Diluting the French whine

'Engagement' party fizzled, but new lures loom

By stripping Jean-Pierre Jeunet‘s “A Very Long Engagement” of its French status, the Gauls seem to have slammed the door on Hollywood.

Even though the film’s producer, 2003 Prods., is officially French, a French court decided that because it’s controlled by employees of Warner Bros. France it is really a Trojan horse by which the major was trying to breach the Gallic subsidy system.

But while Warners cries over spilt milk — and the estimated $4 million in lost production subsidies — all may not be lost.

There is growing talk in French film circles that outside investors must not be frightened away.

In short, the French production industry needs the money. And its struggling infrastructure needs to keep its 70,000-odd film and TV workers gainfully employed.

Recently, the Ile de France Film Commission made a tubthumping trip to Hollywood to say that its E11 million production fund is open to anyone who cares to shoot part of a movie in Paris or its surrounding areas.

Others in Gaul are coming around to the view that more incentives are needed to attract U.S. coin. Right now, France is disadvantaged compared to Britain, where shooting a movie costs 20% less — and they speak English.

Gallic authorities are quietly examining ways to woo foreign coin, and tax incentives similar to the U.K.’s could be one option.

This being France, such moves are going to take a lot of negotiating.

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