On average French films allocate under 3% of their total budget on VFX, according to a report on employment in the French VFX sector presented at PIDS Enghien in Paris by the French film and TV agency CNC.
The report, produced with market research firm Audiens, found that for films budgeted at over €15 million ($17 million), the VFX spend rises to an average 11.8% of budget.
The data suggests that the number of French films using VFX has increased over the past decade. In 2020, 108 of 131 French feature films had recourse to VFX expenses in their overall budget. Total VFX expenditure for all French films in 2020 was estimated to be $18 million.
The CNC has not yet disclosed data on the VFX spend of top French titles released in 2021, but top titles included “Eiffel,” which presented a case study at PIDS Enghien.
Three titles contributed 39% of total VFX spend on French films in 2020 – Michel Hazanavicius’ “The Lost Prince,” which spent $4.4 million on VFX, Roman Polanski’s “An Officer and a Spy,” which spent $2 million, and Jan Kounen’s “My Cousin,” which spent $620,000.
The session at PIDS Enghien, moderated by Yann Marchet, included presentations by Ivan Piccon, head of research at CNC’s Department of Studies, Statistics and Forecasting, Philippe Degardin of Audiens, Stéphane Bedin of FICAM, and Olivier Emery of France VFX.
In 2019, the concentration of VFX spend on the top titles was even higher. The top three films represented 56% of total spend – Steven Quale’s “Braqueurs d’élite,” which spent over $8 million on VFX, followed by Luc Besson’s “Anna,” and Antonin Baudry’s “Le Chant du loup,” which each spent over $1.1 million.
The French VFX sector is securing an increasing percentage of VFX spend for French productions. Overall, 76.7% of VFX spend is located in France, whereas 23.3% is handled by VFX shops outside France.
The concentration of VFX spend is particularly marked for films budgeted at over $17 million – 82.8% is spent in France.
Alongside attracting VFX spend for French films, the success of the country’s VFX sector is dependent on attracting international titles. This has been further leveraged by the recent change to the country’s France’s Tax Rebate for International Production (TRIP) scheme, which now offers a 40% rebate on all eligible expenses for international projects whose VFX expenses surpass €2 million ($2.27 million) spent in France.
The CNC report identified major recent international titles, including Ridley Scott’s “The Last Duel,” and Netflix series “Oxygen” and “La Révolution,” but did not disclose data on their VFX spend.
The CNC conducted a survey of producers on their views in relation to VFX. The feedback included comments that VFX offers significant advantage for films, but current budget levels mean that only high-budget films can make effective use of these tools.
The number of VFX companies operating in France increased from 60 in 2011 to 78 in 2016, but have broadly stabilized since then, with a slight drop to 73 companies in 2020.
Between 2011 and 2019 there was a 24% rise in full-time employment in the VFX sector. In 2020 the sector had 899 full-time employees, 39% higher than the number recorded in 2011. Nonetheless, employment levels, especially for freelance staff, fell in 2020 as a result of the pandemic.
However comparative data suggests that full employment in the VFX sector remained more buoyant than other sectors, such as film production, which stalled during the lockdowns.
Employment is concentrated around the leading five French VFX players, including BUF, Mikros and MacGuff. The top five firms represent 54% of all salaries paid in the sector.
Jobs are concentrated in the Paris/Ile de France region, which is the headquarters of 79% of French VFX companies and represents 94% of all salaries paid in the sector.
Two thirds of all employees working in the overall VFX sector are male. For programming this proportion is even higher – where men represent 77% of all VFX technical work. However the data reveals that there are a higher proportion of women employees in the younger age group, of 20-29, which may lead to a rise in the proportion of women employees over the coming years.