There is no more imposing chateau in the world than the palace of Fontainebleau. 34 miles from the center of Paris, surrounded by immense parkland, Fontainebleau was built and added to by multiple French monarchs down the centuries. It became its finest Renaissance palace and a favorite site of Napoleon, who abdicated there in 1814. Roland Joffe’s “Vatel,” “Cyrano de Bergerac” and “The Man in the Iron Mask” shot at the Chateau. Now Fontainebleau wants more movies to follow suit. Continuing its series of Q & As on some of the Paris region’s classic locations, Variety talks to Jean-François Hebert, president of Palace of Fontainebleau.
Please identify some of the key film productions that have shot in the Chateau de Fontainebleau in 2013 and that are planned – and can be announced – for 2014?
Film production is part of a development process that has helped generate a significant increase in the number of visitors. Since becoming a public establishment in 2009, the Chateau de Fontainebleau has attracted an additional 100,000 visitors, rising from 350,000 to 450,000 annual visits – a near 30% increase over three years. 60% of these visitors come from foreign countries. The Chateau has thus attained increasing visibility and attracts film professionals from all over the world.
With the help of the Ile de France Film Commission, the Chateau de Fontainebleau intends to further strengthen its promotion as a location for film productions and increase the number of films shot in its stately rooms and outdoor zones.
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In 2013, the chateau hosted the shooting of two major music videos: by the French techno artist Gesaffelstein for the single “Pursuit” and the English singer Anna Calvi for the song “Love of My Life”, seen by more than 300 000 viewers.
Fontainebleau is particularly well known in Asia and many directors and location managers contact the Chateau for film commercials. In 2013, the Korean director Lim Ji-hoon shot a commercial for the cosmetic brand, Missha in the Ballroom. The Chateau has also welcomed location managers from Hong Kong for a romantic TV series, to be shot in 2014.
This spring, the Chateau expects to play host to one of the major French TV period dramas.
How have you improved your services in order to attract more productions?
With a great variety of historic and natural locations, the Chateau also offers good facilities and is particularly attentive to ensuring that film productions are given a high quality of service. A canteen can be set up on site, electricity is provided free of charge, rooms are offered for make-up, and wardrobe… Some rooms and spaces at the Chateau are available anytime any day for shoots without disturbing, or being disturbed by, visitors.
Can you give examples of the variety of different uses that have been made of the Chateau, for filming?
The Chateau has mainly been used for period movies or TV series, such as “Vatel” by Roland Joffe, “Cyrano de Bergerac” with Gerard Depardieu or “The Man in the Iron Mask,” directed by Randall Wallace.
Recently, the Chateau has caught the eye of avant-garde music. Before Gesaffelstein and Anna Calvi, the Chateau served as the setting for the music video, “Born to Die,” by Lana Del Rey, seen by more than 140 million viewers.
The Chateau is open to any kind of project, from period movies to action movies and thrillers. The rich history of the Chateau, which has served as the home to 34 monarchs, is suitable for a wide array of potential stories and plots that can be adapted into films.
Do you have any special relationship with other film locations in the Paris/Ile de France region?
The Chateau de Fontainebleau maintains close relations with the Ile de France Film Commission. A fam trip with over 50 location managers has already been organized at the Chateau. Fontainebleau has also taken part in the Ile de France’s Location Expo event over the last three years, to promote its locations to film professionals. Each year in July, the Chateau is also the partner of Serie Series, the first worldwide event exclusively dedicated to television series by and for those who make them. On this occasion, the Chateau conducts visits for TV professionals from all over the world who have been invited to the festival.
What are your objectives for 2014?
Enhance the number of productions coming to the Chateau and attract major feature films. The Chateau dreams of hosting a film or a TV series in which it would be the main location, a film talking about its history, the characters who have lived, loved and died here. In 2014, the Chateau is celebrating the 200th anniversary of Napoleon’s first abdication – that was signed here, on the so-called horseshoe staircase. We’re ready to welcome the next major project about Napoleon!