France Opens Up Its Landmarks To Filmmakers

Big-name international helmers make use of national monuments

On top of launching its mega studio, the Cite du Cinema, France is opening up public landmarks — from the insides of psychiatric hospitals, to schools, to factories — for filmmakers eager to go off the beaten path.

For years, big-name international helmers — including Martin Scorsese (with “Hugo”) and Quentin Tarantino (“Inglorious Basterds”) — visited France to capture a snapshot of monuments and landmarks before headijng to the U.K., Germany or Eastern Europe for the lion’s share of the shoot.

But now that the tax rebate for international productions is about to be raised to ¤10 million ($13 million), Olivier Rene Veillon, the Ile de France Film Commission’s managing director, predicts Gaul will soon be hosting longer shoots. He encourages filmmakers to explore locations and places that are not necessarily featured in postcards.

Besides the Louvre museum, Versailles and the Cite Universitaire campus, Paris and its suburbs contain multiple unusual sites open to filmmakers. Among them: the prestigious Beaux-Arts art school, where Chinese series “Flowers and Fog” lensed over the summer, the French Horse and Riding Institute and the Gobelins tapestry factory, both centuries old.

Another newly popular site: The Maison Blanche, a former psychiatric hospital and a prison surrounded by 45 acres in Neuilly-sur-Marne. Helmer Michel Gondry’s “Mood Indigo” and Alice Winocour’s “Augustine” shot there.

Another location: the Daguerre property, comprising a castle, a house and an orphanage, nestled in a large park in Bry-sur-Marne — which also happens to be the home of a popular studio complex where a number of TV shows, series and films have been shot, including Roman Polanski’s “Carnage.”

In line with its initiatives to turn France into a film-friendlier state, Gaul’s government has also been easing immigration controls, including visa access, for non-national film talent. That will prove particularly beneficial to Chinese, Russian and Indian filmmakers, who were responsible for the lion’s share of foreign shoots in 2011 and 2012, Veillon points out.

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