Feature Film Coproduction
France provides foreign producers with many co-production opportunities and soft money sources. In 2016, 124 French features were co-produced with foreign companies originated from 40 countries.
Why choose a co-production
- European co-productions can benefit from the country’s film financing system, notably the French selective schemes (see below), the automatic support for the French producer and distributor (which therefore pushes distributors to prefer French co-productions to 100% non-French films), and coin from French TV channels. Canal + and Free-to-air networks — TF1, France Televisions, ARTE and M6 — must invest a percentage of their annual revenues on French and European films.
- Most French regional funds are earmarked for 100% French projects or official coproductions (although there have been some recent examples of TRIPped projects that got support too).
- Sofica funds (private equity) can only invest into 100% French projects or official co-productions.
How to co-produce features
- If your production is based in EU or some EEA state: France is signatory of the European Convention on Cinematographic Co-production that enables co-production of feature films amongst members of the EU and some EEA states.
- If your project comes from one of the 56 countries which have co-production agreements or treaties with France, use the framework of each treaty (see below).
- If your project doesn’t not belong to any of these cases (Non-EU state without co-production agreement), the co-production will be an « unoffical » co-production, which means that it will not be considered as French, and therefore, will not get any of the supports mentioned hereafter.
Qualifying to the French system
The French co-producer will submit the project to the CNC. The CNC is responsible for assessing applications for qualification of a feature film (i.e. the French citizenship for the project).
For feature films:
- Two scales are used to determine whether it is European enough and whether it is French enough. Films must score enough points on both scales.
- When the co-production is made within the framework of a bilateral treaty, the citizens of the other country qualify as European.
Bilateral co-production agreements
Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guinea, Hungary, Iceland, India, Israel, Italy, Ivory Coast, Lebanon, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Palestinian territories, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Senegal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Venezuela.
The texts in French are available through Film France or on the Centre National du Cinéma et de l’Image Animée (CNC)’s website : www.cnc.fr
The key issue in the case of a project coproduced within the framework of an international agreement is that the citizens and technical facilities of the foreign partner allot points in the European scales.
What you get if your film is qualified as an official co-production: funding available to feature film co-productions
1. The weight of TV funding
As it appears, a huge proportion of the money invested in movie production in France comes from TV channels. This is due to several regulations described below.
The free-to-air networks
First, the 3 free-to-air networks (TF1, France 2 & France 3, M6 & W9) have to invest a share of their revenue in pre-buys and co-productions of French-qualified movies, with at a part of it devoted to Frenchspeaking ones.
The French-German channel Arte does not have to obey by the same rules, but it nevertheless devotes more or less the same percentage of its turnover to movies. The law states that the networks have to choose the movies they will invest in before first day of principal photography.
Other TV channels that invest in film productions without having to comply to the obligations are: TMC, C8, France 4, France O, Gulli, HD1, NRJ12 & NT1. In 2016, the historical network invested in 7 French-qualified foreign movies co-produced by minority French producers.
The Pay TV channels
French law also fixes investment obligations for the pay-TV movie channels. They have to invest a share of their revenue in pre-buys of French-speaking movies and another share in European movies. In 2016, the French pay-TVs, Canal+, Ciné+ and OCS pre-bought 9 French-qualified foreign movies co-produced by (minority) French producers for a total of €6,1 M.
What they look for
Although they have to spend a lot of money, the channels are all free to choose what films they will buy. Consequently, domestic commercial French-language projects. intended to draw good ratings in primetime slots are very sought-after as early as the script stage, with prices going over €1 M per run on historical networks, and over €4M on the biggest pay-TV.
Both Free-to-air networks and pay-TV channels also invest in a few French-qualified foreign-speaking movies, generally by top European filmmakers. Their interest there is to use the money devoted to French productions for either Hollywood-like movies that can be aired in prime-time slots after wide releases (for example Taken, Non-Stop, Colombiana or Lucy) or for highlevel “auteur” films able to get the support of the press and the festivals, such as new films from Cristian Mungiu, Paolo Sorrentino, Ken Loach, Nanni Moretti, Michael Haneke or Alex de la Iglesia.
