VFX industry busy but more is to come

3D glasses warningThe growth of Britain's VFX skills base and the UK's tax incentives are the two leading factors for the UK current success in 3D production, says Adrian Wootton, head of the British Film Commission and Film London.

At a two-day long 3D Summit held at London's BFI last week, Wootton praised the after-effects of early VFX pioneering productions such as Warner Bros.' Harry Potter series for creating a much stronger technical skills base in the UK - one that now puts the UK at the forefront of 3D production, and ensures the nation's VFX houses are considered among the best in the world.

"We've seen this before in Belfast, where Game of Thrones created a fantastic crew base - there was nothing five to six years ago and now they are a real production hub.

"3D is a component of the VFX critical mass we see in the UK, in London. We can now tell that growing our skills base in the past few years has really paid off."

However, there is a question regarding sustainability of the high levels of work. Dan Simmons, head of film at Creative Skillset, said that though it is great that recent films produced here - such as Gravity - are 'advertising' what the UK has on offer, it is also crucial to calculate how the UK will deal with an increased workload in the future.

"Gravity was a game changer - also from an audience point of view - and will bring in more work but we need also need to look at the future," Simmons said. "Creative Skillset is working with film schools to show them that 3D is not a gimmick but that there is a huge creative potential. We also see initiatives that help our children learn coding. The market and technological advances will help accelerate the process [to normalise 3D].

"There was a moment people thought that the audience was bored or unfazed by 3D but now we see they are not. As long as there are propositions that do deliver - where 3D is not an afterthought - there is an audience."

Tax incentives to make UK's VFX more attractive

Next month the new changes relating to the animation and high-end TV are coming into effect and both Wootton and Simmons are expecting a huge surge in 3D productions coming to the UK.

The effect of the tax relief programmes for high-end television and animation, which have been in place for nearly 11 months now, is clear to see. Within nine months of instigation the measures delivered over £276m to the UK economy.

From 1 April these programmes will be even more attractive to foreign filmmakers as the current UK expenditure requirement will be lowered from 25% to 10% - benefitting the visual effects branch specifically. The government will also be modernising the cultural test. From next month the test will allow for European as well as British culture, in line with other creative content tax reliefs currently provided in the EU. The test will become a 35 point test with a pass mark of 18 and will include an increase in the points available for principal photography, special effects, visual effects and using English as the production's main language.

Wootton said that the tax relief programmes create even more opportunity for creating a better crew and skills base in the UK as "TV and animation are not as fleeting as film."