As one of the world’s most sophisticated film and television markets, it stands to reason that France is a popular location for international producers.
Film France, the national film commission, says: “Skilled talents and highly trained crews contribute every year to the production of 250 features, as well as more than 4800 hours of television in France. They work fast with a spirit of initiative, which seduces even the most demanding directors such as Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Lasse Hallström, Steven Soderbergh, Doug Liman, Stephen Frears, among others. Solutions are available to fit all budgets from big movies such as Luc Besson’s recent blockbuster Lucy to small-crew low-budget filmmaking.”
France started picking up a lot more international work in late 2014 as the Dollar/Euro exchange rate moved decisively in its favour. In addition, France has just increased the size of its film and TV incentive to make it more attractive to big budget productions (see more here). Furthermore, the opening of a state of the art studio in Paris in 2012 has attracted numerous high-profile feature film productions.
France also has a wonderful variety of locations – which are managed by a network of 41 locally-based film commissions. And there is a very organised system to help producers find them – which centres around Film France’s location database.
High-profile recent film shoots have included Mission: Impossible - Fallout, which filmed chase scenes around key Parisian landmarks. Clint Eastwood also shot in the capital for his true-life movie The 15:17 to Paris. In the spring of 2019, Wes Anderson filmed his movie The French Dispatch in the south-western city of Angouleme.
Other shoots have included Das Boot, Johnny English 3, Fifty Shades Freed, Jackie, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, Bastille Day, Our Kind Of Traitor, The Program, French Kiss and The Hunger Games franchise. Dig back a bit further and you’ll find Sherlock Holmes 2, The Tourist, Hugo and Midnight In Paris.
Film France has also worked hard to attract work from India and China, setting up dedicated zones on its website to cater for producers from these market. Recent projects to have responded to the call include Tamasha (an Indian film that was based on the island of Corsica) and Wine Wars (a Chinese production). France has also hosted film productions from Germany, Japan, Belgium, Denmark and Russia in recent times.
Film France can help with the nitty gritty of getting permits. As a starting point, you should go to their website and download a PDF of their comprehensive Production Guide. Here you will find the basic information to get you started with permitting.
The first point to note is that there is not one single permit that covers all of France or all of Paris in particular. Each location requires a specific permit. In some cases, a written agreement is all that’s necessary. In other cases, a fee is required, the amount depending on the type of project and length of shoot. In order to obtain a permit in the shortest time, it is best to send the most detailed information possible. If you can do this in French it might help speed the process up a bit.
In addition to the shooting permit, some locations require a special authorisation of filming by the building’s architect.
To shoot in Paris, two permits are required: one issued for the City of Paris by Paris Film and the other by the Préfecture de Police. After your application has been processed you should be issued with a permit. If you plan to film in the street and your crew comprises fewer than ten people, no permit is needed from the Paris Film office.
In terms of shooting permits for public thoroughfares outside Paris or historical sites, all of this information is in the production guide. For example, there is a body called the Centres des Monuments Nationaux that manages around 200 landmark historic sites and which is generally film-friendly. You’ll also find some basic guidance for filming in and around exquisite locations like the Louvre, Orsay and Versailles.
The big story here has been the July 2012 opening of a major new studio complex, Cite du Cinema Studios de Paris, situated on the banks of the Seine in Saint-Denis, around ten minutes from the centre of Paris.
The huge site, around 12,000sqm, has nine hi-tech stages, along with a wide variety of digital and post-production facilities. To date it has hosted numerous feature films such as Lucy, Taken 2 & 3, The Hundred Foot Journey, The Smurfs 2 and 3 Days To Kill, while rock group The Rolling Stones also shot their video for Doom and Gloom here. Luc Besson’s new movie Valerian is also filming at Studios de Paris.
Other Paris-based studios include Studio Kremlin, a 2600sqm facility that hosted the costumes team for dressing hundreds of extras during The Hunger Games Franchise. Some interior scenes were also filmed in the studios of Bry-sur-Marne.
There is no shortage of studios in France. But one of the biggest players is Euro Media Group (EMG). Active across Europe, EMG is a partner in the new Paris Studios but also has other sites across France. These include Studios Riviera, five minutes from Nice, home to productions like Mr Bean 2.
EMG’s studio business is supported by a full range of studio services and an equipment rental business. Another key player close to Paris is TSF Studio. It has four stages and a backlot spread across three locations. The largest stage is 1300sqm and the backlot is around 3000sqm. TSF also has studios in Belgium and on the West Coast Of France. For example, a new two-stage complex was recently opened up in La Rochelle.
From picture and sound editing to high-end VFX, France’s post production industry is as advanced as you would expect for a country with such an established film and television industry.
While many of France’s major studios such as Pathé, Studios de Paris and StudioCanal offer post production facilities, there are dozens of excellent boutique post-production companies operating across the country, servicing the healthy film and TV industry.
Among the best-known Paris names are Medialab, BUF, Digital District, Nightshift, Mathematic, Mac Guff and Mikros Image.
France has great locations, from Alpine mountains and meadows to rugged coastlines, from deserted landscapes to the magic of Provence. There’s also an incredible number of Roman and mediaeval monuments – ideal for any period film or heroic fantasy piece. In terms of accessing them, Film France, via its network of over 40 local film commissions, says it can organise quick and cost-effective contact with these locations, while 20000 Lieux also offers a broad database.
The start of the process is an excellent online database of over 17,000 locations, which allows you to search by numerous criteria. For example, type in Gothic-Medieval Castle in a forest and you’ll get 77 suggestions. If you like one of them, the film office closest to your chosen locations will handle your request. Of France’s local film commissions, four are not on the mainland. These are in Reunion, Guadaloupe, New Caledonia and Corsica.
On filming in France, production services company Emerge Films Solutions says: “Both Arri and Panavision camera, grip and lighting equipment available as well as a host of specialty suppliers you might expect to find in any developed production centre including Motion Control, Wescam, all the cranes, all the heads, all the toys for car commercials, heli-mounts, underwater filming, etc. For productions looking to bring in film equipment France is an ATA carnet country.”
Euro Media Group has a rental business. Other key players include Eye-Lite, which is made up of eight companies, including lights, cameras, mobile power & studios. It has offices in Paris, Lille, Strasbourg and Rhone-Alpes.
Other key companies include Next Shot, which can supply a wide array of cameras, lenses, video assist HD and HF, grip gear, cranes and dollies, stabilized heads, camera cars and aerial filming equipment. Also check out Actua Films in Paris and RVZ Location in Malakoff.