Netflix announced earlier this month it would be setting up a new production base at England’s Shepperton Studios, a new power move at a time when Disney, Apple, WarnerMedia, and more are all gearing up to launch their own streaming platforms to compete against Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and more. The streaming wars are nearly upon us and British film producers are worried what that means for the future of independent film in the UK. Several producers recently spoke to The Guardian expressing their fears that all of the attention on streamers will leave the UK film industry neglected.
Andy Paterson, who co-produced the Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman-starring drama “The Railway Man” and “Girl With a Pearl Earring,” said the amount of content needed to fill all of the various streaming platforms means there’s never been a better time to be a filmmaker or producer in Britain. However, what will become of the UK indie film industry if everyone abandons it to work for streaming originals?
“There’s going to be a massive war between those platforms over the next two years and then, inevitably, a consolidation,” Paterson told The Guardian. “But, if during that time, we lose the independent film business in this country – which is going to happen unless we make big choices – then in three or four years’ time there will just be a few American-dominated platforms that control all creative content.”
Paterson continued, “We’re all making films and series for the streamers. We’re not for a second saying we don’t love that. It’s an awful lot easier to make movies for Netflix, where they pay for it, than it is to bring 50 different bits of money together to make ‘The Railway Man.’ But, without some intervention to ensure that the indigenous films still get developed and made, you end up having a new set of studios dominating the world.”
Rebecca O’Brien, one of Ken Loach’s longtime producers, echoed Paterson’s sentiment. “I’m quite pessimistic for the independent sector at the moment,” she said. “I certainly see a decline. The success of the inward investment business, which of course the industry is delighted to have, because it keeps strong employment is definitely a problem for the independent sector, who can’t pay so well.”
For O’Brien, it’s starting to get tough finding crew for indie films since the streaming giant and the major studios are keeping everyone busy for months on end. Again, the producer says it’s great everyone is working but it’s coming at the expense of an entire industry.
“People that we work with might be employed for up to nine months on a studio production and they have to commit to it because independent productions are rare,” O’Brien said. “So it does begin to drill a hole in our ability to keep the sector going.”
Paterson added the funds that organizations like BBC Films and the British Film Institute are able to give to indie productions annually are “pathetic numbers compared to the billions that Netflix and others spend.” Head over to The Guardian for additional industry reaction.