France debuts foreign pic tax rebate

Five films take advantage of 20% relief

PARIS — Lionsgate’s “Killers” and 3D toon “Despicable Me,” produced by Chris Meledandri, are among the first five recipients of France’s tax rebate for international shoots.

Helmer Robert Luketic’s “Killers,” starring Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl, shot this spring on the French Riviera.

Los Angeles and Paris-based VFX house Mac Guff handled animation modeling, texturing, rendering and compositing on “Despicable Me,” which is the first film from Universal’s family film unit, Illumination.

The other recipients are the second season of Brit fantasy adventure “Merlin,” produced by Shine for the BBC, which rolled at France’s Chateau Pierrefonds in Picardy; Japanese feature “Nodame cantabile,” about classical music performers, which lensed in the summer in Paris; and low-budget Brit romantic comedy “Paris Connection.”

Approved 12 months ago by France’s National Assembly, the rebate came into effect Dec. 1 and is broadly in line with U.K. and German tax relief for international shoots, allowing a 20% tax rebate on a foreign shoot’s expenditure in France. Rebates are capped at 4 million ($5.8 million) per production.

The first five approved applications show the rebate is open to not only live-action feature films but also animation and TV productions,” said Film France managing director Patrick Lamassoure.

Also underscoring the scheme’s diversity, “The rebates have gone to productions from several countries, and the live-action films have shot in different regions around France,” Lamassoure added.

The program has been warmly welcomed by local industryites.

In France, we’ve always had artistic and technical skills that were attractive to foreign producers, but we were handicapped by the lack of a rebate plan,” explained Mac Guff producer Jacques Bled. “Now that the rebate’s been approved, we can compete with other countries.”

The exact rebates for “Despicable Me” and “Killers” are unknown. Total eligible expenditure in France on the five productions is believed to be $43.2 million.

Rebate applications are assessed by two state-backed orgs, Film France and the Centre National du Cinema et de l’Image Animee (CNC). A CNC committee rules on a production’s eligibility, and the finance ministry pays rebates directly to the Gallic service company or co-producer.

The rebates bode well for the future: Just greenlit, “Merlin’s” third season look set to shoot again at Pierrefonds.

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