France was one of the first European territories to get local film and TV productions up and running again in the summer of 2020, after a three-month national lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and sets have remained open ever since.
Domestic production quickly ratcheted up due to the speedy implementation of industry-wide Covid-19 protocols as well as a government-backed $115.7m (€100m) indemnity fund to cover losses for local shoots that are forced to shut down due to the coronavirus.
An annual production report by France's National Cinema Centre (CNC) also found investments in feature film production in the country rose by 75% year-on-year in 2021.
But big international productions only began returning nearly a year later. The second season of Netflix’s Emily In Paris led the charge in May 2021, shooting in the French capital, Saint-Tropez and other locations across France. Starring Lily Collins as a budding marketing executive coping with the culture shock of being posted to Paris from Chicago, season one of Emily In Paris was one of the streaming hits of 2020. While some local viewers lambasted its depiction of France as cliché-ridden, locked-down audiences around the world lapped up the slice of Parisian life at a time when travel to the city was impossible.
Like its predecessor, season two was shot on location and in the studio in France in what is becoming a growing trend for incoming productions. Until recently, most only shot scenes in France requiring real-life French backdrops before heading off to studios in more competitively priced territories.
The decision to film all of Emily In Paris mainly in France (outside of its US scenes) came about after Raphaël Benoliel, a local producer and go-to figure for international shoots in the country, said he was able to show it was cost-effective.
The calculations, he explains, were based on savings from not having to double up on crew hire, lower travel costs, the speed and efficiency of the country’s skilled and experienced technicians and the Tax Rebate for International Productions (TRIP), offering 30% on eligible local spend to a cap of $35m (€30m).
The TRIP was launched in 2009 to take the edge off France’s reputation as an expensive place to shoot and encourage back international productions. It was bolstered in 2020 with a measure offering an extra 10% for live-action productions generating at least $2.3m (€2m) in VFX-related costs in France.
It is a trend that looks set to grow amid the streamer-led content boom, which has squeezed studio and production capacity in neighbouring London as well as other key hubs such as Los Angeles and Toronto, forcing international productions to look elsewhere.
In a sign the French government is getting behind this development, France’s National Cinema Centre pledged support in July for eight projects aiming to update existing studios or build new facilities, as part of an $11.6m (€10m) Covid-19 recovery fund initiative to build infrastructure in the film, TV and video-game sectors.
One of the recipients was Provence Studios on the Cote d’Azur in the south of France. It hosted Lionsgate Television and 3 Arts Entertainment’s big-budget drama The Serpent Queen from April to September 2021. The eight-part Starz series centres on 16th-century historic figure Catherine de’ Medici, played by Samantha Morton.
Boasting more than 9,500 square metres of studio space and two backlots of 18,000 square metres each, as well as workshops, production offices and dressing rooms, Provence Studios has hosted plenty of big feature productions, but The Serpent Queen is its biggest series to date.
Further productions to have set down in France last autumn, albeit more fleetingly, include John Wick: Chapter 4, which filmed in Paris. As well as, Apple TV+ series' The New Look which is currently shooting in Paris with Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One, Bloodline) and Juliette Binoche starring in the cast. Mariselle is also currently hosting the production of the Netflix series, Transatlantic produced by Airlift Productions.
It is marked improvement on 2020, when just a handful of international projects visited the country. Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel, which world premiered at Venice Film Festival, was the last major international production to touch down in France before the national lockdown. It spent a month in the historic town of Sarlat-la-Canéda and Chateau de Beynac in the Dordogne region of southwest France, before moving to Ireland.
A handful of smaller productions managed to duck in for short shoots last autumn. These included France’s Canal+ and Fox Networks Group’s War Of The Worlds, Danish director Niels Arden Oplev’s feature Rose and two German TV movies from the Ein Tisch In Der Provence franchise (literally, ‘A Table In Provence’), produced by Germany’s Polyphon Pictures for broadcaster ZDF. The latter spent 45-days in the villages and countryside outside the historic medieval town of Aigues-Mortes in the southern French region of Occitanie.
The fourth season of UK drama The Syndicate by Kay Mellor, produced by Rollem Productions for the BBC and BritBox, spent a month shooting in Monaco in November 2020.
In an aim to expand its production footprint in the country across, WarnerMedia France has vowed to produce six to eight local feature films a year in the region.
