Mayor of London Pumps $3 Million into Film London Agency

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LONDON – Film London, the British capital's movie agency familiar to Hollywood's location decision-makers, is to get a cash boost from the Mayor of London's office to push for high-end TV production and animation talent to land here.

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said Thursday he will pump $3 million (£2 million) into Film London to expand the organization's reach, with $1.1 million (£750,000) ear-marked to promote the development of the sectors.

Johnson's move comes on the back of the government's decision to introduce a tax credit system to boost high-end TV and animation projects with a system which mirrors the current film tax relief in place.

The aim is to bring in $302 million (£200 million) worth of additional expenditure through TV and animation production and create 1,000 industry jobs in the U.K.

London is now the third busiest city in the world for film making after L.A. and New York.

Film London, working to facilitate big movie shoots in the capital, generated $1.2 billion (£770 million) in investment over the last four years and will aim to mirror the success with the agency’s expansion into high-end TV, such as dramas, mini-series, franchise shows, international co-productions and animations.

With the additional funding, Film London said it can now set its sights on new investment opportunities from markets in the U.S., India, China and South America.

Johnson rocked up at Ealing Studios Thursday - the longest continuing film studio in the U.K. - and home to the Downton Abbey set, to trumpet the investment and talk up the sector.

Johnson said: "We have an unprecedented opportunity to grow this exciting sector to deliver jobs, produce more world class British drama and, above all, make London the city of choice for TV and animation production. Let’s make sure that all future Downtons are filmed on our turf."

BBC director general Tony Hall said: “These are certainly exciting times for television production," citing BBC shows such as Sherlock and Silk set to begin shooting in London.

"The [British] capital is already one of the most TV-friendly cities in the world and we look forward to continuing to play our part in this vital part of the British broadcasting ecology."

Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey said:  "It is encouraging to feel that the tremendous, worldwide success of British high-end television is at last receiving some recognition and help."

Andy Serkis and Jonathan Cavendish, founders of The Imaginarium, a performance capture company based at Ealing said: "The introduction of tax relief beyond film to animation, games and television is very important to our business, and helps us in setting up our Academy to train young people into the digital future."

Oscar-winning producer and Film London chairman David Parfitt said: "I would like to thank the Mayor for his continued support of Film London and the capital's production industries. We are proud of the return on investment Film London has delivered for the city over the past 10 years, and with these new opportunities in the television, animation and games industries, we can cement London's reputation as the greatest city in the world for all visual arts."

Ealing Studios CEO and managing director of film and television James Spring said: "The extension of the tax credit system for high-end TV has already led to increased activity from foreign productions as well as U.K. originated television."

Gareth Neame, executive producer, Downton Abbey noted that Britain "is the second biggest exporter of TV content in the world" and that the tax incentive is long overdue.

"As British producers we welcome this commitment by the government and particularly the Mayor’s increased investment in Film London to expand its remit so we can boost this vital sector of the creative industries," Neame said.

Adrian Wootton, chief executive of Film London and the British Film Commission said: "Having worked with the Mayor’s office for the last 10 years to transform the capital into a film friendly city, we now welcome the same task for high-end TV and animation. With the new fiscal incentives, coupled with investment from the Mayor, the capital has the potential to become a world leader for the production industries, retaining and creating valuable jobs and encouraging new investment to boost the economy."

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