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Gaul’s historic sites lure shoots

Culture minister's campaign makes filming financially feasible

PARIS — It may actually become chic to have one’s picture taken at the Louvre, thanks to an effort on the part of France’s culture czar to open up Gallic museums and historical sites to film crews.

With Sofia Coppola’s “Marie-Antoinette” set to lense in the Palace of Versailles and Ron Howard’s adaptation of “The Da Vinci Code” shooting in the Louvre, culture minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres’ campaign to make shooting in some of France’s most renowned locations financially and logistically feasible seems to be bearing fruit.

In the past, the pricetag for such endeavors has proved prohibitive.

The present initiative, however, comes as France continues to be passed over as a location in favor of cheaper locales. In effort to keep French production local as well as attracting foreign films, the culture minister has decided to try to attract filmmakers to Gaul.

“These sites, and the collections they house, interest and inspire not only the tens of millions of visitors from around the world, but also numerous producers, directors, writers, art directors and technicians in France and in the world,” Donnedieu de Vabres said, making his pitch to a group of cinema pros and museum directors at Paris’ Musee d’Orsay.

The minister has called on museums and monuments to throw open their doors and to cut fees for filming. A few weeks ago, Donnedieu de Vabres showed up on set at a French feudal chateau to do some handshaking and backslapping. In negotiating the shoot, the site had agreed to lower its fee for a France 2 TV movie shoot.

The minister declared that between “free of charge and too expensive, there exists a place of intelligence.”

Still, the cost of filming in high-profile places like the Louvre and Versailles isn’t likely to drop.

“It’s really not possible,” said Pierre Arizzoli-Clementel, managing director of the Palace of Versailles. “For us, like the Louvre, our board of directors sets the fees and we can’t negotiate them. I really don’t see that changing any time soon.” The cost of using Versailles rings in at around $20,000 a day, prohibitive to small-budget pics.

The museums also have a hard time accommodating every request due to the fact that filming has to be done either the one day a week the museum is closed or at night, which can crank up the cost of production. Coppola’s pic will be commandeering the palace for three months starting this month.

Versailles’ Arrizoli-Clementel agrees the effort is important to the tourism businss: “A beautiful, well-made film is very important publicity for the museum and for the country.”

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