2. The Automatic subsidies
The automatic subsidies, referred to in French as “Compte de Soutien” or “Soutien Automatique” are a key component of the French producing landscape: each qualified movie producer or distributor receives automatic subsidies in proportion to the film’s success at the French box office, and also in video stores (a percentage of DVD Bluray sales revenue) and in TV sales (a percentage of broadcasting rights sales).
The amount awarded for each ticket sold, or each Euro of DVD sales, varies according to its BSF figure, the “Frenchness factor“ of the movie (defined by its numbers of points in the French scale). This means that the more French elements it has, the higher its BSF figure will be, and the higher the automatic support will be given to its French co-producer. At the same time, the theatrical distributor of a French-qualified movie will also receive automatic support, again in proportion to the number of tickets sold. The money goes directly into the CNC account of the French producer (as well as the distributor), and they have to reinvest it in French-qualified movies; therefore, this money will be available for the producer’s next French-qualified movie. Thus, the value of the French rights of any foreign movie increases dramatically if it can be qualified as French, because each step of its exploitation will generate automatic support, available for subsequent films.
Therefore, the question arises: ’’How can a film project be more attractive to a French producer?” The answer is: “Obtain as many French elements as you can to get the film to qualify as French”, thus increasing the automatic subsidies it will generate for its co-producer and distributor in France: talents, crew members, locations, post facilities, VFX companies, etc.
How can you find “French elements”? Ask for help from Film France and its network of local film commissions all over France!
Let’s consider a foreign-speaking Frenchqualified movie released in France that sells 100,000 tickets, so its box-office revenue around €611,000. Since the theaters usually keep 50 % of box office revenue in France, the distributor’s gross will be €305,500. It is a minority-French co-production, shot in a foreign language and let’s say that it scored 50 out 100 on the French scale this triggers automatic support (compte automatique de soutien).
Solely thanks to theater admissions, the film should generate around €40,000 for the French producer’s account at the CNC to invest on a future project. Then, for each DVD sold, legal downloads and official TV-run, the movie will also generate some extra revenue in that same producer’s account. The amount of money generated depends on the number of tickets/DVDs/downloads sold, and for TV, on how much the film broadcasting rights were sold.
The admissions will also generate some money on the distributor’s account depending also on the number of tickets sold. It can easily represent about half of the distributor’s box-office share! As the distributor has to recoup its P&A before being able to give some money to the rights owner, in some cases, producers don’t get any money back from the release, and the automatic support will stay as the only or the biggest return they get. The automatic support therefore has a huge impact in the risk-assessing equation of the producer. This way, foreign movies that can qualify as French become much more interesting to French producers and distributors. Many French distributors therefore act as coproducers of the foreign movies they are releasing to get them to qualify as French.
Soficas are equity funds financed with tax-related money. They are allowed to invest in both films and TV productions, on a selective basis. Most only focus on feature films. Their money comes from banks that are allowed to collect, from private investors who want to pay less income tax. Sometimes, there is a guarantor (often media companies) who will repay the investors if needed. Soficas want their money back, so they tend to do mostly gap funding, providing producers with the last (and most expensive) money. Soficas generally stand behind the distributor(s) in the recoupment order. Only part of the Soficas money is invested in independent productions.
Each Sofica can invest 20% of its money in foreign-speaking (qualified) co-productions, as long as the film’s language matches the foreign co-producer’s country’s language. In 2016, the Soficas invested €31,7 M in 97 movies. 7 of them were majority foreign co-productions, mostly from British or Belgian producers.
4. Cash Flow Production
In order to encourage French credit houses to cash flow production contracts, France has created the IFCIC (www.ifcic.eu). This State-owned bank can counter-guarantee some loans on collateral and bridge loans to movie producers. It first targets loans against production contracts, but in some cases can also counter-guarantee contracts involving Foreign partners.
5. Selective subsidies
National subsidy: advance upon receipts
The “Avance sur Recettes” is a refundable grant awarded to around 55 projects every year chosen at the script stage for their cultural value by a committee of members of the creative community (producers, directors, distributors, writers, publishers, critics). But only Frenchspeaking (or France regional languages) projects are eligible, which narrows the field, outside France, to French speaking territories, such as Belgium, Switzerland, Québec…
Last year, the total budget for this selective mechanism was €23,45 M, and only 1 out of the 52 supported projects was a minority French co-production.
