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Filming in France More Complicated in Wake of Recent Terror Attacks

For the makers of “Mission: Impossible 6,” the biggest challenge might not be how to keep the franchise fresh, but how to keep shooting the action-packed film in France. In the wake of recent terrorist attacks that have killed more than 230 people, filming in the country is more complicated because of increased security.

France has served as the backdrop for many high-voltage action movies, including “The Bourne Identity,” “Taken,” and “Lucy.” But ever since the Charlie Hebdo massacre in January 2015 in Paris, authorities have been reluctant to allow the filming of sequences featuring explosive violence. With the country now locked down after the recent attacks in Paris and Nice, getting permits to shoot action scenes has become almost impossible.

“The official word from authorities is that we can’t film car chases, bank robberies, shootings, or actors dressed in police and military outfits, because these scenes could disrupt public safety and create confusion and panic among residents,” says Raphael Benoliel, a French line producer who worked on Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris.”

According to producer Matthias Weber of 2425 Films, the restrictions recently pushed director Yann Gozlan to consider relocating the shoot of his thriller “Burn Out” from Paris to Amsterdam. Gozlan eventually opted to film certain scenes on private property in Paris, rather than on the street. Director Jalil Lespert did the same for his thriller “Iris.”

“The official word from authorities is that we can’t film car chases, bank robberies, shootings, or actors dressed in police and military outfits, because these scenes could disrupt public safety.”
Producer Raphael Benoliel

Officials emphasize that France remains open for business when it comes to filming. In spite of the volatile security situation, an increase in the government tax rebate from 20% to 30% has helped make 2016 a record year for production so far. The rebate was a key factor in attracting projects such as “Fifty Shades Darker” and Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk.”

But terrorism has taken its toll on France’s industry. After last November’s attacks in Paris, all filming permits were suspended briefly, including for David Michod’s “War Machine,” with Brad Pitt; the film’s two-day shoot in the French capital was postponed to January.

Mission: Impossible 6,” which could start filming in January 2017, according to sources, will need to operate under new, more stringent practices, though authorities appear willing to work with filmmakers on ways around the restrictions.

“It just requires that more resources have to be used and rules followed,” says Michel Gomez, who heads Mission Cinema, the organization that coordinates all Paris filming. “Shoots must be well-publicized to residents and neighbors in order to avoid disruption to the public order, and when weapons or explosions are used, they have to be soundproofed.”

Gomez cited Michel Hazanavicius’ film “Le Redoutable,” which is currently being shot in Paris. The action takes place in May 1968, and shows scenes of riots in the capital, with actors dressed as cops.

“Our big advantage is that it’s a period film,” says François Pulliat, a veteran head of production who’s working on “Le Redoutable.” “So our police costumes are from 1968 — they’re easily identifiable. It limits any possible confusion by residents.”

Under Siege
France and Belgium have been targeted by terrorists in recent years.
Paris Jan. 15
17 people were killed at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo
Paris Nov. 15
Attacks at the Bataclan music hall and elsewhere killed 130 people
Brussels March 16
3/16 Airport and subway attacks killed 32
Nice July 16
A truck attack killed 84 people on Bastille Day

The shoot called for eight days of demonstrations, which required closing down a large area, and having real police officers on the ground to maintain order. “We knew it would have been extremely difficult to get permits to shoot these scenes on the Champs Élysées in the middle of May. That’s why we chose to film them during the first two weeks of August -— a very quiet period — in an area that’s not as affluent,” Pulliat says. When they blew up a car, he adds, the production used soundproofing material.

Security concerns in Europe have also forced insurance firms such as Tokyo Marine, Circle, Axxa, and Allianz to increasingly take into account the risk of terrorist attacks, restricting coverage and in some cases increasing premiums. In 2013, Allianz launched a crisis-management division specializing in terrorism coverage that can be sold in conjunction with a film insured by Allianz or separately.

“We do have a volatile security environment in certain countries,”- including France, Belgium, and Germany,” says Bjoern Reusswig, executive underwriter for terrorism insurance at Allianz. “But in general, all film shoots and events in France are insurable.”

Policies usually cover losses due to terrorist incidents within a defined radius around the filming location. A different bond is required for losses from the threat of terrorism rather than an actual attack. In the case of a threat, a local authority has to order or recommend stopping or delaying the shoot.

Weber, who was shooting “The Eavesdropper” with François Cluzet in the Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek during the massive police operation that followed the March 22 terror attacks in Belgium, lost a permit to shoot a scene at the local police station. Shooting the scene weeks later cost an additional €40,000, but the production’s insurance policy covered the loss.

Despite the new obstacles, producer Benoliel is confident that France will remain a draw for Hollywood. Though some American producers are now as concerned about filming in France as they would be in the Middle East, he says, they keep coming. “The danger can be everywhere,” he adds, “and France is France — we’ll always have iconic sites and good tax rebates.”

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