Filming studios, the new French El Dorado?

January 2, 2023 by No Comments

Of Money Heist to The Crown Passing by Lupine and Lost bullet : the successful films and series that invade the screens of our platforms are no longer the prerogative of Americans alone. Netflix, the first, bet on “local” productions to diversify its offer. And the recent European directive which obliges these video on demand services to invest 25% of their turnover in European productions should accentuate this trend. A real godsend for the film and audiovisual production sector.

In France, the year 2021 was that of all records. Demand has literally exploded (15,500 days of filming, 2.8 billion euros of expenditure incurred in the territory, including 400 million for international productions), to the point of putting pressure on our production capacities. The exit from the health crisis is one explanation but not the only one, according to the National Center for Cinema and the Moving Image (CNC), which forecasts a doubling of the volume of production by 2030, driven mainly by development. platforms.

The phenomenon has not escaped the government, which has made the production of cultural and creative content» one of the ten areas of excellence in which the public authorities wish to invest as part of its France 2030 plan, presented last year. A way to promote, in a largely globalized sector, the “French touch” dear to President Emmanuel Macron.

Because if the issue is essentially economic – the sector represents 640,000 jobs and 91 billion euros in turnover – it also touches on the ultra-sensitive question of cultural sovereignty in the face of services managed mainly by American giants.

The question is who, today, is building the French, European and global imagination of tomorrow. It’s a competition. No more no less “, explained the President of the Republic. Above all, this plan, baptized “La Grande Fabrique de l’image”, aims “to provide sufficient capacity to avoid what is happening in the UK, where the Pinewood studios in Shepperton are booked by Disney and Netflix productions for the next ten years”, we observe at the CNC.

Undersized studios

However, in this area, France is clearly undersized. Our weakness is the number of film sets and above all their size: the largest available to French studios (2,000 m2 at the Cité du Cinéma, editor’s note) are smaller than most of those of our European neighbours,” observes Jean-Yves Mirski, general delegate of the Federation of cinema, audiovisual and multimedia industries (Ficam).

This French delay, analyzed from 2019 in a report by Serge Siritzky, is historically explained by the influence of the New Wave, which from the 1960s will lead directors to abandon the studios to favor natural settings. Competition in the 1990s from Eastern European studios and their cheap labor did the rest.

Today, tax credits on film production expenses make our territory more competitive, in particular to attract foreign creations, but we are facing a bottleneck,” adds Jean-Yves Mirski. However, everything contributes according to him, in the future, to a return to the studios: the increasingly great difficulties of filming in cities, in particular in Paris, because of the carbon footprint, and the progress of technology which allow you to virtually recreate outdoor settings.

The objective is therefore to support the construction of around ten major film studios, between ten and twenty digital production studios (animation, special effects and video games) and to double the number of jobs in a sector already faced with staff shortages.

Three strategic territories (Ile-de-France, the Mediterranean arc and the North) have been selected, and an envelope of 350 million euros will be distributed between the various projects. Timely help for major studio operators. Proof of their interest: 175 files were submitted as part of the call for tenders launched by the CNC. Projects that are in the right low water level in terms of economic dimensions,” welcomes the ministry.

French cinema worried

Among them, that of TSF, directed by Thierry de Segonzac, to build in Seine-et-Marne on 50 hectares the largest site for studios and outdoor sets (backlot, in English) with a reconstruction of districts of Paris, 12 film studios from 400 to 4,000 m2, a pool for filming aquatic sequences and 10,000 m2 of set construction workshops. An agreement with the aerodrome of Coulommiers would allow the filming of aerial sequences.

In Martigues (Bouches-du-Rhône), Olivier Marchetti, who successfully converted the 26,000 m2 of the family transport business into film studios in 2015, has two other projects: the creation of 12 studios on 40,000 m2 in Port-de-Bouc and that of another production site in Marseille, in the premises of the former Saint-Louis sugar refinery. For him, this is a real “arms war” in a context of strong international competition.

There remains the question of the financial feasibility of these projects, which often amount to several tens of millions of euros and which will require the contribution of private investors. However, the profitability of the studios is not very attractive for the moment. Hence the need to increase their occupancy rate and diversify their services. “Beyond the plateausobserves Jean-Yves Mirski, it’s a whole ecosystem that we have to offer – construction of sets, post-production, special effects – if we want to attract foreign productions. »

However, these major maneuvers worry the French cinema community. He fears that the red carpet will be rolled out on platforms and audiovisual production, in particular American, to the detriment of French cinema. “We all agree to build studios intended to absorb the surplus of the production, on the condition of not becoming the performers of the others”, insisted the director Radu Mihaileanu during the last meetings of the ARP (Civil Society of Authors, Directors and Producers). The goal is precisely that our production tool remains French and guarantees access to all”, tried to reassure the president of the CNC, Dominique Boutonnat.


A plan to train in cinema professions

To support the development of the production activity, the government wants to double the number of graduates in the sector, from 5,700 to 10,300 per year, to eventually reach 92,000 jobs in this sector.

Very varied trades, artistic or technical: production, scriptwriting, set and costume design, 2D and 3D animation, video game design, but also production administrators.

Thirty training offers should therefore be offered as close as possible to the filming infrastructures envisaged, with the aim of including young people who are far removed from these professions via associative schools (CinéFabrique de Lyon or Kourtrajmé).


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