The French have always had a love-hate relationship with Hollywood. In the ’80s, prickly culture minister Jack Lang complained about American “cultural imperialism” even as his fellow countrymen expressed adulation for American filmmakers ranging from Jerry Lewis to Woody Allen.
But last week, France’s present culture minister, Frederic Mitterrand, came to Hollywood with a more practical agenda: to tubthump Gaul’s recently enacted tax credits for film production and encourage U.S. filmmakers to shoot there.
The trip was overdue, said Mitterrand, who’s been in office since 2009. The last culture minister to make an official visit to Hollywood was Francoise Giroud, who came in the ’70s.
On the love-hate spectrum, Mitterrand tilts strongly toward the love side, having been an admirer of American movies since the age of 8, when he saw Howard Hawks’ “Scarface” in Paris. But even though he’s produced and directed a number of films, the nephew of former president Francois Mitterrand never visited Los Angeles until last week.
He met with bizzers including Disney’s Bob Iger, Warner Bros.’ Barry Meyer and the DGA’s Taylor Hackford. At a ceremony at the French consul’s residence in BevHills, he honored Gus Van Sant, Eva Marie Saint, Matt Weiner and others with official French government decorations.
“The most important purpose of my trip is to encourage American filmmakers to work in France,” he said. “I came to learn what it will take to get them there.”
Several high-profile projects have partly filmed in France because some scenes take place there — including Clint Eastwood’s “Hereafter” and Christopher Nolan’s “Inception.” Allen’s “Midnight in Paris,” which will open the Cannes Film Festival, shot entirely in France.
But in addition to pics filming there for story reasons, Mitterrand’s goal is to attract projects not necessarily set in France. The new rebates return to producers 20% of qualifying local spending up to a maximum of about $5.5 million per project.
His cause will soon get a boost from Luc Besson’s Cite du Cinema — now under construction near Paris — which will create a French studio competitive with those at Pinewood in the U.K. and Babelsberg in Germany.
But Mitterrand has his work cut out for him. As in the U.S., France’s tax credits are under assault from fiscal conservatives trying to deal with ballooning budget deficits. “In parliament there are senators and deputies who can’t accept these sorts of so-called irregularities,” Mitterrand said. “I do everything I can and use my influence and fight those who oppose them.”
When the conversation turns to France’s domestic biz, Mitterrand, like his predecessors, is unhappy with the number of locally produced pictures showing on French screens — 40% vs. the 60% share of foreign films, most of which are American.
“I’m not one of those arrogant Frenchmen,” he said, “but the proportion of French films could be a bit higher. That would be better for our industry, which is so fragile.”
Bookings & Signings
Sandra Marsh & Associates signings: art director Molly Hughes (“War Horse”), stunt coordinator/2nd unit director Melissa Stubbs (“My Bloody Valentine”) and costume designer Marina Draghici (“Precious”). Agency has booked line producer Gina Marsh on BBC’s “Harry the Undisclosed,” d.p. Jean-Francois Hensgens on Joachim Lafosse’s “Aimer a perdre la raison,” production sound mixer Kirk Francis on Andrew Dominik’s “Cogan’s Trade,” editor Nancy Richardson on Michael Sucsy’s “The Vow,” music editor Simon Changer on Lynne Ramsey’s “We Need to Talk About Kevin” and Stubbs on ABC’s “Missing.”
Murtha Agency booked d.p.’s Brian Pearson on David Von Ancken’s “Awakening,” Amy Vincent on Brad Silberling’s “Hail Mary,” and Robert Yeoman on Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom”; 2nd unit director/d.p. Robbie Greenberg on Peter Hedges’ “The Odd Life of Timothy Green,” Steadicam/camera operator Ralph Watson on Tim McCanilies’ “When Angels Sing”; production designers Bob Shaw on Tommy Schlamme’s “Pan Am,” Naomi Shohan on Ron Howard’s “The Dark Tower,” Adam Stockhausen on “Moonrise Kingdom” and Dennis Washington on Antonie Fuqua’s “Exit Strategy”; and costume designer/production designer Patricia Norris on Andrew Dominik’s “Cogan’s Trade.”
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