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How to Co-Produce with the UK

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 or the UK Audio-Visual Expenditure Credit (AVEC)
  • BFI National Lottery Filmmaking Fund
  • UK Global Screen Fund*
  • Support from national screen agencies Creative UK, Creative Wales, Ffilm Cymru, Screen Scotland and Northern Ireland Screen (NIS)(depending on producer’s location)
  • International sales and distribution support schemes

* UKGSF will support unofficial as well as official co-productions, and requires supported films to qualify as British

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.
  • Screen UK Industry 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.
  • BFI official co-production list, you can view all previously certified co-productions to find potential UK producers and to see who has used which treaty.

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 to the film needs to be made using personnel, goods and services from the co-producing countries (this can include 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 must not exceed 20% – 30% of the budget, depending on the treaty being used).
  • The co-production status must be applied for at least 4 weeks before principal photography commences.

The European convention on cinematographic productions

In June 2021 the UK signed the revised European convention which means:

  • Bilateral, the minimum finance is now 10% (previously 20%) and the maximum 90% (Previously 80%);
  • multilateral, the minimum finance is now 5% (previously 10%) and the maximum 90%(previously 80%)

The above changes apply only where all countries participating have ratified to the new convention. The revised treaty will continue to be regulated by the 1994 Convention.

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%)

Please note the European Convention on Cinematographic Co-production does not allow for TV, and only the Australia, Brazil, Canada, Israel, New Zealand, Occupied Palestinian Territories and South Africa bilateral treaties allow for TV. China has a separate TV treaty with the UK.

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.

It's all about WHERE

The UK Tax Relief or AVEC

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 (see ‘It’s all about HOW’)
  • Under the UK’s film cultural test

Qualifying under the 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 and there is a UK production company that is responsible for making the film throughout from pre-production through to completion

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

Since the tax relief or AVEC 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 or AVEC 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 film tax relief: The UK Film Production Company can claim tax relief of up to 25% 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.

This year the UK introduced the new AVEC system that will replace the current film, high-end TV, animation and children’s TV tax reliefs.

Under AVEC, film, will be eligible for a taxable credit at a rate of 34% (equivalent to a relief of 25.5% after a 25% tax rate is applied). Animated film productions will be eligible for a taxable credit at a rate of 39% (equivalent to 29.25% after a 25% tax rate is applied). As with the previous system, this AVEC is available on a maximum of 80% of total UK core expenditure.

New productions must claim under the new expenditure credits from 1 April 2025 and all productions must claim under the expenditure credits from 1 April 2027 when the current tax reliefs will end.

The UK is also in the process of introducing an uplifted AVEC rate of 53% (approximately 40% when a tax rate of 25% is applied) targeted specifically at films with a total budget of £15 million or under.

Further details on the qualifying criteria are to be published later this year, though being certified as an official co-production is one of the eligibility conditions. Eligible productions that started principal photography on or after 1 April 2024 will be able to claim the higher credit rate from 1 April 2025.


BFI National Lottery Filmmaking Fund

The new BFI National Lottery Filmmaking Fund has £54 million to support UK films and talent over three years, guided by fund priorities of equity, diversity and inclusion; cultural and audience impact; talent progression; creative risk taking; UK-wide reach and sustainability.

£36.6 million is available for development and production funding for fiction feature films.

Discovery - For debuts with a budget level of up to £3.5m. Assessment of applications will focus strongly on the talent involved and their progression, as well as on the strength of the project itself.

Impact - For more experienced filmmakers – second-time directors and beyond – working at any budget level, as well as directorial debuts budgeted over £3.5m. Funding awards will recognise the potential that projects have for impact at scale – culturally, socially, and commercially – as well as potential impact on the filmmaker’s careers.

Production funds accept applications for international co-productions, provided they meet the eligibility criteria and the fund priorities. However, minority co-productions should consider applying to the UK Global Screen Fund (UKGSF).

UK Global Screen Fund

The £7 million per annum fund is designed to boost international development, coproduction, distribution and promotional opportunities for the UK’s independent screen sector. The UK Global Screen Fund targets support across film, TV, documentary, animation and interactive narrative games content and is focused on accelerating export growth, boosting revenues and deepening international relationships. Financed by the UK government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and administered by the BFI, the fund offers non-recoupable grants of up to £300,000 for UK independent companies to co-produce with international partners.

UK Global Screen Fund International Co-production funding is available for:

  • ‘minority’ feature film co-productions (co-productions where the contribution of at least one of the other co-producing partners is greater than the overall contribution of the UK producer) in any language and any genre, including action, animation and documentary, which are co-produced with international partners
  • television co-productions (whether ‘minority’ or ‘majority’ in nature) in the animation and documentary genres only, in any language, which are co-produced with international partners.