New technologies in production
New technologies in production is a selective fund to help mitigate risk-taking on the part of producers of movie or TV projects who work in 3D, or who use innovative digital technologies (digital visual effects, synthetic, imaging, development of specific processes). New technologies in production funding is accessible subject to certain conditions for all works, irrespective of genre (fiction, animation, documentary), format (development, production, TV projects, feature films) and ’dimension’ (whether or not 3D). Aid is granted in the form of a subsidy allocated to the French production company. 17 full-length feature film proposals were allocated New technologies in production funding in 2016, for an average amount of €185,000 for 3D films and €137,000 for non-3D films. In 2016, the New technologies in production fund budget stands at €6M.
Special support for co-productions with Germany, Canada, Greece, Portugal
Germany’s Federal Film Fund, Filmförderungsanstalt (FFA) and its French counterpart the CNC have created a selective French-German fund, which gives refundable grants to co-productions between producers of the two countries. Each country contributes equally to the E3M fund. Selected projects are given grants on both sides, in proportion to each country’s input. 12 projects received aid in 2016.
Canada’s federal cultural agency Téléfilm Canada and its French counterpart the CNC created a selective fund in 1983, which gives refundable grants to 4-5 co-productions between producers of the two countries every year. Each country contributes to the fund (€300k from France in 2016 for 5 projects). Selected projects are given grant s from both sides, in proportion to each country’s input.
The Greek Film Centre as well as Portugal’s ICA (Instituto do Cinema e do Audiovisual) have also recently entered into partnership with their French counterpart to provide each a common co-production fund with the CNC. Both give non-refundable grants of maximum €500k. For the French-Portuguese fund the total envelope amounts to 1million euros per year.
NB: for co-production a small development fund exists for French-Italian film projects.
The local subsidies
Some local governments (Regions, Départements and Cities) have created funds to support movie production. Each one is defining its own support policy. The cultural value of the project is generally the biggest concern of the funds. Some of them develop partnerships with the bordering regions of nearby countries (Occitanie with Spain, Grand-Est with Germany).
Most of their investment goes to French speaking movies but some of them are open to non-French projects (Île-de-France, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, Guadeloupe).
For more information on these local support, please refer to:
- the guide published by Ciclic available on the website: www.ciclic.fr/panorama (in French only)
- OLFFI website: www.olffi.com
Aide aux cinéma du monde
Aide aux Cinemas du Monde (ACM) is a coproduction fund run by the CNC and Institut Français, open to projects from all over the world, without any exception that exist since 2012. It is aimed at supporting feature-length fiction, animation or documentary film projects intended for first showing in cinemas. It can be granted either at the pre-filming stage (funding for production) or for post-production (funding for finishing – only for projects having applied at the pre-filming stage and not supported then). The purpose is to encourage collaborations between foreign filmmakers worldwide and French professionals, in order to co-produce films that promote cultural diversity, and through this, France’s cultural reach and the revival of the country’s artistic creation. So far 256 projects of directors from 87 different nationalities have been supported (225 for production support; 31 for post-production support).
Application requirements and obligations
Application has to be completed by the France-based production and is given to a production company registered in France for a joint production with a production company registered abroad.
- Director is foreign (can be French if film is shot in a foreign language),
- Main language of the film is one of the languages of the territory where most of the film is shot or in the language of the director (but not French if the director is French),
- Part of the production and post-production costs are to be spent in France, at least 50 % of the amount of the support granted,
- Application needs to be submitted before filming starts
- For projects from certain countries (list available from the CNC / Institut francais), a minimum of 25% of the support granted has to be spent for the shoot in the other country/ies. There is no need to have any financing in place, ACM can be the first brick to a project. Films with a final cost of over €2,500,000 will need to obtain the French qualification (“agrément du CNC”), implying that they have to be produced in compliance with a coproduction agreement between France and another country (or within the framework of the European convention for coproduction in case of a European multilateral coproduction between at least 3 European countries).
Colleges and procedures
Support is granted as a joined decision by the two entities (Institut Français and CNC) after consultation of the ACM committee. The committee is made up of two subcommittees: one dedicated to first and second films and the other to projects driven by more confirmed film directors.