Incoming productions have yet to return to the levels of 2019 when 55 non-French films and dramas shot in the country, spending a combined $368m (€318m). These included Tom McCarthy’s Marseille-set drama Stillwater, which debuted at Cannes this year, starring Matt Damon as a tough US construction worker who travels to the city to connect with his imprisoned daughter (Abigail Breslin).
The decision to film all of Emily In Paris mainly in France (outside of its US scenes) came about after local producer, and go-to figure for international shoots in the country, Raphaël Benoliel said he was able to show it was cost-effective.
The calculations, he explains, were based on savings from not having to double up on crew hire, lower travel costs, the speed and efficiency of the country’s skilled and experienced technicians and the Tax Rebate for International Productions (TRIP), offering 30% on eligible local spend to a cap of $36.7m (€30m).
First person to contact
Laurie Ades, head of producers’ liaison and TRIP expert, Film France
Film France @ email@example.com
There are a wealth of locations to choose from, whether it’s the cobbled streets, fountains and stylish cafes of the capital; old-world villages like Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val (where The Hundred-Foot Journey was filmed), or the rolling fields of Provence, where A Good Year was shot.
“The wealth of locations France offers any filmmaker is as breathtaking as its sublime and diverse scenery. With epic mountains, vineyards, lush countryside, wild coastlines, white beaches, to abundant lavender fields, (not forgetting all that tasty cheese, wine, and bread) France has a cornucopia of backdrops that lends itself perfectly to any film format, within spitting distance of the UK, right in the heart of mainland Europe,” Jill Officer, a fixer and line producer at Filming in Paris, tells KFTV.
Renata Pepper of Renata Pepper Locations highlights the overall appeal of France as a filming destination, citing companies that return regularly to utilise the locations, crew and infrastructure. She tells KFTV: It’s also a fantastic place for all luxury and high-fashion brand shoots: Ralph Lauren, Vogue, Adidas, etc.
These brands come back every year because France’s landscape is varied and yet also unique. Authentic Paris can only be found in Paris, for example. Of course in France you can find all types of landscapes, from beautiful cities to mountains and beaches.
She also points to how locations are being utilised in the current climate: At the moment it is much easier to film in large spaces so that hygiene regulations can be respected in the way possible. In smaller locations crew numbers are reduced to stay as safe as possible. Exterior locations are also preferred, if not crowded, and studio spaces are often chosen because of their flexibility and the fact they are already treated to be Covid-compliant locations.
Crews are picking larger locations so that they can handle Covid restrictions/hygiene rules better, and also are happy to shoot outdoors a lot for that reason as well, she adds. Failing that, crew sizes are still on the smaller side in order to keep things light, mobile, and safer. Keeping things small is another way of trying to make sure that safety and Covid guidelines are kept as a big priority.
Films France has a good supply of skilled crews and production staff with more than 250,000 people working regularly in the sector.
A number of studios in and around Paris are expanding. Backlot 217, which was launched in 2018 on the site of a former airbase some 30 kilometres south of the city, was used initially for the creation of large-scale exterior sets, such as for the upcoming period drama Eiffel. Its growing popularity has encouraged service company TSF, which oversees the site, to construct half-a-dozen indoor soundstages, which will be ready for late 2021. TSF’s older facility Epinay-sur-Seine is due to be refurbished while Bry-sur-Marne Studios, which had been slated for closure, has been resurrected. Studios de Paris, spearheaded by Luc Besson, remains Paris’s most central facility. Elsewhere, an alliance of studios in the south of France — uniting Victorine Studios in Nice and Provence Studios in Marseille — has announced the construction of a 3,000 square metre soundstage in Nice.
France is the largest territory in Europe at 551,500 square kilometres. It has good air, road and rail networks and getting around is straightforward. The 750-kilometre journey between Paris and Marseille takes three hours via high-speed train. From Paris it is a one-and-a-half-hour train ride to Brussels, eight hours to Milan and two-and-a-half hours to London. It is a 10-minute taxi ride from Les Studios de Paris to the major hotel and shopping districts in central Paris, while Studios de Bry-Sur-Marne is a 30-minute train ride from central Paris and lies 35 kilometres from Charles de Gaulle airport.
France is a member of the European Union and a participant in the Schengen Agreement. Its currency is the euro.