Back to all posts


The BFI antidote to the dying UK independent film market

Is it all doom and gloom?

27 Jul 2022

You could be forgiven for thinking that life within the UK Film and TV industry has never been better. New studio spaces are being announced on what feels like a daily basis. Only this week we heard two announcements, one being that Broxbourne council has greenlit a £700m film studio in Waltham Cross. Despite all the good news coming out of the industry, there remains a troubling fact and that is the UK Independent Film sector is on its last legs and needs urgent help if it is going to survive.

There are several reasons why the independent film market is struggling despite what seems to be a golden age for UK Film and TV. Reasons include; increased budgets, lack of cast and crew, and falling revenue. The traditional means of theatrical release is becoming harder, with cinema prioritising big studio films over independent movies. I was once told that ‘at the end of the day the cost to watch a Marvel movie in a cinema and an independent movie is the same, the Marvel movies virtually guarantee bums on seat whereas the independent is less certain’. With cinemas already struggling before the pandemic, it is only right that they fill their screens with blockbusters rather than gambling on providing screens for less known independent movies. Despite all these challenges now is not the time to pull the plug on the UK independent film market.

In July 2022 The BFI released a report they commissioned on how to save the independent film market.

The proposal included the following;

  • Increasing the Film Tax Relief for independent film producers

Increasing the Tax relief for independent films will reduce the financial strain on independent film producers. It will allow the money they raise to go further, allowing them to compete with the rising prices and the demand for higher quality productions.

  • Increasing support for independent film distribution

Marketing is an area in which independent films have struggled. When budgeting for a production, marketing is one of the most squeezed areas and is often left to the last minute. By offering tax relief to independent film sales and distribution. It will allow independent films to better compete against big studio films whose marketing budgets are sometimes the same cost as an independent film.

  • The introduction of a new zero-rated Vat on exhibition of UK independent films

Introducing zero-rated VAT on the exhibition of independent films, could solve the problem where in which it costs the same amount of money to watch a big studio film as it does to watch an independent film. By introducing zero-rated VAT, cinemas can lower the price for independent films thus making them more attractive to a paying audience. Cinema can then better assess the appetite for the film and increase screens if the film is a success.

  • Introducing measures which makes large content providers invest in smaller budget UK films

Introducing measures which forces large content providers to invest in independent films can be angled as a type of CSR initiative. Some could argue that for all the good these providers have done for the UK Film and TV industry, their increased presence in the UK has been one of the driving factors in the decline in the UK independent market. Asking them to put back into the market could be the proposal that saves the industry.

All the proposed measures the BFI has suggested could lead to an upturn in the UK film independent market. However, none of them will be easy to introduce and none of them will be introduced overnight. But the fact they are on the table gives hope that the UK independent film market will not be left behind and still has a real future. Time will tell if these proposals are introduced, in the meantime, we all have to sit and watch while our beloved independent film market is further squeezed, hopefully not past a point of no return.

If you wish to read the BFI commission report in full please use the link below.

Related content