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by David Brody, VP, IDA
Consumer demand for media and entertainment content has never been higher as Americans look to streaming services and other sources to entertain them during the current COVID-19 pandemic. The challenge of inadequate studio capacity which pro-ducers and content creators were grappling with, has been exacerbated by recent surges in the consumption of digital content.
The high costs and severe undersupply of domestic studio space has led many U.S.-based organizations to utilize the rich production resources found in Europe . One no-table success is Normal People, which was filmed in Ireland and has just picked up four Emmy nominations These include a nomination for the show’s Irish star, Paul Mescal, who will compete in the outstanding lead actor category with A-list stars Hugh Jackman, Mark Ruffalo and Jeremy Irons. Other well-known titles including Game of Thrones , Outlander , the Jason Bourne films , Jojo Rabbit , Spiderman: Far from Home and Star Wars : The Last Jedi were shot and produced in European facilities. These high-profile productions are showcases of Europe's impressive talent supply – both in front of and behind the camera.
American production companies have been by Europe’s tax incentives, lower produc-tion costs, experienced crews and a growing supply of first-class studio space.
While it's no surprise that Europe has much to offer U.S. content creators, a number of key factors should be considered when choosing a location for shoots, production and post-production activities.
On the people side of the equation lies the availability of skilled workers for European-based productions. U.S. content creators should examine not just the existing talent supply but what training resources a country has to offer. EU countries provide train-ing programs which bolster their already strong talent pools and seek to ensure a relia-ble supply of skilled workers in the film and TV industry. For example, the govern-ment-funded Screen Skills Ireland offers a range of training classes for domestic and foreign workers in the areas of film, television, animation, games and visual effects.
Since 2012, MGM filmed the successful Vikings series in Wicklow, Ireland. Speaking with KFTV about the new series, Vikings creator Michael Hirst said, “I am happy that we are returning to Ireland and Ashford Studios in glorious County Wicklow, which has been our home for the last eight years. Our Irish crew, in my opinion, is the best and most professional crew in the world.” MGM plans to make a brand new spin-off series Vikings: Valhalla, at the same location including Irish film producer Morgan O’Sullivan among its executive producers. Michael McCormick EVP of Physical Pro-duction at MGM said,, “While filming Vikings in Ireland, bureaucracy was minimal and the country’s willingness to work with us kept our production on time and on budget. It was an easy decision to return for the upcoming sequel series Vikings: Val-halla.”
Content-creators should take advice on their obligations under the EU's revised Audio Visual Media Services Directive (AVMSD), which member states are required to have transposed into national legislation by September 2020.
One of the AVMSD’s key requirements is that catalogs must contain 30% European con-tent, aimed at ensuring investment in Europe’s production resources. In addition, each country can add additional obligations when they adopt AVMSD into their national legislation. If media providers are obliged to create additional content in a jurisdic-tion where they are regulated then Ireland, as the only English-speaking EU member state, may prove to be particularly attractive. Post Brexit, as content creators seek to be regulated by an EU member state, Ireland’s stable and transparent regulatory environ-ment and similarity to the UK system may make it an appealing alternative.
Like everywhere, the European film and television production industry has been se-verely impacted by COVID-19. In response, many European governments have launched programs to financially support home-grown studios in weathering the global pandemic With a view to securing continued investment, EU countries are also offering incentives to foreign content creators . In addition to various grants, these typ-ically include tax credits ranging from 20-33% , . In Ireland , for example, filmmak-ers can avail of a 32% (up to 37% in some locations ) rebate on qualified spending, with 90% of the rebate available as an interim payment. Hungary for example, is offering tax exemptions and rebates.
Increasingly, Europe is meeting the demand from foreign based companies for post-production capacity. Europe is producing highly-skilled visual effects and animation professionals, in addition to those in the traditional areas of editing and sound. For ex-ample, South Africa-based Triggerfish, the animation operation behind some popular Netflix productions, is establishing its first international studio, to be located in Gal-way, Ireland.
Europe's production industry is clearly here to stay as a resource for U.S. content crea-tors for abundant reasons. Besides stunning locations in many countries, some Europe-an cities can easily stand in for period films or for virtually whatever location the script demands. Studio space, trained personnel, financial incentives and a wealth of acting talent all help American producers compete in an era in which entertainment is a major growth industry.
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