Didier Diaz, CEO of Transpalux, talked to Variety
PARIS – The Studios of Bry-sur-Marne, with eight sound stages and a total area of 20,000 square meters (215,000 square feet) is one of the largest studio complexes in France but was threatened with closure in early 2015, leading to a petition in the French film industry to save it.
Didier Diaz, CEO of equipment location company Transpalux, acquired the studios on April 15, 2015. Since then, he has given the studios a new lease of life, hosting major productions such as season one of “Versailles” in 2015.
Other productions in 2015 included “Planetarium,” by Rebecca Zlotowski (“Grand Central”), starring Natalie Portman and Lily Rose Depp; “Demain tout commence,” by Hugo Gélin, starring Omar Sy; and “Radin!,” by Fred Cavaye, produced by Jerico.
Other productions lensed or upcoming at the Studios de Bry include “Mon Poussin,” by Frederic Forestier (“Asterix and the Olympic Games”), and Pascal Bourdieux’s “Mes Tresors,” starring Jean Reno.
“Last year it looked very likely that the Studios de Bry would close,” explained Diaz.
“Everyone in the industry wanted it to stay open. It’s one of France’s most beautiful studios. At the time, I was managing Les Studios de Paris and I took the decision to acquire the Studios de Bry in agreement with Luc Besson. He knew about it.”
“We have truly re-launched the studios for foreign and French productions,” suggests Diaz. “The new rates for the tax rebate schemes will help a lot. We’re extremely grateful for this new development, because 2015 was a very difficult year for all sectors. With the new rates, French films will relocate to France instead of shooting abroad and we can attract more foreign shoots.”
“We have become an attractive country for films from the U.S., China and other parts of the world. We’re not competing directly with a country like the U.K. that is a special case and has the U.S. majors installed there. But France is the biggest producer of films in Europe and also has one of the largest box offices, so it’s essential that we also defend our technical infrastructure. Given the size of our production sector, our neighbors, such as Belgium, inevitably try to attract French productions.“
Diaz believes that one of the greatest strengths of the French film industry is the talent base of its technicians, whose skills are handed down from one generation to the next. If there is a sudden slump in production in France, due to the phenomenon of runaway productions, this process of knowledge transfer from one generation to the next will be lost.
He views the Studios de Bry, as a legendary place, built by Jean Charles Edeline, the chairman of public television services company SFP in the 1970s. One of the main attractions of the Studios de Bry for Diaz was the size of the back-lot, which can be used to store equipment, sets and also house production workshops, that enables ambitious production design projects to be developed, which he says played a vital role in hosting the “Versailles” TV series, which uses two sound stages and has already signed a provisional agreement for season three.
He says that for every square meter of studio space you require one-and-half-times as much space in the back-lot for workshops and storage areas. Given that the sound stages occupy around 86,000 square feet, this means that a further 130,000 square feet of backlot is required, which is available at Bry but is not available in many studios due to the cost associated to maintaining such a large surface area.
Roman Polanski’s “Carnage” was shot in the Studios de Bry in 2011, and in 2016 Diaz hopes to attract Polanski’s upcoming feature film, about the Dreyfus Affair.
“I have already made quite a lot of films with Polanski, such as ‘Frantic’,” explains Diaz. “When Polanski works in the studios, it electrifies the atmosphere. He has seen the workshops at Bry and he likes the studios for good reasons.”