Economic storm hits French vfx studios

Shrinking slates, global recession trigger shake-ups

PARIS — The global economic storm has hit the French vfx and animation studios, leading to a contraction among those companies.

“We were set to work on a number of films that ended up not getting financed,” explains Yann Blondel, vfx supervisor at century-old Eclair Group, whose latest round of big projects included John Travolta starrer “From Paris With Love” and Chris Nahon’s “Blood: The Last Vampire.” “We’ve been on standby on various important international projects.”

In 2008, the top 25 French CG companies grossed 40% of their annual revenues from foreign productions, per Thierry de Segonzac, president of Ficam, France’s national audiovisual and media federation. But that was then.

“This year, the budgets and the number of feature films in production have dropped 50%,” explains Pierre Buffin, founder of leading vfx shingle Buf. “Not only have we been handicapped by the lack of a (film production tax) rebate plan, we’ve also been hurt by the exchange rate.”

So far, well-established vfx companies including Mac Guff, Buf and Mikros Image have been riding out the turmoil. Mac Guff is working on Chris Meledandri’s “Despicable Me”; Buf has been busy with Luc Besson’s “Arthur and the Two Worlds War”; and Mikros Image got to work on Jacques Perrin’s “Oceans.”

But several smaller toon shingles have either gone under, like Sparx Animation (“Igor”), or have merged, like Def2Shoot (“Yona Yona Penguin”), which was bought by Digimage in October 2008.

Per Christian Guillon, prexy and vfx supervisor at L’E.S.T., the market has also suffered from one-stop-shop strategies developed by several large companies. These have been offering low-cost, all-

inclusive packages.

“The cake gets smaller, the margins thinner, and the competition has become ferocious,” Guillon says.

This contraction led Buffin and Mac Guff’s Jacques Bled to launch a joint venture, B-Mac — a lab studio that allows the two companies to handle a film from start to finish. The two giant Gallic labs, Eclair Group and Quinta Communications, have not only been hit by the recession, they’ve also been struggling to step into the digital age.

Eclair Group sold its historic landmark studio in July and has put its development lab GTC and post-production facility Centrimage up for sale.

Quinta’s Duran Duboi arm and Eclair Group have traditionally focused their activity on film lab work in addition to vfx and animation. But in the past couple years, as digital masters have slowly replaced film prints, both companies’ business models have been off balance. And as Eclair topper Thierry Forsans recently pointed out to the French press, “Working with digital masters brings 10 times less revenue than prints and require 10 times less staff.”

Amid this economic downturn, powerful orgs including the Ile de France Film Commission, Film France and Ficam have stepped up to jumpstart the local industry.

The Ile de France Film Commission has been key in promoting the talent of French animators and vfx artists abroad, notably through Parisfx —

Creative Ile de France, its two-day showcase co-created by Francois de Saint-Exupery.

With French helmer Jean-Pierre Jeunet (“Micmacs”) as guest of honor, the event will highlight the latest vfx and toon productions, notably Aton Soumache’s motion-

caption thriller “Prodigies” and upcoming French stereoscopic 3D toons — TeamTO’s “Occho Kochoi” and Pascal Herold’s “Cinderella.”

“In France, we have great creative forces like Luc Besson, Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Jacques Perrin that enable local vfx and animation companies to succeed,” explains Olivier-Rene Veillon, exec director of the Ile de France Film Commission. “But it’s vital for these companies to position themselves on the international market. The French market is a solid base, but it’s not enough.”

Paris-based orgs Film France and Ficam pushed for the 20% tax breaks to apply to toons and live-action films. Now that the plan is up and running, France has a more competitive edge, in line with its British and German neighbors.

The Ile de France Film Commission will present the rebate plan to American industryites in Los Angeles on Nov. 3, along with representatives from Buf, Eclair, Mikros, L’E.S.T., Duran Dubois and Mac Guff.

EuropaCorp’s Luc Besson and Quinta Communications’ prexy Tarak Ben Ammar’s

$42 million megastudio La Cite du Cinema in Seine-Saint-Denis also is expected to draw more international shoots to Gaul.

More Film

  • Female-Led and LGBTQ Narratives Win Big

    Female-Led and LGBTQ Narratives Win Big At Durban FilmMart Awards

    DURBAN–Female-driven narratives and daring portraits of queer culture around the continent were the big winners at this year’s Durban FilmMart (DFM), the industry program of the Durban Intl. Film Festival, which handed out awards at a ceremony Monday night at the Southern Sun Maharani Hotel. Among the prize-winners were the story of a Zimbabwean woman [...]

  • Oscar Nominations Reactions Phyllis Nagy

    Screenwriter Phyllis Nagy Runs for Writers Guild Presidency, Citing Agency Stalemate

    Oscar-nominated screenwriter Phyllis Nagy is challenging Writers Guild of America West’s incumbent president David Goodman, citing his handling of the bitter stalemate between the WGA and Hollywood agents. Nagy announced her candidacy online Monday night, a day before the deadline for filing. She made the announcement  in a private online group as part of Writers for [...]

  • Klaudia-Reynicke

    Locarno: Summerside Picks Up ‘Love Me Tender’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Rome-based Summerside Intl. has acquired international sales rights to Klaudia Reynicke’s “Love Me Tender.” The second feature from Peru-born and Switzerland-based filmmaker will receive its world premiere at the Locarno Festival in its Filmmakers of the Present competition, which focuses on first and second features. Summerside Intl. is the world sales agent, excluding and Lichtenstein [...]

  • Elsie Fisher and Bo Burnham2019 Writers

    Writers Guild Announces 2020 Awards Show Date

    The 72nd Annual Writers Guild Awards will take place in coinciding ceremonies in Los Angeles at the Beverly Hilton and the Edison Ballroom in New York on Feb. 1, the Writers Guild of America announced. The WGA will begin voting in November and will reveal this year’s TV nominees Dec. 5 and film Jan. 6. [...]

  • Tarantino Movies Ranked Illustration

    All of Quentin Tarantino's Movies Ranked

    In the history of cinema, has any director done more to elevate the idea of movies as cool than Quentin Tarantino? Certainly, the idea that films could be made by fans dates back at least to the French New Wave, when a group of die-hard critics stepped behind the camera. A few years later, Spielberg, [...]

  • A Stranger on the Beach

    Anonymous Content Wins Film Rights to Michele Campbell's 'A Stranger on the Beach' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Anonymous Content has won the adaptive rights to the forthcoming Michele Campbell novel “A Stranger on the Beach.” In a competitive situation, Anonymous outbid multiple players for the thriller, which it will adapt for the big screen with in-house producers Alex Goldstone and Rosalie Swedlin. “Stranger” has been likened to sensual thrillers like “Fatal Attraction” [...]

  • Ridley Scott Matt Damon Ben Affleck

    Ridley Scott, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Nicole Holofcener Team on 'The Last Duel'

    Ridley Scott looks to have his next directing job, as he has signed on to direct “The Last Duel” with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck attached to star. Damon and Affleck co-wrote the script with Oscar-nominated Nicole Holofcener. Scott, Damon and Affleck all producing along with Scott’s producing partner Kevin Walsh. Drew Vinton is also [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content