Overview of France’s VFX industry and trends

  • 2024-03-06
The Yard is in the press ! French media, 3DVF, has shared insights from PIDS Enghien on the state of the VFX industry in France and emerging trends. 

The PIDS Enghien event gave professionals the opportunity to assess the state of the Visual Effects (VFX) industry in France and emerging trends. Two conferences shed light on key figures, including feminization and salary insights, as well as the impact of the strikes in the USA and the Olympics. French media, 3DVF, shared the highlights in a recent article. Below, you’ll find an excerpt.

Source : 3DVF During PIDS Enghien event, key figures on the influence of French VFX were shared, demonstrating a surge of demand from international productions.

The international influence of French VFX

The traditional CNC-Audiens survey (available online – in French only) provided a retrospective examination of the industry. It’s noteworthy that, due to data processing timelines, the figures presented were for 2022. The French National Centre of Cinema (CNC) and Audiens offered an encouraging overview of the state of French visual effects, noting a gradual ascent over the years.

The study underscores the heavy reliance of French-initiated feature films on visual effects, with over 85% of such productions incorporating them in 2022. While visual effects have become standard practice, the accompanying budgets remain relatively modest overall. Nonetheless, the survey highlights a positive trend of ambitious productions increasingly being relocated to France.

Another key aspect of the survey was to gauge the impact of the international tax credit (C2I) designed to incentivize visually rich works and its effect on sector allure. The CNC is optimistic about the surge in eligible projects, yet uncertainties linger regarding the program’s long-term sustainability.

The concentration continues

The report identifies 68 active companies in the visual effects sector in France in 2022, 2 fewer than in 2021. This marks the lowest level in a decade. However, the number of employees has returned to the 2017 level, and there has been a significant increase in the wage bill, reaching €90.4 million in 2022 – a volume that has doubled in the past 10 years. The extension of careers explains a good part of this evolution.

The overall conclusion of the study is clear: industry concentration is strengthening around a handful of companies. The 5 largest companies identified account for 58% of the wage bill, a figure that has been steadily increasing in recent years. This concentration is also geographical, although it is decreasing: three-quarters of companies active in VFX are located in the Île-de-France region, compared to 79.5% in 2019.

However, it’s important to note a limitation of this analysis: it is based on the headquarters of studios, which overlooks local branches in regions, such as studios like The Yard VFX, which opened a new studio in Montpellier last year.

A slow feminization despite the perpetuation of careers

In terms of contract types, the study reveals a notable uptick in permanent positions, with « a growing share of permanent contracts over the decade, now comprising over a quarter of all employees, with more than 20% on indefinite contracts in 2022. »

The trend towards greater gender diversity in the sector persists. The survey identifies slightly over 1,300 women in 2022, constituting roughly 34% of the workforce. While this represents a marked improvement compared to a decade ago, the pace of change remains gradual. It’s important to highlight that this gender diversification isn’t uniform: the proportion of women in permanent roles seems to be declining, highlighting a persistently precarious situation for female workers. Moreover, the gender distribution varies across different job roles, with women being more prominent in production positions. The survey also reveals that, on average, women earn salaries around 11% lower than their male counterparts in technical roles. However, the CNC and Audiens caution against drawing hasty conclusions, pointing out that women, on average, are younger, which may account for at least part of the observed wage gap.

Laurens Ehrmann, CEO of The Yard, participated in a roundtable discussion on France’s prospects in the global VFX market.

What about 2024 ? 

The roundtable that followed the presentation of these figures delved deeper into the discussion, focusing on the prospects for studios based in France within the global VFX market. Represented at the table were industry leaders such as MPC, The Yard, Rodeo FX, Light, and the CNC, each offering valuable insights. Naturally, the conversation touched upon the impact of the strikes by actors and screenwriters. While some studios felt the effects, others remained unaffected or experienced project delays. Notably, The Yard, with its significant international presence, managed to retain its team of artists despite potential disruptions.

Laurens Ehrmann is speaking at a round table discussion on France's prospects on the global VFX market at PIDS 2024

Looking ahead, there’s a sense of optimism. Laurens Ehrmann, founder and CEO of The Yard, shared that negotiations for projects extending into 2025 are already underway. Despite the challenges, there’s anticipation for a resurgence in the summer of 2024, although concerns linger regarding scheduling conflicts as filming resumes.

Rodeo FX sees a promising trajectory for the future, likening France’s progress to that of Montreal with the implementation of tax credits.

However, it’s essential to acknowledge the evolving landscape post-lockdown. While there was previously ample opportunity for new entities to emerge in the international market due to the abundance of platform projects, the current scenario reflects a decline in platform investments, posing challenges for new entrants. Laurens Ehrmann predicts a continued influx of foreign studios into France, possibly prompting the return of French talent from abroad.

The impact of the Olympics

The impact of the Olympics sparked debate. Daphné Lora from the CNC naturally addressed the consequences for filming in the Paris region, as permits will become scarce due to the influx of tourists and traffic restrictions, making it impossible to continue filming in a conventional manner. She emphasized the CNC’s efforts to attract filming to other cities, even to recreate a Parisian atmosphere: with the use of Haussmann-style buildings in other metropolitan areas, virtual sets, and VFX, the CNC is exploring alternative options.

MPC’s Béatrice Bauwens, on the other hand, noted that the Olympics already have an effect: there will be fewer releases during their duration, and thus, some films are currently not being made in anticipation.

Laurens Ehrmann, for his part, highlighted that The Yard has an advantage to leverage: during the lockdown, their teams were able to work on the digitization of around ten major Parisian landmarks, which will be usable for projects unable to film around the city’s iconic real locations. For instance, the Arc de Triomphe was used in ‘John Wick : Chapter 4′, which was released last year.

Animation World Network AWN publishes an article on the collaboration for the VFX of John Wick 4 with before and after still frames, including Arc de Triomphe sequence.
John Wick ; Chapter 4 | Arc de Triomphe scene stillframe - After Courtesy of AWN

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