2014 was Record Year for U.S and Asian Productions Shooting in France

Pics confirmed for 2015 include Keith Parner’s action thriller, ‘The Penrose Affair’

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Image courtesy of Lionsgate

PARIS: France hosted an unprecedented number of major Hollywood productions in France in 2014, including “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay,” “Bastille Day” and NBC mini-series “Rosemary’s Baby.” The number of high-budget Asian productions also rose.

Foreign shoots confirmed in France in 2015 include Keith Parner’s “The Penrose Affair,” according to information disclosed by France’s national cinema agency, the CNC. 

Parner is prepping an action thriller about a French detective in Paris, combining influences from Hitchcock and Pierre Morel’s “Taken,” and reportedly to star Jean-Claude Van Damme.  The pic will be produced by Film Invaders, which also produced his previous Van Damme-starrer, “Swelter.”

Tax Rebate for International Production (TRIP) financing for animation films currently in production include three projects from Universal set up at Illumination Mac Guff – “The Secret Life of Pets” by Chris Renaud (“Despicable Me”), Untitled (IMG 6) Project by Garth Jennings (“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”) and a Pets Project DVD short, by Bruno Chauffard (CG supervisor on “Despicable Me” 1 and 2). 

An untitled “Heist” project by DreamWorks has also been approved under the TRIP scheme, according to CNC data.

2014 was a particularly busy year for international productions in France, including “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay,” NBC’s mini-series “Rosemary’s Baby,” the BBC series “Death in Paradise 4,” the Bill Mechanic-produced “The Moon and the Sun,” Disney’s science fiction mystery film “Tomorrowland,” Susanna White’s “Our Kind of Traitor,” James Watkins’ “Bastille Day” and Whit Stillman’s Amazon pilot, “The Cosmopolitans.”

France is also increasing hosting productions from India, China and Japan and Film France’s COO, Franck Priot, is confident that this reflects a rising trend. 

Four major Asian productions were approved under TRIP in 2014: Hajimé Hashimoto’s “Le Château de La Reine” (Japan), Leon Lai Ming’s “Wine Wars” (China), Ali Imtiaz’s “Tamasha” (India) and Kohei Oguri’s “Foujita” (Japan).

“Reine” is based on Jiro Asada’s novel “Ouhi no Yakata”, and is due to bow in April 2015. It’s the first Japanese film to have lensed at the Palace of Versailles.

“Wine Wars” is an action pic, directed by Lai Ming (“Forever Enthralled”), in which he plays a red wine merchant.

“Tamasha” is a romantic drama set in Corsica, starring Deepika Padukone who portrays a fan of the French cartoon series, Asterix, with a December 2015 release.

“Foujita” is a biopic about artist Leonard Foujita, a contemporary of Picasso and Modigliani, who was famous for mixing European and Japanese styles. The pic is a European-Asian co-production involving “Amelie” and “Betty Blue” producer Claudie Ossard, together with K&A Kikaku and Oguri Kohei Office. It had a 23-day shoot in Paris.

81 works from 15 different countries have benefited from the TRIP scheme since it was introduced in 2009. 

In December 2014 the scheme was upwardly revised, to be effective from Jan. 1, 2016, with an increase in the rate (from 20% to 30%) and in the ceiling (from €20 million ($22.4 million) to €30 million ($34 million)). 

This increase, complemented by the recent shift in the dollar-euro exchange rate, have suddenly made shooting in France much more enticing, especially for productions that can schedule production or post-production work in 2016, thus benefiting from the new 30% rate (and presuming the European Central Bank’s €60 billion ($70 billion) quantitative easing will not boost the Euro to past levels).

In 2013, TRIP-qualified foreign shoot spend in France exceeded $136.7 million – 7% of global French production spend. Data for 2014 has not yet been disclosed but is expected to be well above that amount. A total spend of over $600 million has been invested in France since the scheme was launched.

France also hosts many international co-productions that are not covered by TRIP, since they qualify as official French films and can thereby benefit from the broader incentive schemes available in the country. There are also an increasing number of foreign commercials that lens in France.

Until now, an annual average of nine-to-10 live-action foreign features have been shot over the past two years in France under the TRIP scheme, complemented by VFX work, animation films and series and TV series.

Films financed under the TRIP scheme require a line-producer based in France. 

In 2014, John Bernard, at Peninsula, line-produced Lionsgate’s “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay,” Legendary’s “As Above / So Below” and Disney’s “Tomorrowland.” He confides that the pic’s producers were delighted with the results.

“A huge unit arrived in France for ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay’ and we came in on time and under budget. Lionsgate was extremely pleased with what they got on screen. Setting one of the districts and part of the Capitol in France gave the film a very distinctive look.”

Filming on “Games” took place in various parts of France, including Parisian suburb Noisy-le-Grand.

Bernard is currently prepping three films for 2015, all with extensive shoots in France: Two in the Paris-Ile de France region, and one in the South of France. He explains that producers are increasingly exploring synergies between the advantages of shooting in France and the country’s strong post-production and VFX sector.

In 2014, Raphael Benoliel, at Firstep, line-produced The Ink Factory’s U.K./French co-production “Our Kind of Traitor,” shot in Paris and the Alps, Whit Stillman’s “The Cosmopolitans,” and James Watkins’ “Bastille Day,” for Studiocanal and Vendome International. He has several mid-budget projects ($10 million-$15 million) planned for 2015. 

 “All my 2014 shoots went very well. For example, on ‘Bastille Day’ the U.K. crew was raving about the quality of the French technicians. Ink Factory are also keen to return to France in 2015,” he states.

“The exchange rate is currently in our favor and next year the rebate on the TRIP scheme will increase from 20% to 30% – that’s a huge competitive difference.”

Benoliel explains that prior to the swing in exchange rates, several projects were delayed or relocated from France, including a project for Disney where the producers finally opted for the U.K.. 

The outlook for 2015 looks extremely promising given the rising trend towards productions from Asia, the upward revision of TRIP and the knock-on effect of recent exchange rate changes.

John Bernard sums up: “The key thing is to take a long-term view. For example, the exchange rate has altered dramatically in the last six to eight weeks. It’s difficult to see what the long-term impact will be, but I’m definitely getting more calls over the last 10 days than I did before.”