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The CNC intends to make France a world leader in film shoots and digital production


- CANNES 2021: The centre has unveiled the projects involved in its “modernising shake-up”, an initiative which aims to create state-of-the-art production infrastructure and to update existing resources

The CNC intends to make France a world leader in film shoots and digital production
A moment during the debate

What could be better for the infrastructure of the French film industry, as it grapples with the burning need for an upgrading of its facilities within the current context of the post-pandemic recovery, than a veritable “modernising shake-up”? This is the purpose of the eponymous financial aid initiative (read our news) introduced by the CNC in 2021, whose laureate projects were unveiled (news). This support system equipped with 10 million euros forms part of the recovery plan dedicated to the film, audiovisual and gaming industries. Twenty winning works were selected from the 120 projects submitted to the CNC. Eight of them revolve around the creation or modernisation of film studios, while the remaining twelve correspond to the “digital production” of projects (animated studios, virtual studios, visual effects studios, etc.). The aim of the endeavour is clearly defined by the CNC’s Director of Digital Vincent Florant: it’s about “making France a world leader in film shoots and digital production”. Indeed, this was the subject which fuelled the round table discussion organised by the CNC at the 74th Cannes Film Festival on Tuesday 13 July, entitled “Innovating for an industry which is economically supreme and creatively free". Helming the event, the former director of Mikros Images and the president of the “modernising shake-up” committee Gilles Gaillard invited the panellists, who were recipients of this financial aid, to present their respective projects.

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Olivier Marchetti created Provence Studios after noting just how outdated French film sets were.  Provence Studios is a “3.0” film studio project resting on three pillars: control over the ecological impact of the structure, cutting edge technology and international appeal. To date, Provence Studios comprises 14 operational film sets across a surface area of 26,000 square metres. Praised by leading international productions, the studio notably capitalised on its infrastructure and high calibre workforce to “reconstruct Chambord in five weeks" in order to satisfy the filming needs of a series produced by Lionsgate. It was an opportunity for Olivier Marchetti to express his full “admiration for intermittent workers and builders, whom we don’t see enough of, and who have the Midas touch”. The financial support afforded by this “modernising shake-up” will allow Provence Studios, who are already known by the Lionsgate team as “Pinewood, but with sun”, to respond to a fast-growing demand, particularly on the part of streaming platforms, whose production of series allows for economies of scale via an “industrialisation” of the production process.

Another lucky participant in this “modernising shake-up", the president of Volt Tournage Rémi Préchac, is heading up a “highly ambitious” project in the lower regions of Marne la Vallée”. He believes that “producers must learn to stop seeing the epicentre of Paris as the only viable option for hosting stars and film sets”. It’s a colossal investment: 300 million euros in order to create 20 film sets across a surface area of 35,000 square metres; a modern studio for which a first, usable draft should be ready in 2024, thanks to funding from the modernisation initiative. This project will play a part in the much-needed upgrading of film infrastructure across the country: “we’ve revolutionised cameras and screens, but films sets haven’t changed for decades”, Préchac observes.

There’s another, resolutely forward-looking form of infrastructure which is receiving support from the CNC’s “modernising shake-up”: virtual studios, which are revolutionising the special effects creation process. Thanks to the roll-out of machines boasting significant computing power, “the production chain has been turned around as special effects can now be designed in pre-production”, explains Margaux Durand Rival of Les Androïds Associés, an animation company specialising in previewed effects. LED walls for the rendering of special effects in real time - technologies which virtual studios depend on - require a highly skilled workforce, which, in turn, implies a need for training. Margaux Durand Rival justifies these investments by way of the growing demand from streaming platforms, which leads to series and the renewal of contracts over time.

Animation studios are the third type of infrastructure helped by the CNC’s “modernising shake-up”. Likewise a recipient of the Film Centre’s funds, TeamTO Marketing Director Patricia de Wilde first of all justifies these investments by stressing the vitality of the animation sector in France, where it accounts for 45% of audiovisual sector exports and where it generated a 44% rise in employment between 2015 and 2020. Streaming platforms’ renewed interest in animation is clear. A key driver of parents of young viewers subscribing to their services, “animation is currently entering a golden age", de Wilde observes. Netflix’s objective is to produce no less than six animated films a year. With offices in Paris and Valence, comprising 180 and 260 staff members respectively, TeamTO sees the help that comes with this “modernising shake-up" as “the oxygen which will allow it to contend with market pressures”, by notably doubling its personnel numbers and increasing its investment in research and development.

With these future investments in mind, debate moderator Gilles Gaillard ultimately invited the panellists to explain the space dedicated to CSR (corporate social responsibility) within their ambitious projects.

Olivier Marchetti indicated that ecological issues are particularly important to Provence Studios, given that “[its] American clients are far more sensitive to their suppliers’ carbon footprint than their French counterparts are”, on account of their ability to raise funds at preferential rates in line with their service providers’ level of commitment to protecting the environment. He also hopes to equip his studios with multiples sensors in order to reduce water and electricity consumption.

For Rémi Préchac, “studios are an environmentally responsible choice, in and of themselves”, given that they help to avoid travel and simplify logistics.

Patricia de Wilde is also working on social responsibility within TeamTO, having notably launched ECAS, in 2018, alongside TeamTO President Guillaume Hellouin, which is the first school for 3D animators which is free to attend, and which requires no prior qualifications. International names could soon be added to the list of 90 French 3D animators who have already passed through the school to date, owing to a potential replication of the model in collaboration with foreign partners.

Margaux Durand Rival is pleased with this momentum and notes “a real desire to take more virtuous paths”, which ultimately makes these projects more desirable in the eyes of investors who are subject to ISG standards (which encourage the latter to consider non-financial criteria, such as social or environmental impact), as noted by the president of production and investment company Anton Sébastien Raybaud.

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(Translated from French)

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