Applicants have to register online via the CNC website. Applications must include, amongst other, the following documents: a copy of the script and director’s and producer’s notes in French, an estimate, the coproduction contract, financing plan, a proof of rights ownership.
The committee will assess the application and express an opinion according to the artistic quality of the project and its feasibility:
- If positive: assessment of the amount by the CNC and the Institut Français and signature of a contract between the production company and the CNC.
- If negative: possibility to apply a second time (if relevant modifications in the script) or ask for support again after production.
4 sessions a year: March, June, September and December
The amount allocated to each film will depend on the nature of each project, on average €130,000 given for fiction feature, €65,000 for documentary feature, and €40,000 for post-production support. Around 40 projects receive support every year.
In partnership with the European Commission, a new program was launched in 2016 to encourage the circulation of ACM films outside of France. If your film received ACM production or finishing support, its distributors or world sales agent could apply to this new program.
TV Drama & Series Financing
Official television co-productions are less frequent but also possible. TV series such as “Versailles” and “The Collection” for ex. are French majority co-productions with Canada and the UK respectively.
Qualifying to the French system
For TV dramas and series:
- The lead producer must be European.
- The committee uses one scale to determine whether it is European enough.
- A minimum of 30 % of the budget has to be spent on French soil (or more than the vast majority if the project is eager to get the French audiovisual rebate of 25%).
- A minimum of 30% of investment from France is needed, of which 25% from a TV channel are requested.
Special case the French-Canadian Co-production Treaty
This treaty allows a couple of changes in the rules for TV co-productions between Canada and France. The main changes are:
- the minority co-producer has to invest at least 20 % of the total budget, instead of 30 %; so, for majority Canadian productions, the French contribution to the financing must be at least 20 % of the total budget
- same change for local spending: a minimum of 20 % of the budget has to be spent on French soil (instead of 30 %)
- in order to qualify as “European” on the CNC point system, Canadian elements score as European.
French-Canadian TV co-productions include the series Transporter, an English language show, Produced by QVF Inc (Canada) and Atlantique Production (Fr), for M6 (second biggest private free-to-air channel), as well as Versailles 1 & 2, in English too, produced by Capa Drama (Fr) and Incendo (Canada), for Canal+ (biggest pay TV).
The benefits of co-producing or financing your TV project in France
The spirit of the State support system for TV production
This chapter focuses on the TV projects that can benefit from CNC subsidies, specifically dramas and series, animation projects and documentaries.
In an attempt to promote and support French and European culture, the authorities designed two sets of obligations for the broadcasters:
- Production quotas: broadcasters have to invest a strong portion of their yearly turnover (at least 12.5% for free-to-air channels) into European production, and most of that money (90%) has to go to French speaking projects produced by “independent” producers.
- Broadcasting quotas: broadcasters have to show at least 60% of European programs, including 40% French language programs (European directive “Audiovisual media services Without Frontiers”).
The CNC offers two kinds of subsidies for TV production: automatic support for production, and selective support (production, development, innovation, international promotion…). The automatic support amount per project is based on various criteria like: duration, format, French expenditure… As for feature films, it is generated after the broadcasting of the project, and will be available to the producer for his next projects. Those supports are open to productions for new forms of digital storytelling, transmedia or web native projects, including films designed for virtual reality.
“New technologies in production” is a selective fund to help mitigate risk-taking on the part of producers of movie or TV projects who work in 3D, or who use innovative digital technologies (digital visual effects, synthetic, imaging, development of specific processes).
Yearly investment and volume
In 2016, the French industry has produced a total of 3538 hours of dramas & series, animation and documentaries programming, for a global investment of €1,44 billion.
Three figures deserve some attention:
- For dramas and series (live action), about 70% of the financing come from the broadcasters themselves, and only 3% from foreign partners. The broadcasters have a strong input in the content of these productions and don’t rely on international co-productions.
- Foreign partners contribute up to 25% of the global financing of animation, which shows that this format is often based on international co-productions.
