Valerie Pécresse
Photo by Martin Dale

French politicians support cinema. But few than the first woman president of France’s wealthiest region

PARIS — Valerie Pécresse, president of the Ile de France region – comprising Paris and environs — is a prominent 48-year-old politician who served as the minister for universities and research under former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, and as adviser to his predecessor, Jacques Chirac. A movie fan, she decorated her campaign offices with film posters and on the electoral trail expressed her fondness for the “Star Wars” saga, frequently referring to the famous Jedi motto “May the force be with you” in her speeches. She won the much-disputed election for the Ile de France region last December, becoming the first woman to lead France’s largest and wealthiest region.

The Ile de France region is the biggest film production hub in France and directly employs around 140,000 people. How can the region help the sector become even stronger ?

The Ile de France region plays a major role in the French film and audiovisual industry. It has the highest concentration of expertise, talent and companies in this field in France, and probably in Europe.

Over the last 15 years, the regional council has maintained an active policy in favor of cinema and its associate industries, with special attention to safeguarding the creation of new works. I hope that the region will now be able to provide even stronger assistance to this sector that plays a crucial role in the economic development of our territory. Regional aid will be swiftly improved to make it even easier to host French and foreign high-budget films, which have a major economic impact. The region will also promote the establishment of support systems for writers.

At the Paris Images Location Expo, you emphasized how important the increase to the tax rebate program has been to make sure French and international productions shoot in France, including in the Ile de France region. Why do you think that tax rebates are so important?

European competition for attracting the shoots of films or TV series is fierce. For example, we can think of Belgium and certain Eastern European countries. Even though the Ile de France region harbors major heritage assets, runaway shoots reached 74% last year, a record high. These figures confirm that we must be more competitive. And this of course means improving our tax incentives. I welcome the improvement in the tax rebate for international productions (TRIP) that has been in force since January 1, 2016. Combined with a more proactive effort from the region, we should be able to attract many more shoots to the Ile de France region.

What have been the main projects supported by the Ile de France regional film support system over the last 12 months?

A significant part of the “cultural” budget in the Ile de France region is invested in the film and audiovisual industries. From “arthouse” to “mainstream” films, many leading names of French cinema have received aid from the Region. Our achievements include the Palme d’Or and Best Actress Awards at Cannes, and numerous Cesar awards. And since you ask me about the most recent film, I would cite the example of “Dheepan” by Jacques Audiard, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2015, or “Saint Laurent” by Bonnello Bertrand, which was selected as France’s candidate for the foreign-language Academy Award in 2015.

Do you foresee reinforcing the Ile de France regional film support system?

I hope that our region welcomes more foreign film shoots. My goal is to make it easier for foreign film crews to shoot in Paris and the Ile de France region.

We also want to boost the government’s tax incentive by creating a special aid for French and foreign films that have a strong economic impact. As I already mentioned: This is a major industry in our territory. Each euro of subsidy granted by the Regional Council generates 16 euros of revenues for the Region.

The Ile de France is one of the most highly filmed regions in the world. What is, in your opinion, the main reason for this tremendous interest ?

That’s because this is the most beautiful region in the world! The Ile de France is a treasure trove of architectural and artistic gems. It houses the legacy of centuries of French and European history and civilization. Versailles, the castles of Rambouillet, Vaux-le-Vicomte, Fontainebleau … Breathtaking cathedrals such as Notre Dame de Paris. Our capital, Paris, is the world’s most visited city. It was in the Ile de France region that the Impressionists painted their greatest masterpieces. We have beautiful forests. I could go on forever: There is simply no equivalent in Europe!

And our region has been film friendly for many decades. Ranging from the Cité du Cinéma to the studios in Aubervilliers and Bry-sur-Marne, not to mention the quality of our technical industries, Ile de France is a true haven for the seventh art.

Do you consider the region “film friendly,” and if so why?

Absolutely! You know, I love movies, I devour them. I try to go to the cinema as often as my schedule allows me to, and I soon hope to have the opportunity to see “Chocolate,” the latest feature film by Roschy Zem starring Omar Sy, which was released two days ago in France, as well as “The Hateful Eight,” by Quentin Tarantino! As a big film fan, I will ensure that the region becomes even more film friendly. But this is obviously not just a question of personal taste: Our territory has a long-lasting love story with the cinema. For the people living in our region, cinema is a serious matter. Many jobs and the business activity of many companies depend on this sector.

Do international productions bring a new perspective on the region? Are there any specific recent examples that come to mind?

Cinema is an economic showcase for the region in the world. It’s a considerable asset for our public image. It’s also for this reason that I wish to attract large-scale international productions, including major U.S. productions, and make Ile de France the regional capital of cinema.

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