Jeremy Thomas: Financing Indies in U.K. Tougher Than Ever

Oscar winner singled out India as a "sleeping giant" in indie space.

LONDON – Independent film financing in the U.K. is tougher than it has ever been, Oscar-winning auteur film producer Jeremy Thomas told a film financing confab Wednesday, arguing that the U.K. should rejoin pan-European co-production fund Eurimages to up its funding potential.

Thomas, producer of movies including Sexy Beast, The Last Emperor and Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence said that a combination of technology, piracy and economic realities have permanently changed the way independent films are funded.

“Twenty years ago film was at the top of the pyramid and there wasn’t the same competition from brilliant television mini-series, the Internet or from social networking that there is today,” he said, speaking after he delivered the keynote at the fourth Film London Production Finance Market.

A shrinking pool of pre-sales financing drying up, dwindling ancillary revenues, lower DVD sales and internet piracy had all contributed to less cash available to fund non-studio fare.
Emerging markets wealth funds emanating from regions like Abu Dhabi, Doha and the Gulf were more likely to devote their film investment into local production or mass-appeal Hollywood movies, he added.

But Thomas singled India out as a “sleeping giant” in independent film, with a history of art house directors like Satyiajit Ray as well as Bollywood bombast.

In his speech to assembled producers and financiers at the two-day PFM, Thomas was critical of the U.K. government’s decision to close off sources of film funding, pointing out that it made no sense when thousands of would-be film makers have studied and qualified with skills in the field.

"There's a lot of suffering in the U.K.," he said. "And it's the government's fault that they have invested a huge amount of money into education for cinema and created this illusion to the people. What we really need is resources for independent films."

Rejoining the Eurimages co-production fund -- after pulling out 14 years ago -- would give British independent producers a better shot at completing financing deals.