Average costs and broadcasters’ contributions (eligible productions)
The average cost per hour varies depending on the type of broadcaster (public, private, free, pay). The better-financed format is “dramas & series”, with an average cost of €868,600 per hour. The ones with the higher budgets are carried out by the main freeto-air private channel TF1 (€1,5 M per hour), the giant pay-TV channel Canal+ (€1,5 M), the main free-to-air public channel France 2 (€1,2 M) and finally the French-German cultural channel Arte (€1,1 M).
Animation programs have an average cost per hour of €660,100. In 2016, the main broadcasters involved in animation are : the whole France Télévisions Group with a yearly budget for animation of €27,2M, TF1 (€6,8M), Canal Plus (€6M) and Gulli (€8,1M).
Documentaries are produced for an average cost per hour of €179,000, but some channels back projects that have a much higher budget: Arte (€331,000 per hour), France 2 (€298,800), France 3 (€260,300), France5 (€194,600) and Canal+ (€282,100). On a yearly basis, the biggest contributors to documentary production are Arte (€43,8 M), France 3 (€21,8 M), France 5 (€22,2 M), France 2 (€38,7 M).
Most of the co-productions are majority French
Animation and documentaries
The desire for foreign cooperation is much greater for animation and documentaries, both because these formats are much more suitable to co-productions and because language is less of an issue.
More than 30 foreign animation series have been partly financed in France in the past 5 years, coming from countries like Belgium, Canada, Italy, the United Kingdom and South Korea. The number is even more impressive for TV documentaries: more than 100 foreign projects co-produced by France since 2007, coming from very diverse countries. The main partners were Belgium, Canada, Germany, Spain and Switzerland.
Dramas & series
Whereas many foreign feature films are officially co-produced by France, when it comes to dramas & series, there are few examples of foreign programs coproduced by French producers.
Three basic reasons for this:
- The dramas & series market is driven by broadcasters, and they tend to offer two kinds of stories to the French viewers: national stories with a French cast or American series. In both cases, there is no strong appeal for co-production with foreign partners.
- Broadcasters have obligations to finance French language content, and tend to focus on what’s left of their purchasing budget on international mainstream programs (mostly US).
- France has signed only one bilalteral treaty for TV dramas, series and animation (with Canada).
French producers go for mainstream international series
In the last years, more and more French producers have participated into a new trend: the production of international mainstream series, predominantly in a foreign language (in English in most cases), cofinanced with several foreign partners.
Doing so, they have initiated a stronger presence of the French industry on the international market place, and triggered a slight shift in the CNC support, which will now lend more support to such international programs.
The most recent examples are series like, The Borgias (Atlantique Prod. / Canal+), Cop in Paris (Atlantique Prod. / TF1), Versailles (Capa Drama / Canal+), The Last Panthers (Haut et Court TV/Warp Film / Canal+), Midnight Sun/ Midnattssol (Atlantique Productions/Canal +), The Collection (Federation Ent. / MFP-France Télévisions).
More about TV Copro funding in France
The tax rebate for French audiovisual series or drama
It is important to note that this tax rebate is different from the tax rebate for international production (TRIP) mentioned earlier in this booklet. Any production qualifying to the French system is hence regarded as French, which enables it to apply to the local tax rebate for French audiovisual projects.
The local tax rebate is possible for a non-French language TV drama or series (live-action and animation) to apply to the tax rebate for French audiovisual projects and be refunded 25 % of its French spending (capped at €5,000 per minute), provided it fulfils the following criteria:
- a minimum production budget of €35,000 per minute;
- at least 30% of the budget financed by non-French partners;
- the completed version is available with French subtitles or dubbed in French;
- spend most of the budget on French soil (precise criteria depending on the CNC ad hoc committee).
The series VERSAILLES produced by CAPA DRAMA (France) and Incendo (Canada), shot extensively in France, benefitted from the French local audiovisual tax rebate. This tax rebate is to be requested by and awarded to the French co-producer of the drama (or series), which will thus very likely mean it is regarded as part of the French producer’s contribution to the budget.
The local subsidies
Some local governments (regions, “départements” and metropoles) have created funds to support TV production. Each one is defining its own support policy. The cultural value of the project is generally the biggest concern of the funds. Most of their investments help finance French-speaking productions.
For more information on these local support, please refer to: