France

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Overview and productions

Film and TV shoots have bounced back to above pre-pandemic levels in France over the past 12 months, due in large part to the local production sector playing catch-up after the lost months of 2020.

There were 315,564 filming days in 2021 for a spend of $3bn (€2.8bn), representing a 25% and 33% increase on 2019 levels respectively, according to figures compiled by the National Cinema Centre (CNC). The return of international shoots, largely absent in 2020, also contributed to the recovery.

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 $434m (€398m), 62% more than 2019.

A key contributor to the bounce was a raft of shows backed by US streamers including the second seasons of 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 show Agent Hamilton. Incoming features included German romantic drama and Berlinale 2022 Competition title A E I O U — A Quick Alphabet Of Love.

This upward trend looks set to continue into 2022. Netflix had two major international shows filming in France this 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 city of Marseille the same month.

Other international features due to shoot in France this year include body-horror thriller The Substance, a joint production between Universal Pictures and Working Title Films, directed by France’s Coralie Fargeat and co-starring Demi Moore and Margaret Qualley, which was due to film in Paris in May.

France’s star has been rising steadily for more than a decade, thanks in large part to the TRIP incentive, which was launched in 2009. Prior to its introduction, the country was regarded as a desirable but expensive shooting location. Productions would set down briefly to film establishing shots, and then race off to more affordable or incentivised territories such as Belgium, Ireland and Hungary 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. It kicked off this strategy in 2021, by raising 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, the latter starring Millie Bobby Brown.

As part of the drive, Film France was overhauled at the end of last year and brought under direct control of the CNC. The organisation remains the first port of call for film and TV productions wishing to shoot in the country, but 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, and plans are afoot to hire another staffer.

Further bolstering the country’s plans to lure international productions is France’s post Covid recovery plan, which has earmarked $650m (€600m) for the film and audiovisual industries over the course of five years from 2022 — to be invested in capacity building, skills training and innovation.

In a separate enterprise, the CNC launched its $11m (€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 the country in attracting international productions to do more than just locations work. 

First person to contact

Laurie Ades, head of producers’ liaison and TRIP expert, Film France
@ Laurie@filmfrance.net 

Film France @ rebate@filmfrance.net

Locations

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.

Crew and infrastructure

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 currently 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.

Travel and logistics

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.

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