Film and TV shoots have bounced back to above pre-pandemic levels in France over the past 12 months, due largely to the local production sector playing catch-up after the lost months of 2020. It all points to France’s determination to shake off the impact of Covid-19 and grow its film and TV industries. There were 315,564 filming days in 2021 for a spend of $3bn (€2.9bn), representing a 25% and 33% increase on 2019 levels respectively, according to figures from the National Cinema Centre (CNC). The return of international shoots, largely absent in 2020, also contributed to the recovery.
Overseas investment in French production has risen significantly: foreign pre-sales are up 30.5%, and for the first time rose above the €100m mark — to $100.2m (€101.5m) — in 2021. Foreign contribution to co-production also rose 10.2% for a total of $87.3m (€88.4m), the highest since 2003’s $110m (€111.5m) tally. According to the country’s Film France film commission, 92 film and TV projects successfully applied for the country’s Tax Rebate for International Production (TRIP) in 2021, 25% more than in 2019. The projected spend of these recipients was $392.8m (€398m), 62% more than 2019. A key contributor to the bounce was a raft of shows backed by US streamers including Netflix’s Emily In Paris and Lupin as well as Disney+’s first French-language drama Oussekine, all of which qualified for the TRIP.
Big international feature productions touching down at the end of 2021 included Chad Stahelski’s John Wick: Chapter 4 and David Fincher’s psychological thriller The Killer, an adaptation of the French graphic novel series of the same name, starring Michael Fassbender. Regionally, the French capital, which is France’s single most popular filming destination, registered a record 7,000 hours of shooting across all formats in 2021, against 5,000 in 2020 and 5,465 in 2019. The picture was equally positive in the south of France, the territory’s second most popular regional shooting destination. According to the Alpes-Maritimes Cote d’Azur Film Commission’s annual report released in March, shooting days on the French Riviera rose by 55% on 2019 levels in 2021 to 1,863 days.
International shows visiting the south of France over the past year included Amazon’s UK drama Mammals and the second season of its Indian romantic drama Made In Heaven, as well as Beta Film’s Swedish-language Agent Hamilton. Incoming features included German romantic drama A E I O U — A Quick Alphabet Of Love. This upward trend looks set to continue throughout 2022. Netflix had two major international shows filming in France in spring. Murder Mystery 2, starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston, shot in Paris in March, while cameras also started rolling on 1940s refugee drama Transatlantic, by Unorthodox creator Anna Winger, in the southern port of Marseille the same month.
Other international features due to shoot in France this year include Woody Allen’s 50th film, an untitled romantic thriller starring Valérie Lemercier and Niels Schneider, with the working title Wasp 22. Allen previously shot Love And Death, Everyone Says I Love You, Midnight In Paris and Magic In The Moonlight in France. The territory’s star has been rising steadily for more than a decade, thanks in large part to the TRIP incentive. Prior to its introduction in 2009, the country was regarded as a desirable but expensive shooting location. Productions would set down briefly for establishing shots, and then race off to more affordable or incentivised territories for the bulk of the shoot. Now offering a 30% rebate on eligible spend, the incentive has helped entice 300 international productions, spanning early beneficiaries such as Martin Scorsese’s Hugo and Christopher Nolan’s Inception to Mission: Impossible — Fallout, which spent 40 days in France in 2018, employing 5,000 local crew and artists, to recent shows such as The Serpent Queen and Emily In Paris.
Having established its credentials as a financially viable shooting location, the country is on a drive to boost its profile as a destination for studio and post-production work. In 2021, it raised the TRIP to 40% for productions doing substantial amounts of VFX work in France. The first projects to have tapped into the extra 10% include John Wick: Chapter 4 and Netflix films Luther and Damsel.
As part of the drive, Film France was overhauled at the end of 2021 and brought under direct control of the CNC. While it remains the first port of call for film and TV productions wishing to shoot in France, its activities are now supported by a back-office structure called the ‘service de l’attractivité’, or attractiveness service, focused on international outreach. Mathieu Ripka heads up the new-look commission with a team of production support managers and a tax rebate expert. The international push has seen it expand its activities in the US, where Los Angeles-based representative Guillaume Kervern has been doing targeted networking with US indie producers.
Further bolstering the country’s plans to lure international productions is France’s post-Covid recovery plan, which has earmarked $595m (€600m) for the film and audiovisual industries over five years from 2022 — to be invested in capacity building, skills training and innovation.
Separately, the CNC launched its $9.9m (€10m) ‘shock of modernisation’ initiative in 2021, aimed at projects involving new digital technologies, the creation of studio spaces and the renovation of existing venues. The 20 recipients included virtual production specialist Dark Matters, which opened a five-stage facility outside Paris last year, and Provence Studios in the south of France, which welcomed The Serpent Queen in 2021.
Local locations professionals see this investment in infrastructure and training, combined with the extra 10% for VFX work in the TRIP, as a gamechanger for France in attracting international productions to do more than just locations work.
Local locations professionals see this investment in infrastructure and training, combined with the extra 10% for VFX work in the TRIP, as a game changer for the country in attracting international productions to do more than just locations work.
France has a good supply of skilled crews and production staff thanks to its thriving local film and TV scene, with more than 230,000 people working full-time in the audiovisual sector. The workforce is being regularly replenished and trained via the country’s network of 50 film and TV schools. France cannot lay claim to a landmark studio in the vein of UK’s Pinewood or Germany’s Babelsberg and studio space is at a premium around Paris. Key spaces close to the capital include Studios de Paris, as well as Transpalux’s Saint Ouen and Bry Sur Marne sites — although the future of both remains in the balance — TSF’s four-stage Epinay-Sur-Seine facility and its newer TSF Backlot site, built on a former airfield and featuring a real Airbus A300 as one of the sets.
In the south of France, Nice’s historic Victorine Studios is being modernised and Provence Studios in Marseille continues to expand, having added a virtual production space. The series boom has also encouraged the creation of studio space in other parts of France, such as a 30,000 square metre Pics Studio facility, which has been announced for outside Montpellier.
France is the largest territory in the European Union at 551,500 square kilometres, with good air, road and rail networks. The 775 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 Studios de Paris to the hotel and shopping districts of central Paris, while Bry-sur-Marne Studio is a 30-minute train ride from central Paris and lies 35 kilometres from Charles de Gaulle Airport.
First people to contact
Film France: firstname.lastname@example.org