydney, Australia, is to be home to Industrial Light & Magic’s fifth production hub. The Disney-owned special effects company currently has facilities in San Francisco, Vancouver, London and Singapore. The decision to open the Sydney outpost was announced Monday local time by executive creative director and head of ILM Rob Bredow, ILM executive Luke Hetherington, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content