June 23, 2024

International production spending in France hit record highs in 2022, resulting in 2,220 shooting days that crested above $1 billion in promised investment — and public initiatives had a major role to play. In early 2020, for example, France updated its Tax Rebate for International Production scheme, supplementing a 30% across-the-board rebate with an additional 10% — applicable on all eligible expenses — for productions that spent $2.2 million with local VFX and post houses.

Clearly, such initiatives have already borne fruit, with (wholly) locally shot films like “The Nun II” in theaters before big-budget series such as Apple’s “The New Look,” Starz’s “The Serpent Queen” Season 2 and AMC’s “Monsieur Spade” hit airwaves. Local authorities are well into a campaign of internal improvement met with international outreach, all meant to shore up Gaul’s standing as a preeminent, full-service production destination.

Domestically, progress is well underway. At last May’s Cannes Film Festival, France’s minister of culture announced the 68 beneficiaries of the industry’s Great Image Factory plan. Umbrellaed under French president Emmanuel Macron’s larger France 2030 infrastructure omnibus, the scheme will inject $376 million in public support (matched with an additional $2.15 billion in private funds) into the production ecosystem, strengthening existing studios with new soundstages, building large-scale backlots and bolstering both innovation and recruitment in the VFX field.

Indeed, professional training has been a cornerstone of this wider plan, as outfits look to not only open carbon-neutral production facilities, but to staff them with internationally adept and eco/socially responsible crews. Strict adherence to an energy transition and carbon reduction charter were prerequisites for all Image Factory bids, while France National Film Board (CNC) has made its own subsidies conditional on mandatory harassment-prevention seminars since 2021.

“All this testifies to the very high degree of maturity in our industry,” says CNC digital director Pauline Augrain. “That reflects our commitments and serves as a real asset for international producers who don’t just come to France for our production services. They come for a historic industry that dates back to the beginning of cinema, and that remains powerful and solidified by regulatory frameworks.”

On the international front, industry bigwigs will now start touting those benefits abroad. In November, the CNC will send a delegation to Los Angeles, teaming with the Franco-U.S. artistic residence and cultural exchange institution Villa Albertine for a series of conferences and targeted matchmaking sessions putting French suppliers in front of Hollywood decisionmakers.

Along with representatives from production facilities and VFX houses that benefited from recent France 2030 support, expected speakers include Hollywood-fluent line producers such as John Bernard, who shepherded massive undertakings like “Dunkirk” and Apple’s upcoming Benjamin Franklin limited series through his Peninsula Film banner, and Firstep’s Raphaël Benoliel, who’s now prepping the next season of “Emily in Paris” and let loose David Fincher’s “The Killer.”

“We need to spread the word,” says Augrain, underlining the fact that American productions account for 80% of international spends. “We must accelerate and encourage increasingly mature prospecting strategies within the U.S. The fact that we’re doing this really shows our ambition to go out and meet people, to show the wealth of what’s possible. Our idea, really, is to build lasting relationships.”

Gallic producers are looking to establish an equally lasting promotional presence and a more durable beachhead within the U.S. To that end, Gaumont has launched its own production services and line-producing banner. Gaumont Television president Isabelle Degeorges will lead a team that includes “The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon” line producer Roxanne Pinheiro and “Mission: Impossible — Fallout” first AD William Pruss; they will now serve as full-time emissaries luring premium international projects.

“For us, it’s the next logical step,” says Degeorges, who also served on the France 2030 Great Image Factory project selection committee. “We have the connections in North America, and we have the internal resources to host American shoots and to promote our know-how. The fact that we have a subsidiary in the United States means that we exist, that we have legitimacy.”

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