More episodes of a major primetime comedy TV series, “PEPs” (a French acronym for “parents, students and teachers”) will lense at the Epinay Studios in 2014. The studios are also in advanced negotiations for a major international production.
Founded in 1907 by film lab and production company Eclair, the studios have been viewed for decades as the sanctuary of French cinema having played host to giants of French and European cinema, such as Marcel Carne, Jean Renoir, Milos Forman and Bertrand Blier, and to productions such as “Moonraker”, “Ronin”, “Asterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra”.
The studios are under new management since July 2009, when Eclair sold the site to French production services company TSF, run by Thierry de Segonzac, who is also prexy of French technicians union, FICAM.
TSF is one of the largest operators in the French production services market, whose main business includes camera and lighting hire.
Integration within the group has offered new synergies; Epinay Studios represents around 4%-5% of TSF’s global annual turnover.
Recent major productions at Epinay Studios include Michael Haneke’s Palme d’Or winner, “Amour”, Pascale Ferran’s “Bird People,” and Laurent Tirard’s “Les vacances du Petit Nicolas”.
In 2013 the studios also hosted part of Lasse Hallstrom’s “The Hundred Foot Journey,” that divided its shoot between Epinay Studios and the Paris Studios.
Both Epinay Studios and Paris Studios are located in the Paris Saint Denis region, three miles from each other.
Epinay has four studios, including its famous 16,145 sq. ft. “F” stage, plus 8,600 sq. ft.stages and one 2,150 sq. ft. stage.
The studios were sold to TSF after experiencing a major crisis in 2008 due to a conjunction of factors.
Eclair approved a divestment strategy in the wake of the global economic crisis and falling levels of film laboratory work.
At the same time, Luc Besson, one of the studios’ main clients, inked a deal with competitor Euro Media Group, and withdrew his productions from the site, thus causing a sudden drop in occupation of the facilities.
TSF’s commercial executive, Eric Moreau, considered that under new management the studios have succeeded in rebuilding a viable level of business but believes that demand for studios in France overall has recorded a downward trend over the past five years.
Epinay Studios hosted five feature films in 2013, but Moreau noted that the number of studio shoot days per production has fallen – now standing at only around five studio days per film (plus a further one-to-two months of set building).
This is partly due to directors desire to shoot in exteriors, Moreau argued.
He emphasized the importance of green-screening techniques that have helped cater to this aesthetic goal within traditional studio space.
On “Amour”, Epinay created the film’s main apartment set at the centre of the main “F” sound stage, then used green screens to simulate the street action beyond, thus generating the “real-life” feel sought by Michael Haneke.
Even Epinay’s smallest, 2,150 sq. ft., studio, equipped with a cyclorama, has been used on feature shoots using green screens.
In 2014, Moreau expects a rise in both international shoots and also French productions since the latter are cutting back on runaway shoots, due to a revamped domestic tax rebate scheme.
One example is the Laurent Tirard’s “Nicholas on Holiday,” based on the children’s books by “Asterix”-scribe Rene Goscinny, which lensed in the studio in 2013.
The first film, 2009’s “Little Nicholas,” was shot in Belgium, tapping into its tax rebate scheme. For the sequel, however, the producers decided to shoot in France, and brought the sets used on the first film with them. It will be released in France in summer 2014.