Rhone-Alpes is home to clusters of companies

France’s Rhone-Alpes region offers some dramatic scenery for location scouts — from Alpine vistas to the medieval churches and castles of the Loire and Rhone valleys — but it is also home to one of Europe’s largest clusters of digital content outfits, as befits the birthplace of the moving image (the Lumiere brothers invented the cinematographe in the region’s major city, Lyon, in 1885).

Some 150 companies in the greater Lyon area — a hotbed of animation, filmmaking, TV production, vidgames, Internet design and mobile content — gathered together under umbrella organization Imaginove five years ago, and with its help are now pushing at the boundaries of their sectors.

Among the leading players in the group are TeamTO and Pinka, both Paris-based companies producing toon series and mobile content that have set up production arms in Rhone-Alpes.

Faced with the challenges posed by rapid media convergence, Imaginove is helping its members move existing content from one platform to another, develop new intellectual properties and attract talent capable of pioneering new business ventures.

Since it was set up, Imaginove has funded more than 100 research and development projects — each receiving €20,000 ($27,000) — and has covered The cost of employing staff dedicated to the task of guiding product onto new platforms.

“We help them, slowly but surely, to transform their businesses,” Imaginove CEO Ludovic Noel says.

The org also includes local academic institutions and their research labs, which assist in developing new product.

“We want our industry to be connected to the next generation of innovation,” Noel says.

Imaginove also sets out to boost international business. For example, Noel led a delegation of 10 companies in February to New York’s Kidscreen Summit, one of a number of international events the org attends.

Co-production film fund Rhone-Alpes Cinema, which is headed by Gregory Faes, also plays its part in boosting local product. It invests up to €4 million ($5.4 million) into 12-15 films a year.

Local animation house Folimage, headed by Jacques-Remy Girerd, recently followed one success, the Girerd-helmed feature “Mia and the Migoo,” which won the European Film Academy’s animated feature award last year, with another, Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol’s 2D “Une vie de chat” (A Cat in Paris).

The latter pic, produced and co-written by Girerd, screened in Generation Kplus at the Berlin Film Festival and was nominated for a Cesar. After nine weeks in the Gallic cinemas, it has attracted more than 300,000 admissions. Gkids took U.S. rights.

Another recent success for Rhone-Alpes Cinema was “Les Emotifs anonymes” (Romantics Anonymous), a romantic comedy that stars Isabelle Carre and Benoit Poelvoorde. The film picked up a Cesar nom for best actress along the way while generating 1.2 million to date at the box office.

Among other orgs offering assistance to filmmakers are the Rhone-Alpes Film Commission, which offers help with location scouting and logistical support.

Local production facilities include Rhone-Alpes Studios, which has three studios, the biggest of which is 9,688 sq. ft., and post-production house Les Machineurs.

More from Cartoon Movie 2011:
Euro toons not for tots | Toon in | Region nurtures digital biz | Local cel bloc

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