The French consul general for Hong Kong and Macau declared on Monday that the future ‘belonged to co-production between Europe and Asia’ and urged Asian producers to look at shooting films in France. He made the comments at an information session outlining the new 20% tax rebate for international productions instituted last year by the Sarkozy government.

Jean-Pierre Thebault said that producers should look at the fact that France has co-production agreements in place with 40 countries including Korea. He added that France was ‘on the verge of finalizing an agreement with China.’ The Chinese/French co-production agreement had been delayed but Thebault clearly indicated that it was back on the fast track.

The Ile-de-France Film Commission’s executive director Olivier-Rene Veillon explained the workings of the new tax incentive - a surprise move for France which has traditionally resisted tax rebates - which should receive its government decree in April or May and must then be accepted by the EU before going into law.

‘It is very close to the rebate in the UK,’ he explained, although added that international productions can also gain access to a French distribution market which is not dominated by US product like the UK. ‘Our entire system is dedicated to the financing of independent cinema and helps independent distributors. We have 200m admissions a year which puts us on a level with the UK, but whereas US films account for 90% of the UK market, they only make up 45% of the French market.’

‘The new tax rebate of 20% on foreign productions is a very important political decision,’ Veillon continued. ‘It marks a substantial reduction of the costs of shooting in France.’ He said that the nature of mandatory French cultural elements has yet to be ironed out although said it should mirror the UK system ‘That will not be a problem bearing in mind that if a film shoots in France, there will be French story elements and French artistic talent participating in the project.’

He said that, in order to qualify, the minimum level of expenses in France should be Eu1m and they should not exceed Eu4m. ‘A project even partially shot in France can access our co-production agreements, our new tax rebate, our independent-friendly market and our $18m Ile-de-France film fund, which is open to both local and international films.’

Veillon speculated that Stephen Frears’ Cheri, a UK/France co-production which shot in France last summer with a Eu20m budget would have cost 16 million euros if it shot there this year with the new tax rebate in place.