France Sees Olympic Spotlight as Opportunity to Showcase Growing Film Biz

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The push for greater studio capacity and more ambitious large-scale facilities — both in the Paris region and throughout the country — is a key element of the France 2030 plan.

As it stands, France is on track to offer more than two dozen studios by 2024, with flagship developments including the TSF Backlot 77. That sprawling installation, built on the site of a one-time airbase 38 miles east of Paris, will offer Parisian street facades and a number of standing sets encompassing different neighborhoods and architectural styles.

The backlot will go live next summer, just weeks before the Summer Olympics puts one side of Paris on display to the world while curtailing production in other (often iconic) parts of town. The opportune timing has hardly been lost on municipal shooting commission Film Paris Region and national counterpart Film France; they will propose the ersatz capital as one of many solutions once certain areas of Paris undergo a production crunch between June and September.

“[The games] offer us a tremendous opportunity to showcase our whole ecosystem, to spotlight the whole country [and] to send the message that all of France remains open for filming,” says Film France head Daphné Lora.

Closer to the capital, Montjoie Studios is currently turning a site just outside of town into a scale
Parisian apartment building. Decked out with Haussmannian exteriors, working elevators, servants’ quarters and a full, 2690 sq. ft. flat, the production complex should ease congestion within the densely packed destination well after the Olympic flames flicker out. Other studios across the country already boast hospital, manor home, prison and police station interiors, while facilities like Dark Matters outside of Paris and Provence Studios next to Marseille have invested in virtual sets.

Home to “The Serpent Queen” and “The Nun II,” Martigues-based Provence Studios also hosts a number of soundstages, a backlot, and will open a new 3500 sq. yard facility next year. Hoping to catch the attention of Parisian-minded producers and draw them towards warmer climates, the Occitanie Film Commission has recently launched an initiative called “Un air de Paris” (best translated as “An air of Paris,” or better still, “A Parisian touch”). Accessible through a web portal of the same name, the plan offers a portfolio of Paris-like locations in and around the southern French cities of Montpellier and Sète.

“We can find solutions in the South of France,” says Occitanie Film Commission chief Marin Rosenstiehl. “We’re not going to rebuild the full Champs-Elysées, but if you have a couple chatting on a terrace, we can shoot here then complete the picture with VFX at an already lower cost. We’re in the movie business — that means our business is illusion.”

Last year, the Occitanie commission welcomed the Netflix series “All the Light We Cannot See,” re-creating the 1944 liberation of Saint Malo in a medieval, landlocked village some 530 miles away. A few months later, the region welcomed the AMC series “Monsieur Spade” for a shoot originally slated for 10 days. Instead, the production ended staying for three months; the bulk of the series were shot in picturesque locales, and it relied on France Television’s V Studio in nearby Vendargues, using the central Montpellier as basecamp.

The experience reflected and refined the wider industry goal to create full-service production hubs across the country. In Occitanie, both V Studio and the Montpellier-based Pics Studio have received France 2030 support and have set ambitious expansion plans, while the local VFX industry continues to flourish as houses such as the Yard open local offices as well.

And so, when coupled with the natural locales that make the South of France a perennial destination and Montpellier’s urban capacity to house large-scale crews, Rosenstiehl hopes that by luring international projects with an air of Paris, his region can then convince them to stay.

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