A guide to co-producing with the UK

Why Co-Produce? It's all about WHO It's all about HOW It's all about WHERE The BFI Film Fund FAQS Useful Links

Why Co-Produce?

Co-producing allows pooling of creative, financial and technical expertise and resources as well as a sharing of risk.

An official UK co-production is a film production between the UK and one or more countries made under one of the UK’s official bi-lateral co-production treaties or the European Convention on Cinematographic Co-production.

Qualifying as an official co-production, and therefore as a British film means eligibility to apply for:

  • UK Film Tax Relief
  • BFI Film Fund
  • Support from National film agencies Creative England, Ffilm Cymru, Creative Scotland and Northern Ireland Screen (depending on producer’s location)
  • International sales and distribution support

Further benefits include:

  • British qualification can be a requirement for entry to some film festivals and awards
  • British qualifying films also count as local content for UK TV

Image: The Lobster (Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos)

It's all about WHO

Finding the right UK co-producer that shares the same creative vision is key to the success of any project. The BFI can’t recommend individual UK producers, but there are several sources that will help you identify potential partners, including:

  • The British Films Catalogue produced by the British Council Films Department lists more than 3000 British feature films, producers and production companies. The database is searchable by genre and production year.
  • The UK directory of independent producers published by the Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television (PACT) is a comprehensive database of TV and film production companies registered in the UK and their contact details.
  • We Are UK Film brings together the UK's film commissions, national and regional agencies, producers and sales companies under one umbrella to provide clear information about our outstanding locations, services, films and talent.

Image: Brookyln (Dir. John Crowley)

It's all about HOW

Structuring a UK Co-production.

All treaties have different requirements, but the common principles are:

  • A co-producer from each co-producing country needs to make both a financial contribution and an effective creative, technical and artistic contribution to the film. These need to be broadly in proportion.
  • The creative, technical and artistic contribution of the film needs to be made using personnel, goods and services from the co-producing countries (including personnel from the EEA).
  • The film needs to be made in the co-producing countries (you may be able to shoot in a third country location and some third country personnel may be allowed, but this must not exceed 20%-30% of the budget depending on the treaty being used not exceed 30% of the budget).
  • The co-production status must be applied for at least 4 weeks BEFORE principal photography commences.

In the UK, films can qualify as official co-productions under either:

The European convention on cinematographic production

  • Bi-lateral co-productions between two co-producers which are signatory to the Convention.
  • Multi-lateral co-productions between three or more signatory countries.
  • The Convention can allow non-party co-producers which are not signatory to the Convention with prior agreement from the BFI.

Financial contributions:

  • Minimum of 20% where there are only 2 party co-producers making a film bi-laterally.
  • Minimum of 10% where there are 3 or more party co-producers.

One of the UK's official bi-lateral co-production treaties

Active Treaties:

Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, India, Israel, Jamaica, Morocco, New Zealand, Occupied Palestinian Territories, South Africa

Financial contributions:

  • 20% minimum for all countries except for Australia (minimum of 30%)

Unofficial Co-Productions

The UK can also co-produce with countries with whom it does not have a treaty. This involves qualifying as a British film under the Cultural Test (see It’s all about WHERE’)

Image: The Devil Outside (Dir. Andrew Hulme)

It's all about WHERE

The UK Tax Credit Relief

In order to access the UK’s film tax relief, a film needs to qualify as British in one of two ways:

  • As an official co-production (as per ‘It’s all about HOW)
  • Under the UK’s film cultural test.

The cultural test is a points-based test where the project will need to achieve 18 of a possible 35 points to pass.

Eligible costs: UK core expenditure for the purposes of the tax relief is defined on that which is used or consumed on the soil of the UK rather than by the nationality of the people, goods and services. 

Since the tax credit is claimed through the company’s corporate tax return, all eligible costs need to be incurred by the UK co-producer.

UK core spend: minimum of 10%

Applicant: UK producer - needs to be a limited liability film production company (FPC) within the charge of UK Corporation tax net and the company must be incorporated before principal photography begins.

Application deadlines: Applicants can apply for interim certification at any point before or during production. Interim certification is essential if you wish to claim film tax relief during production. A final application must be submitted once the film is complete and ready to be viewed by an audience.

Other eligibility requirements: Films need to be intended for theatrical release

Value of the tax credit

The UK Film Production Company can claim tax relief of up to 35% of UK qualifying expenditure. This is available on a maximum of 80% of total UK core expenditure. There is no cap on the amount which can be claimed.

Image: Mr Turner (Dir. Mike Leigh)

The BFI Film Fund

Funding available for British qualifying majority and minority co-productions.

With over £26m to invest a year, the BFI Film Fund is the UK's largest public investor in film - supporting first-class filmmaking through development and production, to distribution and international sales.

The BFI Film Fund has earmarked up to £250,000 per year of its existing funding towards the support for co-productions at the development stage, and up to £1m per year towards production awards where the UK is a minority partner.

Priority will be given to projects where:

  • A world-class, non-British filmmaker wishes to engage with UK talent or cultural content;
  • UK involvement elevates the project’s creative or commercial potential;
  • The project gives an opportunity to an outstanding, emerging talent from the UK.

There are no application deadlines, so please apply when the script is complete and when the team is ready to share their vision for the film, supported by a strategic plan for making it. 

Image: Mary Shelley (Dir. Haifaa al-Mansour)

FAQS

Is there a distinction between qualifying spend for co-productions and the UK tax relief?

Yes. For co-productions, qualifying spend can include goods, services, facilities and personnel from the UK, regardless of whether it is spent in the UK or elsewhere in the world. This spend will contribute towards your co-production contribution (see 'Its all about HOW').

For tax relief purposes, qualifying spend can only include what was used and consumed in the UK rather than by the nationality of the people, goods and services. All qualifying costs need to be incurred by the UK co-producer since the tax relief is claimed through the company's corporate tax return (see it's all about WHERE').


Qualifying spend for co-production (WHO is incurring the expenditure)

UK cast & crew

  • Personnel, goods and services from the co-producing countries count towards co-production contribution.
  • Example: UK personnel fees regardless of in or outside of the UK.

Qualifying spend for tax relief purposes (WHERE is the expenditure incurred)

Cast & crew in the UK

  • UK core expenditure used and consumed on UK soil and incurred by the UK production company = eligible for tax rebate
  • Example: cast and crew fees regardless of nationality where their services are used or consumed in the UK.