Jean Paul Huchon – ‘Watching ‘Inception,’ You’ll Say That We Have Beautiful Universities and Divine Architects’

President of the Ile-de-France regional council talks about his film support policy

Jean Paul Huchon - 'Watching 'Inception,'

67-year old French politician, Jean Paul Huchon, member of the Socialist Party, has served as the President of the regional council for Ile de France since 1998. During his mandate he has made a major commitment to cinema, including launch of the Ile de France film production fund in 2001 and the Ile de France Film Commission in 2004. He agreed to be interviewed by Variety for the Ile de France Location Expo e-show dailies.

What are the successes and challenges of the Ile de France regional film support system, launched in 2001?

We have launched two different initiatives, that have both been highly effective.
 The first is the film and TV support fund, that since 2001, has funded nearly 600 films in the region and fostered a dynamic and growing sector. Since 2005, we’ve been spending about €15 million ($20.4 million) per year. Sometimes our support isn’t for big budget films, and therefore plays a vital role. Sometimes the funding allows producers to coproduce with others. And it works! Every euro we invest, generates over 15 euros spent in Ile de France and a total turnover of $1.77 billion.

The second initiative is the Ile de France Film Commission, that promotes the Ile de France internationally   : It enhances both the quality of our audiovisual companies and filming locations. And it’s also highly effective: Numerous foreign productions – in particular from the U.S. and Asia – are filming every year in the Ile de France region. In 2011, employment in the sector grew by 8%.

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?

Because it’s one of the most beautiful regions in the world, and makes us dream and will continue to do so for many years to come! Versailles, Montmartre and the quays along the River Seine continue to attract filmmakers. But that’s not all: the Palacio d’Abraxas in Noisy-le-Grand, for example, was used as a location in Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil” in 1985 and 30 years later, has attracted another great Hollywood director. It’s also thanks to the tremendous skills of the Ile de France’s 140,000 film and TV professionals, as well as our major studios, top screenwriters, and post-production facilities. Since 2009 we also have a tax rebate scheme that facilitates the reception of international productions. It’s important to remember that France is the third biggest film producing country in the world, after the United States and India, and 90% of the French audiovisual activity is concentrated here. We therefore have all the necessary conditions to make the Ile-de-France one of the world’s top shooting regions.

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

Yes, certainly! Firstly, because the people living in this region are major filmgoers – we make films, first and foremost, in order for them to be seen.
 Next because the region’s aid system preserves genuine artistic diversity. Without our regional aid, some films would never see the light of day … and would never have received a major award: I’m thinking for example about “Amour” by Michael Hanecke, but there are many others. And simply due to the fact that cinema is included within the “cultural exception” of which we are so very proud: Filmmaking is important in order to maintain strong creative activity, to promote the region internationally and raise awareness amongst all audiences. We develop extensive work with young people in the Ile de France region in order to help them discover some films that they may have never seen. So yes, from one end of the production chain to the other – from screenwriters to spectators – we’re extremely film-friendly.

Are there any new locations that have been made available to producers directly as a result of regional policy?

The regional support fund enables producers to avoid relocating their productions abroad: This is important – in order to maintain filming activity and technical skills. In 2013, we reduced the amount of shoots that relocate abroad by 30%
. Without our fund, a film such as Benoit Jaquot’s “The Diary of a Chambermaid”, wouldn’t have been shot here in 2014.  
The Ile de France Film Commission has also facilitated the opening of heritage sites which are not always known or available to the public. That’s also one of the key roles of the LocationExpo event.

Can you identify specific successes in terms of attracting foreign film productions?

This is the role that the region has attributed to our film commission, i.e. to receive foreign productions throughout the Ile de France, raise awareness of our territory abroad and capture the attention and interest of international productions. The successes can be measured in very practical terms – via the increase in foreign shoots in the region, the number of jobs … the Commission thus offers the world a beautiful window on our region.

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

It’s clear that films shot in the Ile-de-France help raise awareness of the region abroad. If you watch Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” or Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo,” you’ll encounter a reassuring vision of Paris, as a romantic and magical city! But if you take the plunge again, and watch “Inception,” you’ll say that we have beautiful universities and divine architects.

7) What are the areas of your film support policy that you want to develop and improve?

We’re in the process of improving our script development fund. It’s important for us to work alongside authors and screenwriters in the development of their projects. The construction of a film requires a solid foundation in terms of screenwriting, this is a phase that takes time and is sometimes highly complex. We want to be involved during this intense phase, that corresponds to the beginning of each film.

8) What specific initiatives (partnerships, etc.) are planned in this field in 2014? 

Authors have been invited for residencies, in order to develop their projects throughout the Ile de France, in places that they have chosen and with whom they will work in order to organise writing workshops, and other initiatives related to their project. This is of interest in order to generate life in a neighborhood, an institution, a specific place, in order to generate meaning, to create links through artistic initiatives that go beyond the film itself. This brings energy to the Ile de France and makes it a dynamic region.

9) This year, is the first edition of the Paris Images Trade Show. What benefits will this new initiative bring to the region?

The goal of the event is to draw people’s attention to the Ile de France region, with Paris in its center, but also to the region’s other zones, as a premier filmmaking territory that has a worldwide appeal. This territory is the result of multiple synergies and creativity and we’re proud to be able to show it to the world.