France’s second biggest region, Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur – or “PACA” for short – is one of the most highly filmed parts of France, hosting approximately 20% of all French shoots.
The region’s multiple attractions include the mountain landscapes of the French Alps, the picturesque countryside and villages of Provence, and the bustling cities of Marseilles and Nice. The region also incorporates the Cote d’Azur – including Cannes and the glamour of the French Rivieira — which recently attracted Woody Allen to shoot scenes there for “Magic in the Moonlight.”
The region has existing studio facilities in Marseille’s Belle de Mai media park, with four soundstages, and a further 10 soundstages in the Nice-based Studios Riviera (formerly Studios La Victorine).
But the region’s studio offerings will soon be considerably augmented thanks to 40-year-old Marseilles-based logistics entrepreneur Olivier Marchetti, who has decided to transform a former warehouse area, with a 280,000-square-foot covered area, 32,000 square feet of office space and 54 acres of backlot, into a new studio facility – Provence Studios.
Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp has rented Provence Studios for its TF1 series “No Limit” and has been shooting the third season there since March.
The new facility is located in Martigues, on the city’s maritime boulevard, with easy access to the Mediterranean coast and a 20-minute car ride from Marseilles Airport. The studios include office space, meeting rooms, restaurant and canteen and expect to house equipment rental houses in 2015.
In addition to Marchetti’s private investment in the new venture, additional regional funding has been provided by the Bouches-du-Rhône economy development agency, Provence Promotion, the town of Martigues and the Marseille-Provence Chamber of Commerce. According to the developers, the project’s total investment is estimated to be around €10 million ($11.36 million).
The studio project was officially launched in September during the Festival de la Fiction de la Rochelle, and Marchetti attended this year’s Paris Images Location Expo, held Feb. 3-4.
Vassili Meimaris, president of the Provence-Alps-Cote d’Azur Film Commission — an umbrella body that coordinates the work of 13 film commissions and agencies in the region – spoke to Variety about the new studio facility and other activities within the PACA region.
French TV series frequently shoot in the region. Recent international productions include Allen’s “Moonlight” (which received a $227,000 grant from the PACA film commission) and the French-Belgian-German-Italian crime drama TV series “Crossing Lines,” which lensed in Nice.
“We can offer a bit of everything in the region,” Meimaris suggests. “We have iconic picturesque locations in the Cote d’Azur, the Luberon or the French Alps, but we also have large cities, in particular Marseilles, that include abandoned industrial areas and sprawling derelict neighborhoods that are attractive for certain productions.”
The PACA region continues to host regular number of shoots, but Meimaris notes that there was a slight slowdown in productions in the region in the second half of 2014, as French productions relocated to cheaper locations in Eastern Europe.
He hopes that the hike from 20% to 30% in Gaul’s domestic and international tax rebate programs, effective Jan. 1, 2016, will reverse this situation.
“Our region is extremely attractive for both film productions and for tourism in general,” he concluded. “Reinforcing our offer of studio facilities in the zone provides a natural complement to our excellent locations and will inevitably increase our competitive edge.”