In the previous installment, we looked at the obstacles facing composers attempting to break into the French film industry. Now, we will discuss the ways in which the French state subsidy system could offer composers financial leverage.
There are a number of tax advantages available to film productions working with a French cast and crew. Below, we will look through the requirements composers should meet to maximize their value in the highly competitive film industry.
TRIP Cultural Test
Recall the Tax Rebate for International Productions (TRIP), a tax rebate which applies to projects wholly or partly made in France. To benefit from TRIP, composers must fulfill the criteria to pass a cultural test.
The document entitled “9. Grille de critères de sélection pour une oeuvre de fiction” sets out that, in order to be eligible, a project must obtain at least 18 points. Criteria n. 10, on page 2, sets out that at least one of the music composers must be:
- a French citizen;
- a citizen of a European country (that includes all citizens of EU member-states); or
- a French resident,
- for the film project to score 1 point out of the 18 points necessary for eligibility.
Therefore, film music composers who are really serious about getting into the French film sector must meet one of the above criteria, to secure this 1 point for the TRIP’s cultural test, which is the maximum amount of points even a French citizen music composer could ever contribute towards the film project.
European co-productions can benefit from France’s film financing system, notably the French selective schemes, such as:
- CICA, the automatic support for the French producer and distributor from French TV channels and Free-to-air networks (as Canal +, TF1, France Televisions, ARTE and M6 must invest a percentage of their annual revenues on French and European Films);
- automatic subsidies referred to in French as “compte de soutien” or “soutien automatique”, where each qualifying 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 Blu-ray sales revenues) and in TV sales (a percentage of broadcasting rights sales);
- French regional funds; and
- Sofica funds (private equity).
To qualify into the French tax credit and subsidies system, as an official co-production, the French co-producer will submit the project to the CNC.
The CNC is responsible for assessing applications for qualifications of a feature film. Two scales are used to determine whether it is European enough and whether it is French enough (European scale and French scale). 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. On this note, France has entered into bilateral co-production agreements with many countries.
Film music composers must, therefore, check whether employing them as a music composer on the film co-production would allow the project to get some points on the French and European scales above-mentioned.
Under the European scale, it is necessary for the authors (including the music composer), primary actors, technicians and collaborators to the creation of the film be:
- French citizens;
- Citizens from a EU member-state;
- Citizens from the country with which France has a bilateral co-production agreement in place; or
- Residents in France, in another EU member-state.
Therefore, film music composers who are serious about getting their foot in the door must meet at least one of the criteria above. If they do, and out of the 18 points in the European scale, they will provide 1 point as a qualifying music composer in the European official co-production.
Under the French scale (“barème du soutien financier”), it is necessary for the project to score 100 points; except for the notable cases of Franco-Spanish, Franco-Italian, and Franco-British co-productions, which do not have to comply with any minimum number of points to be eligible for financial support.
Music composers can bring up to 1 point on this French scale for fiction films, and up to 5 points for a documentary.
In order to obtain those points under the French scale, it is necessary that the assignment agreements of the copyright, as well as the employment agreement of the film director, be governed by French law.
Therefore, film music composers will qualify under the French scale for financial support of the official European co-production, if the assignment agreement of copyright on the songs and tracks that they write and produce is governed by French law.
From a business standpoint, and in order to bolster the chances of getting the tax credit CICA, it is really worth highlighting and playing up any TV experience and clout that a film music composer may have. This should appeal to any French film producer, since they face a lot of competition from other French film producers, in order to get the best tax credit support from French TV channels, when pitching their film projects to them.
French Regional Funds
As mentioned above, European official co-productions, but also—of course—French film productions, can benefit from the support and subsidies of French regional funds, such as:
- Fonds images de la francophonie;
- CNC support for creation of original music/score;
- Ile de France Authority Cinema and audiovisual support, and after shooting support; and
- Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur Creation and production film fund, documentary support (all stages) and animation support.
There is no points system in place, for any of these four French regional funds. However, Ile de France Authority Cinema and audiovisual support and Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur Creation and production film fund, documentary support (all stages), animation support, do have a cultural test in place.
How Can Composers Benefit?
As far as film music composers are concerned, the only requirement under these two cultural tests is that the film music composer would enter into the French language, French law-governed agreement, relating to the transfer of his/her copyright in the film soundtrack, to the France-based film production company. Film music composers do not need to have French citizenship, or be a French resident, to contribute towards the film project successfully passing the cultural test of either of these two French regional funds.
Therefore, the best way film music composers can ensure that their contributions to the film project will be weighting in a positive manner towards securing regional funding for the film production, is by having a polished and up-to-date CV listing all their musical compositions, awards and achievements, a catalogue of their best artistic work in good order, both online (SoundCloud, Spotify, Deezer, etc.) and on CDs; and by contributing with the film director and producer in compiling the information and necessary data for each regional funding submissions.
For example, for the submission to the CNC Support for creation of original music or score (“aides à la création de musiques originales”), film music composers merely have to work with the film director and producer to ensure that they provide together all the deliverables required by the special commission of the CNC, such as the “note d’intention”, their respective CVs, and the CDs, and DVDs requested.
The CNC, Ile de France Authority and Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur Authority, each request film music composers to enter into the French language, French law-governed agreement, relating to the assignment of copyright on the film soundtrack, with the French film production company.
To conclude, film music composers need to perfectly master the intricacies of the French soft funding system, and therefore skillfully demonstrate to French film producers and directors that, not only do they bring all possible qualifying points in any cultural tests put in place by the French film authorities, but also that they are willing to assign their copyright in their musical compositions and tracks’ masters, to the French film production company, under a French language, French law-governed assignment agreement.
To hit the ground running, and facilitate the work of any French film producers, film music composers should already be registered as members of French copyright collecting society SACEM, and French neighboring rights collecting societies ADAMI and/or SPEDIDAM, if applicable.
Another major bonus would be for film music composers to already be registered with the French Centre des impôts des non-résidents, Inspection TVA, which is responsible for VAT registration of non-resident tax payers, and open a French VAT account. That way, if film music composers are paid service fees and/or a “prime de commande” by the French film production company, they can set out their VAT intra-community number, as well as the French production company’s VAT intra-community number, on their invoices.
Finally, since royalties, commissions, consultancy fees and fees for services performed or used in France, which are paid to a non-resident (either a company or an individual), are subject to a domestic 33.33% withholding tax, film music composers need to check whether any double-taxation treaty may be in place, between the country in which they are tax-resident, and France, which would provide full or partial relief of withholding tax on such income sources generated in France.
Be bold, do your homework, and your musical passion, skills and enthusiasm should become a great asset to any French film project and production!
Ms. Gauberti is a solicitor of England and Wales, as well as an “avocat à la Cour”, French-qualified lawyer, who focuses her practice on providing legal services, on either contentious or non-contentious matters, to companies and individuals working in the creative industries in general, and the luxury goods, fashion, music, motion picture, television, Internet, multimedia sectors in particular.