Recognizing that international productions would often shoot a handful of sequences in France before moving post-production responsibilities abroad, the French government passed a series of reforms to the country’s tax rebate scheme in early 2020 meant to spur on and encourage foreign investment.
Since April 2020, France’s Tax Rebate for International Production (TRIP) scheme now offers a 40% rebate on all eligible expenses – including for live action spends that are not VFX related – for international projects whose VFX expenses surpass €2 million ($2.27 million) spent on local soil.
The recent addition marks a 10% increase on the longstanding 30% rebate. In order to qualify, a live-action production must shoot (at minimum) five days in France while partnering with a local production service company to handle digital processing and rendering for any and all onscreen elements.
“The goal is to develop the French VFX sector,” explains Mathieu Ripka, who heads the CNC’s France Film Commission. “While [local VFX houses like] Mikros and Mac Guff are among the best of the best, you can only get so far on know-how. For a long time, the [VFX] industry has just scraped by, because the local production market was not enough to [support it].”
“It’s rare to have a purely French project with a [Hollywood budget and] scale,” Ripka continues. “Though big productions like “Asterix and Obelix” do come along, our VFX house cannot live entirely off them. So this 40% tax rebate is very positive.”
Among the very first productions to benefit from this new scheme was Ridley Scott’s “The Last Duel,” a 14th century period epic that shot in France through late 2019 and early 2020.
Budgeted at over $100 million, the Fox/Disney project was already eligible for France’s 30% tax rebate by the time production wrapped in February 2020. When the new scheme passed in April – and with it, a retroactive window that opened eligibility to projects shot within that calendar year – the Hollywood brass felt encouraged to seek out Paris-based VFX house Mikros Image. When all was said and done, the American producers had an up of $300,000 on paper for the additional $2.6 million they spent in Gaul.
“We represented France, so we had to prove that we could offer a workable solution,” said Beatrice Bauwens, who served as VFX and post director at Mikros Image before the VFX firm merged with MPC Episodic in September 2021. “[At Mikros,] we had to prove that we could handle €2 million worth of VFX in France.”
“We never thought that we couldn’t handle it,” Bauwens continued, speaking at a panel organized by Paris Images Online. “But there was quite some pressure owing to Ridley Scott. Many of our VFX artists started work in this field because of him, so failing wasn’t an option.”
With houses in Montreal and London handling other post-production tasks, Mikros focused on environments, digital mattes, crowd-scenes, and landscapes, working throughout the year and delivering its final shot in April 2021.
As she reflects on her work on the project – which has subsequently led to new bids from international projects – Bauwens smiles when thinking of one visual in particular. “I think Ridley loved the shot where we see the Notre-Dame cathedral being built,” says Bauwens, whose own office faces the very monument. “The only let-down was that Ridley Scott never actually came to our office. We only ever [met with him] online!”