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More Hollywood films are being made in France due to attractive tax breaks

New tax breaks have brought a rush of Hollywood productions to France in the last year, with the World War II epic Dunkirk among a slew of big-budget movies made there.

English-American director Christopher Nolan's epic about the evacuation of British and Allied troops from France was shot this summer on some of the same beaches where the action took place in 1940. The five-week shoot, which involved 1,500 extras, was one of 36 foreign productions drawn to France last year after tax breaks jumped from 20 per cent to 30 per cent of the cost of the film.

Parts of the Oscar-nominated Jackie, starring Natalie Portman as the late former US first lady Jackie Kennedy, were made in French film-maker Luc Besson's Cite du Cinema studios in Paris. Scenes in Fifty Shades Darker, the sequel to the erotic blockbuster Fifty Shades Of Grey, were also shot in the city.

Industry insiders have high hopes that France will capture the upcoming Mission: Impossible 6.

Ms Valerie Lepine, of the French film commission, Film France, said spending by foreign film companies "almost tripled" to 152 million euros (S$231 million) from 57 million in 2015.

"We have made massive progress this year," she said.

But some of the most spectacular coups have been in animation, a sector in which France is already a world leader.

Dreamworks' forthcoming feature version of the children's classic Captain Underpants was made by Mikros Animation in France.

The studio is also making Sherlock Gnomes, a whodunnit about the disappearance of garden gnomes, for Paramount.

The comedies Sing and The Secret Life Of Pets were also made in Paris for Universal by Illumination Mac Guff, the studio behind the the Despicable Me franchise.

ADVANTAGE

"Up to now it was mostly Illumination Mac Guff (now owned by Universal) which took advantage of the tax breaks," Ms Lepine added.

"But it's spreading and we've seen a massive entry of Americans."

And the signs for 2017 are even more promising, she insisted.

This month, the French government dropped the minimum film budget requirement to take advantage of the breaks from 1 million euros to 250,000 euros.

This is also aimed at boosting its special effects industry, which has seen loss of talent in recent years, according to a report by the French National Cinema Centre (CNC).

While the special effects budget on Besson's sci-fi mega-production Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets - to be released in July - is some 100 million euros, the CNC found most young French creators emigrate to find work. Almost all the special effects for the film have been created abroad.

French films do not tend to use special effects, the report added, spending only 15 million euros overall in 2015 - and more than half of that work went to foreign studios. Many of such studios in Belgium and Canada were staffed by graduates of French schools.

"There is a lot of talent in France and the measure will make us more competitive," said Mr David Danesi, who heads Digital District, which worked with director Pablo Larrain on Jackie.

The CNC has launched a three-year plan to encourage the local industry, which tends towards traditional naturalistic stories, to use more special effects.

Already the rise in tax breaks has helped create up to 15,000 mostly temporary jobs in France, CNC president Frederique Bredin said, "well above what we had hoped for". - AFP

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