“We Have Made The Bottom Line Better For Production Companies Up & Down The Country”: UK Culture Secretary Says “Game-Changing” Indie Film Relief Will Bring Balance To A Sector Too Reliant On Big-Budget Fare

EXCLUSIVE: UK Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer has said the 40% indie film tax relief will bring balance to a movie sector that has swung too far towards big-budget fare in recent years.

The Conservatives unveiled the relief yesterday on films below £15M ($19M) budget, which was celebrated as a “game-changer” by figures ranging from Christopher Nolan to Ridley Scott to Gurinder Chadha.

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Frazer said the latest set of tax reliefs brought in by the government, which it predicts will be worth £1B in additional relief over the next five years, are the “continuation” of a decade’s worth of work and will level the playing field between big-budget U.S. movies like Barbie that filmed in the UK and smaller indie fare.

“We’re supporting big productions and big international films on British soil but we need to do both and help indie films as well,” she said, as she sat down with Deadline at the National Theatre in London.

“We’ve listened to the sector,” Frazer added. “It became really clear that although people of course want to make films here, what matters is the bottom line. So that’s what we’ve done – as a government we have made the bottom line better for production companies up and down the country.”

Frazer rejected the notion that foreign filmmakers will now flock to the UK to make cheaper films due to the relief and said the vast majority of her consulting has been with British trade body Pact, the BFI and leading local indie producers. Pact has been calling for the indie film relief for seven years, the body has said.

“We did roundtables with small British independent filmmakers and what I heard was that people wanted to make films here but couldn’t make it work on the bottom line,” added Frazer. “They were going to Turkey or Italy, and their next projects were at risk of being lost.”

With new business rates relief and an increase in VFX relief alongside the indie film measures, Frazer stressed that there was also plenty in yesterday’s budget for the bigger movies.

She is bullish about a sector that she says has “significantly doubled in size” over the past decade, since the lucrative film and high-end TV tax credit was first introduced.

“Booming” sector?

Frazer was criticized last month by broadcasting union Bectu boss Philippa Childs for calling the sector “booming” when around two-thirds of freelancers are currently out of work.

She said she “recognizes the challenges” faced by the freelance workforce, adding that tax reliefs are one of the best weapons at her disposal.

“I can help turbocharge the industry to generate productions by creating tax reliefs that allow people to invest more here,” she added. “So what we’ve done is create a framework to improve the job prospects of freelancers by allowing huge amounts of investment to come in via tax reliefs.”

Furthermore, Frazer noted that she is “working with industry on measures to improve the lives of freelancers.” She cited Creative UK’s report on discrimination of the self-employed workforce and work being undertaken with the government’s innovation department examining how workers rights can be protected from the dangers of generative AI.

Toothless regulator?

Dan Wootton and Laurence Fox
Dan Wootton (left) and Laurence Fox

Frazer has been in post for just over a year and has a wide remit that incorporates all TV networks, the media and sport.

She was speaking to Deadline in the week that right-leaning network GB News was rapped once again by Ofcom for “unambiguously misogynistic” remarks made by actor Laurence Fox on air, which was the catalyst for the resignation of controversial presenter Dan Wootton.

Ofcom has opened more than a dozen investigations into GB News over the past year – a number of which concern politicians from Frazer’s own party hosting news programs- but she rejected the notion that the regulator needs more power.

“I saw Ofcom a couple of weeks ago and they didn’t ask for any more power,” she revealed to us. “I am pleased GB News has chosen to be regulated by Ofcom and obviously it is [Ofcom’s] job now to carry out that job of regulation, which it does across the board.”

Frazer was also heavily involved with her Culture, Media & Sport department’s mid-term review into the BBC, which concluded, amongst other things, that the corporation requires a “diversity of thought and opinion to be better reflected in its decision-making.”

New BBC Chair Samir Shah touched on this in his first all-staff email earlier this week when urging a diversity of class and thought in the BBC’s news coverage, and Frazer said the BBC is taking this responsibility “very seriously.”

In areas such as its Israel-Hamas war coverage, which has come in for some criticism over the past month, she stressed that the BBC has an “additional responsibility to make sure its coverage is accurate” due to its “unusual funding model” and position as a “beacon of our national values.”

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