Fundamental change is underway for French film studios
by Valérie Ganne
- CANNES 2018: The CNC assembled both managers and users of French film studios to discuss the changes taking place in the field
The final instalment in a series of round tables organised by the CNC during the Cannes Film Festival saw a number of French film studio managers and users come together to discuss the changes taking place in the field.
The situation of film studios in France is undergoing transformation. In the first instance, an increasing number of film shoots have been taking place in France in the wake of the popular tax credit reform. With an estimated 300 days spent filming per year, according to Film France (the association responsible for promoting filming in France), the number of films shot in the country has climbed by a third since 2016, clearly benefiting French film studios. "As it stands, it is in producers’ interests to shoot a movie in a French studio”, stresses executive producer, Christine de Jekel (Moana and Curiosa Films): “out of a budget of 15 million euros, the total saving compared to filming in a foreign studio is one million euros". However, in 2017, only 13% of French films (that is 23 productions out of a possible 200) hired studio space, for the most part big-budget films costing on average 13 million euros a piece. Furthermore, 80 % of the 100,000 square metres of studio space that are available in France is already spoken for by production companies shooting light entertainment shows or daily television series. In truth, film shoots require a slightly different set-up.
According to film-set designer, Bertrand Seitz, an interesting study conducted by the association of set designers, the ADC, revealed that in 60% of cases, production teams hire studios without actually using them for shooting purposes! Instead, they are used as a base from which to prepare the film, to create the set, and as storage space for their equipment: “for every 1 square metre required for filming, you have to plan for an extra 3 square metres on top”, explains Bertrand Seitz. “Many French studios aren’t actually large enough to accommodate big film productions."
But crucially, there is growing demand for real estate in the outskirts of Paris, putting pressure on a number of French film studios. To the North of the capital, in Saint-Denis, the Cité du Cinéma studios belonging to Luc Besson will be unavailable in the mid-term, offering themselves up to the Olympic Village for the 2024 Olympic Games. To the East, one “historic” location in particular is under threat: the Bry sur Marne studios, managed by Didier Diaz, Managing Director of Transpagroup and President of FICAM (the Federation for the Cinematic, Audio-Visual and Multimedia Industries), who summed up the situation thus: “it takes stamina to own a studio these days. We’ve been fighting for three years to keep ours going”. Accompanying Didier Diaz in Cannes was Jean Pierre Spilbauer, Mayor of Bry sur Marne: “in our region, property prices have multiplied 5-fold in twelve years”, he reminds us, “and this area is of particular interest to property developers. Political support and mobilisation within the profession is essential in order to preserve these studios, which are also a key part of our historical legacy.”
Very few French studios are able to provide backlots - vast, outdoor filming areas where production teams can build external sets. But a new opportunity has arisen in Essonne, directly south of the Paris region, where Olivier Quittard (Director of Development and Property at Air 217, Coeur d'Essonne) recently presented a project to the local community to transform the former air base, Air 217 – 300 hectares’ worth, consisting of two runways and 14,000 square metres of buildings and hangars - into a backlot. The film The Emperor of Paris, by Jean-François Richet and produced by Mandarin, set up shop here for a few weeks in autumn last year, and the local community sees this as an opportunity, in terms of job creation in particular.
"It is a virtuous eco-system that we need to put in place" concludes Valerie Lépine-Karnik, CEO of Film France and moderator of the CNC round table. Indeed, Film France, charged with the promotion of film production in France, plans to launch a study on the competitiveness of French film studios and their ability to adapt to the changes taking place in the field and to satisfy what will hopefully be a growing demand for film premises.
(Translated from French)
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