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Why Filming in Monte Carlo Doesn’t Have to Break the Bank

Home to the super-rich, the Monte Carlo quarter of Monaco has a long tradition as a filming location for projects that want to convey the glamorous lifestyles of the wealthy elite.

Just 1.24 miles across (about half the size of New York’s Central Park), Monte Carlo has nevertheless squeezed in an array of high-end productions, such as James Bond films “Never Say Never Again” and “Golden Eye,” “Ocean’s Twelve,” “Iron Man 2” and TV drama “Riviera.”

Many of them come for iconic Monte Carlo locations such as the Casino de Monte Carlo, the Hotel de Paris Monte Carlo and Casino Square, while taking in the yachts in the harbor and making the most of the approximately 330 days of sunshine on the French Riviera.

Monaco adds a natural and inimitable touch of glamour and luxury to all films,” says Axel Hoppenot, exec VP of sales and marketing at the Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer (SBM), the government-owned body that manages and owns many of Monaco’s casinos, hotels, restaurants, bars, nightclubs and beach clubs.

Hoppenot says the principality’s department of communication will issue an authorization to film after reading the script. Additional permission is then needed from SBM to shoot at its venues. SBM can, he says, offer a “one-stop shop” contact to help coordinate all shooting.

However, the two key challenges about shooting in Monaco are the very things that draw in filmmakers: it’s pricey and it’s home to very rich people who value their privacy. Closing a main street for a shoot, for example, can have a serious knock-on effect in such a densely packed environment. There’s also no tax breaks available for filming.

As such, it’s not a place you would necessarily choose to shoot unless you needed to tap into its unique attributes.

But, if you want to shoot Monaco for Monaco, it’s feasible to do so. Hoppenot recommends having a script that is in line with the image of Monaco wants to convey: that it is chic, elegant and glamorous. Booking ahead is also advised to guarantee the availability of venues, while the quieter November-to-March period is the best time to film.

“Riviera” producer Foz Allan reckons the Sky Atlantic drama shot around 15% of its recent season in Monaco. He describes the show as “a peek behind the billionaire’s curtain,” making Monaco a perfect backdrop. “Riviera” shot many of its exteriors in Monaco to add flavor and tone to the drama, but then built its interiors, including casinos, elsewhere in France.

Allan also says Monaco wasn’t as costly to film in as might be imagined.

“It was expensive because we were using boats and high-end cars, but they are expensive whether you are in Nice or Monte Carlo. But I don’t think the environment was expensive.”

Allan, who also runs his own indie Bryncoed, says the authorities were very helpful and supportive. “It is a principality — and the prince’s mother [Grace Kelly] was an actress. By that I mean they are by default supportive, provided you are not too disruptive.”

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