PARIS — As a result of the new 30% tax rebate for domestic and international productions, Les Studios de Paris, based in Luc Besson’s Cite du Cinemá complex in Northern Paris, expects a major increase in production in 2016.
The studios – run by president Brigitte Segal and co-ordinator Valerie Venetz – recently hired consultant and producer, Jean-Philippe Blime, to attract new business and produce a study on competition from other studios and the impact of the new tax rebate schemes.
Blime worked as an assistant director on films such as “Phantom of the Opera” and “Interview with a Vampire” and ran his own company Latomana. His productions include Sylvain Estibal’s “When Pigs have Wings,” that won a French Cesar award for best first film.
He considers that it’s very early to predict the impact of the new rates given that producers are still assimilating the new rules and doing their calculations.
Blime emphasizes that in international terms there is major competition from Belgium and Eastern Europe, especially Hungary, with also some competition from studios such as Babelsberg in Germany.
Under the new 30% rate, France can now be more competitive than the U.K. for medium budget productions, according to a previous study commissioned by Les Studios de Paris, but the U.K. has a major advantage on large U.S. shoots given that actors’ salaries can be included as eligible expenses.
Under the new rules for mid-budget European film, without any international actors, France is highly competitive, but for projects with high above-the-line expenses related to actors, territories such as the U.K., Belgium and Hungary remain more competitive.
As a result, Blime considers that Les Studios de Paris is not competing directly with studios such as Pinewood in the U.K., but instead are trying to compete with other studios for mid-budget films and international productions that are shooting on location in France and require studio work in conjunction.
Blime considers that the main challenge facing all French studios is the restriction on working hours, with a standard 35-hour week, which can be extended to 48 hours and subject to a request for exceptional conditions may be extended to 60 hours. For example, he calculates that a seven-week shoot in the U.K. will require a 9-week shoot in France, because of these rules.
He considers that the new 30% rate for the tax rebate schemes is a major change, both for French productions, where his main competitors are the Bry-sur-Seine studios and Epinay studios, and for international shoots: “Until January 1, Belgium, Hungary and Babelsberg in Germany were our main direct competitors for international shoots because of their tax incentives and other funding. But the new 30% rate for the tax rebate schemes in France has changed everything for us. Now we are expecting more and more work to come to our studios, including French films that were previously shooting studio work abroad.”
“Our main goal is to work on film and TV series,” he explains. “French TV series are getting better and better. For us it’s a bit like creating a fixed rent. They keep their own sets the whole year through and if things go well they will stay from one year to the next. It provides financial security for us. However, we have to keep an eye on the balance. If we accept all the TV series that look for our sound stages we will fill up and have no capacity for film productions.”
“We always have to have one or two sound stages available for feature films, because if they call us and we say we’re full, they will never come back.”
Les Studios de Paris has a total of nine sound stages, varying from 600 m2 to 2000 m2. For Luc Besson’s upcoming “Valerian” sci-fi pic, up to seven sound stages will be occupied for this production alone, which is a major logistical challenge for the studios, since up to July 2016 the space for other productions is more confined.
Blime emphasizes that in France his main competitors are Bry-sur-Seine studios and Epinay Studios, especially given that the latter two studios have major equipment rental operations. As a result, Les Studios de Paris has also reinforced its equipment rental facilities, complemented by other facilities such as a digital lab for post-production and sound, and digital printing and laser cutting for set building.
When Blime started his consulting work for Les Studios de Paris, he also emphasized the need to enable productions to bring in their own catering services.
Major international productions housed in Les Studios de Paris in 2015 included Pablo Larraín’s “Jackie,” starring Natalie Portman, which occupied four sound stages – in which the 1960s White House and the Air Force One building were recreated.
In 2016, “Valerian” will be the main production during the first half of the year, with several projects currently in negotiation from July onwards.