Magazine article Variety

Trip's Next Step Is Going Abroad

Magazine article Variety

Trip's Next Step Is Going Abroad

Article excerpt


Fattened by incentives, France's vfx and toon houses get multinational to compete


For two years, Gaul's vfx, animation and post industries rode the wave of a powerful incentive: the Tax Rebate for Intl. Production, or TRIP, attracting such high-profile U.S. titles as Chris Meledandri's "Despicable Me" and Kenneth Brannagh's "Thor."

Beneficiaries include Mikros Image, one of Gaul's first vfx and post-production houses, headquartered just outside Paris and with facilities in Luxembourg, Belgium and Canada.

The shingle - which gained international traction since its animated short Oscar win for "Logorama" and nabbed two VES nods earlier this year - is prepping a full-service animation studio in the heart of the French capital. Mikros' first toon pic is SND-repped "Asterix: The Land of the Gods."

However in a global film market still roiled by the recent recession, a cloudier picture is emerging. Rebates in such countries as Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and Canada are outperforming TRIP and France is facing a new challenge.

With a shortage of big-scale movies in the pipeline, local players are working to shift their business models by expanding geographical footprints, stepping into animation and diving deeper into production.

One of TRIP'S main beneficiaries, Pierre Buffin's BUF, which provided visual effects on a flurry of tentpoles, notably "Thor," and Tim Burton's "Dark Shadows," is opening facilities in Belgium and Canada, Buffin and wife India Osborne are also amping up production and co-prod via BUF's inhouse banner AngeleFine; and they've tapped vet vfx supervisor Mike Fink to oversee English-language projects from Los Angeles.

The shingle's ambitious co-production slate encompasses Eran Riklis' Israel-set friendship drama "Zaytoun," Sanaa Hanoi's sci-fi coming-of-age tale "All About Love," and Stephen Sommers' supernatural romance "Odd Thomas," now in post. BUF will perform vfx on all three.

"We've always been passionate about becoming more than a vendor, In today's climate, it's necessary to have plans B, C and D on the horizon," Obsorne says.

Mac Guff Ligne, the standalone vfx and post-prod entity, previously co-managed by Jacques Bled (who now heads animation shingle Illumination Mac Guff), is mulling opening a vfx studio in Belgium. Shingle's vfx slate includes Luc Besson-produced "Taken 2."

As Illumination Mac Guff focused on providing animation for Universal's titles such as "The Lorax," managing director Gilles Gaillard says the timing is right to enter the toon arena.

Mikros' trans-Atlantic growth strategy has given the company a satisfying level of activity at its Paris-based office, staffed by 180 employees and about 80 freelance graphic artists, says Gaillard. …

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