It’s as hard as ever for indie British films to get off the ground. Even so, the reputation of UK film-making is on a high going into awards season – and 2014 is set for swathe of big budget shoots here.

There’s a swathe of big budget inward investment films set to shoot in the UK in 2014, which should mean plenty of work and business for British film industry creatives and suppliers.

JJ Abrams’ Star Wars: Episode VII (Lucas Films) will begin shooting at Pinewood Studios next year. The latest two superhero films from Marvel Studios, Joss Whedon’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron and Edgar Wright’s Ant Man, have also gone into pre-production, in the run up to shoots in and around London next year.

2014 will also see the release of a haul of big budget Hollywood films made in the UK. They include James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy (Marvel) and Lana & Andy Wachowski’s Jupiter Ascending (Warner Bros). Other big Warner Bros films now shooting include whaling epic Heart of the Sea (due for release in 2015) and Guy Ritchie’s The Man From UNCLE.

The list goes on. Paul King’s re-imagining of Paddington (StudioCanal), Matthew Vaughn’s comic book adaptation The Secret Service (Fox) and Gary Shore’s vampire tale Dracula Untold (Universal) shot in the UK are set for a 2014 release.

Meanwhile, Ridley Scott is working on biblical epic Exodus (Fox), which has filmed in England, Spain and Morocco. The Brad Pitt starring Nazi-hunting tale Fury is shooting in the UK, as is Rob Marshall’s Into the Woods (Walt Disney) starring Johnny Depp and Meryl Streep.

“It would be unwise to try to second guess what Academy voters both here and across the pond will respond to,” says Ben Roberts, the head of the BFI Film Fund. “But UK films have undoubtedly had a good response at international film festivals in 2013, with lots of acclaim for films like Philomena, 12 Years a Slave, Under the Skin, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and inward investment titles like Gravity have done so much to showcase the genius of the UK’s leading SFX companies like Framestore, so here’s hoping UK films will get some gongs this awards season.”

Bafta nominations will be announced on 8th January, with the awards on 16th February. Oscar nominations will be unveiled on 16th January, with the ceremony booked in for 2nd March.

British filmmakers will go into 2014 on the back of critical acclaim generated over the past 12 months, which has seen films like Philomena, 12 Years a Slave and Gravity lauded at home and abroad.

“I think there’s a renewed sense of confidence in UK film,” says the BFI’s Ben Roberts. UK productions shooting or set to shoot early next year include Matthew Warchus’ Pride, Christopher Smith’s Get Santa, Richard Bracewell’s Bill and Sarah Gavron’s Suffragette.

That said, it’s still a tough environment in which to raise money for film production, particularly in the independent sector. Roberts adds:  “We know through our daily contact with producers that access to finance remains challenging for many.” Upcoming BFI –backed buzz titles in 2014 include Amma Asante’s Belle, Yann Demange’s ’71, Mike Leigh’s Mr Turner, Lone Scherfig’s Posh and Ken Loach’s Irish-set project, Jimmy’s Hall.

Even for films that get made, though, distribution is tough in a very crowded market. “There are ongoing challenges in the distribution of British independent films and widening the audiences for these is a key priority for the BFI,” 
says Roberts.

Tim Dams

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