Foreign film-makers are lured to Britain as industry enjoys boom

Colin Farrell might have dyed his hair blond to play Alexander the Great, but the sight of the armour-clad actor strutting between the stages at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire yesterday barely raised an eyebrow.

Workers at Pinewood are used to seeing the likes of Farrell and his co-stars, Angelina Jolie and Sir Anthony Hopkins. Elsewhere on the site, the Hollywood director Joel Schumacher is shooting Phantom of the Opera and staff are working on Disney's King Arthur.

A few miles away in Elstree, in Hertfordshire, Gwyneth Paltrow is making a film version of the play, Proof, and at Shepperton, Renee Zellweger and Colin Firth are filming Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.

Having suffered after the 11 September terrorist attacks, the British film industry is enjoying a new golden era.

Sources at the UK Film Council revealed last night that 2003 would be a record year for investment in movies made in Britain. The total spent is to be about double last year's £440m and more than the £750m spent in the boom year of 2000.

A spokesman for the UK Film Council said: "We have been able to attract a whole lot of international productions, especially from the US. Only two years ago the industry was in a major slump."

But the good times have put the industry at odds with the BBC, which claims it is being forced out of Britain to make its big historical productions in Eastern Europe.

The film studios dotted around England's Home Counties are awash with American-funded productions. At Leavesdon studios, owned by the American company Warner Bros Entertainment, the third and fourth films in the Harry Potter series are being made. And Johnny Depp is at Ealing making Bride and Prejudice with Gurinder Chadha, the director of Bend it Like Beckham.

British film studios said US film-makers felt "more comfortable" working in and around London than in other countries competing for business from Hollywood.

The industry has also benefited from huge tax breaks introduced by the Government, which can reduce film budgets by 15 per cent and offset the disincentive of the strong pound.

But the BBC claimed that Hollywood's infatuation with British studios was forcing the corporation to leave the country to film. As a result, the BBC's four-part dramatic portrayal of the times of Charles II, Charles II: The Power and the Passion, was filmed in the Czech Republic after the BBC bought a warehouse outside Prague and used it to reconstruct 17th century Whitehall.

Jane Tranter, the BBC's head of drama, said she would have preferred to make films about British history in the UK, but was forced out by Hollywood. "Our big studios in the UK are basically Pinewood, Shepperton and Bra, maybe a bit of Ealing. There aren't that many of them," she said. "They are full up the whole time with American films."The US demand has also driven up costs for using the studios, making them too expensive for the BBC, she said.

The BBC claims it was six times cheaper to make the Charles II production in Prague. The production used 14 locations across the Czech Republic. Five Houses were built to create a London street scene, and a copy of the Holbein Gate, which once stood at the entrance to Whitehall Square, was also constructed.

Gunpowder, Treason and Plot, which was written by Jimmy McGovern and will be shown in four parts on BBC2 next year, was made 2,000 miles away in Romania. The decision to film in Romania caused consternation in Scotland, where much of the story is set.

Ms Tranter said that she was obliged to film at studios that offered the best deal for people who pay for television licences. "I'm not saying [British studios] are very unreasonable," she said.

"Although it might be more comfortable for us to film in one of the British studios, we have to look for the best value and over the past few years Eastern Europe has really opened up as a place of stunning value."

The BBC was following the example of ITV, which also went to Romania to film its historical blockbuster about Boudicca, Britain's warrior queen.

Some British-based feature films have also been made in Eastern Europe, such as From Hell, which starred Johnny Depp and was made in Prague.

Steve Norris, the British Film Commissioner, said: "Northern Europe is too generic from a film point of view. Ensuring that films that are set in Britain and made in Britain is crucial."

The boom in British film production has happened partly because of Treasury-introduced tax breaks that can result in savings of 10 per cent for film projects with budgets over £15m. A similar tax incentive for smaller-budget films can result in savings of up to 15 per cent, but the industry fears the Government might drop this in 2005.

Nick Smith, a marketing manager at Pinewood and Shepperton studios, said: "If we didn't have those tax incentives we wouldn't have a film industry. Ten years ago films were either being made in California or London - now they are being made everywhere."

Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
    World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

    Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

    The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
    Why the league system no longer measures up

    League system no longer measures up

    Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system