The PIDS event was inaugurated with the PIDSBiz conference track, featuring a half-day of discussions on the VFX industry. Representatives from various organizations gathered to exchange insights on the state of the French VFX industry and its prospects in the global market.
The first half-day of PIDS Enghien, celebrating its 10th edition this year, provided an updated overview of the digital visual effects sector through several conferences grouped under the PIDSBiz banner.
Industry figures were unveiled during a roundtable discussion featuring representative from The French National Centre of Cinema (CNC), Audiens, a nonprofit joint social protection group, professional syndicate Ficam, and France VFX, the Visual Effects Vendors Association.
A second roundtablewith Daphné Lora, Head of Attractiveness Department at Film France-CNC and representatives from major French VFX studios, including Laurens Ehrmann, CEO of The Yard, focused on France’s prospects in the global VFX market,
Here are the key takeaways from these two conferences :
A more widespread use of VFX in French productions, despite an ongoing concentration
According to the CNC study, in 2022, 85.8% of France-originated feature films incurred expenses in digital visual effects, which grew by 39.69% between 2021 and 2022. Despite this positive trend, VFX expenses only totaled €18.3 million, representing a decreasing share of the global film spending (2.4%).
In 2022, only three French films allocated over €1 million to VFX, accounting for nearly one-third (29.6%) of total VFX expenditures. The Yard notably worked on the VFX of one of them, « Notre Dame on Fire, » directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, for which Laurens Ehrmann, CEO of The Yard, was awarded a César for Best VFX.
The influence of French talent on the international stage
According to France VFX, companies working internationally have seen a significant increase in their activity. Indeed, the tax rebate for international productions has had a real acceleration effect on the domestic industry. In 2022, nearly 35% of projects, a figure multiplied by 4 compared to 2019, benefited from this incentive.
According to Daphné Lora from CNC, since 2020, over 116 million euros in expenditure commitment have been registered thanks to this scheme. 40% of international productions that shoot in France also partner with French studios for the VFX.
She also highlights that the share of VFX-only projects is constantly increasing, This trend shows that international productions rely on French studios for VFX-heavy projects, even if the live shooting takes place in another country.
She notably quoted « The Rings of Power – Season 2 » and « Halo – Season 2, » currently in production at The Yard. By allocating more than 2 million euros for VFX works in France, these productions benefit from a 10% bonus, representing a 40% tax rebate on all eligible expenditures for the project.
Maintaining France’s attractiveness
The International Tax Credit has been extended until the end of 2026 as part of the 2024 Finance Bill, which is excellent news providing visibility to the sector. Still, the scheme is not sufficient to maintain the attractiveness of France’s VFX industry. Laurens Ehrmann, CEO of The Yard, pointed out the necessity to present a comprehensive strategy.
On one hand, studios must be capable of responding to the requirements of international productions in terms of quality, planning, budget, internal processes, infrastructure, and behavior. He stressed the importance of highly experienced staff accustomed to working with international clients.
On the other hand, French studios have to offer the right conditions to attract these highly qualified profiles back to France. Scope of work and project quality are key but the industry should pay attention to other factors, such as localization. In this regard, The Yard appointed last year Corentin Bachelet as Head of Environment and Tom Fonvillars as Head of CG. After a long-term experience in Canada, they both chose The Yard to come back to France, but in different locations – Corentin is based in Paris, while Tom chose Montpellier. In another roundtable dicussion at PIDS, Denis Scolan, Head of Compositing / 2D at The Yard, also expressed the weight of the location in his decision to come back to France.
Audiens pointed out that Paris region indeed hosts the great majority of VFX studio headquarters despite a slow start to decentralization.
Foreseeable impacts on the French industry
As French studios increasingly collaborate with international clients, they are also affected by the recent Hollywood strikes. Reflecting on his previous participation in World VFX Day, Laurens Ehrmann reinterated that the availability of actors for live shooting will continue to influence production schedules, consequently impacting post-production. The return to normal will probably be delayed towards the second semester of 2024.
Meanwhile, the industry is preparing to navigate the restrictions on live shooting in Paris and other places in France during the Olympics, affecting both international and national productions. With most of the Paris monuments scanned, Laurens Ehrmann emphasized The Yard’s readiness to meet assets and environment requirements, as it was the case on ‘John Wick : Chapter 4‘.