Paris Images: High-flying Gallic TV Dramas Boosts France’s Epinay Studios Biz

France’s oldest studios benefit from one of its newest big production phenoms

Studios Epinay
Photo by Martin Dale

PARIS — Founded in 1907 by film lab and production company Eclair, Epinay Studios is France’s oldest studio complex, used by greats such as Marcel Carne, Jean Renoir, Milos Forman and Bertrand Blier. Epinay has four studios, including its famous 16,145 sq. ft. “F” stage, plus two 8,600 sq. ft. stages and one 2,150 sq. ft. stage.

Last year was a strong one for the studio, according to sales executive Eric Moreau. Productions included a major primetime comedy TV series, “PEPs” (a French acronym for “parents, students and teachers”), which has been lensing at Epinay for the past three years, occupying the two 8,600 sq. ft.stages. It has just completed its final season.

Moreau explains that there is increasing demand for studio space to film TV fiction, but that it’s important to reserve space for cinema production. For example, in 2015, Olivier Baroux’s comedy “Entre Amis,” starring Daniel Auteuil, wanted to film at Epinay, but due to lack of studio space, had to film in Luc Besson’s Cité du Cinema.

“We want to be available for film productions,” Moreau says. “It can be difficult to strike the right balance, because French TV fiction is enjoying very high ratings, while imported fiction is less popular. But the global strategy of the TSF group is to be able to respond to demands to shoot feature films.”

Production houses that regularly use Epinay Studios include top shingles such as Les Productions du Trésor, Mandarin and Fidélité. Feature films shot at the studios in 2015 incllude Roschy Zem’s awaited Omar Sy-starrer “Chocolat” and comedy saga installment “Brice de Nice 3,” directed by James Huth.

Moreau hopes that the reinforced domestic and international tax rebate programss will provide a further boost to production in 2016.

The studios are committed to improving their offer and in early March will be installing a three-side green screen cyclorama that can be used by feature films, TV fiction and commercials.

Epinay has several shoots confirmed for 2016 including Guillaume Canet’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll,” starring Johnny Hallyday and Marion Cotillard, which is currently lensing in the studios. It will be followed by the sequel to Frédéric Forestier’s and Thomas Langmann’s “Stars 80,” and a series of six 50-minute telefilms, that will shoot in the summer.

Moreau emphasizes that there is a lot of competition, both within the Paris area and from Belgium, but says that his clients all say it’s a pleasure to work at Epinay, given the quality of the lighting equipment and cameras, machinery and trucks.

The studios are under new management since July 2009, when Eclair sold the site to French production services company TSF, run by Thierry de Segonzac, who is also prexy of French technicians union FICAM.

Integration within the group has offered new synergies; Epinay Studios represents around 4%-5% of TSF’s global annual revenue. TSF is one of the largest operators in the French production services market, whose main business includes camera and lighting hire.

“TSF was the first company to develop a global service for producers, offering a one-stop shop. This creates leverage for negotiating the best prices.”