As French outfits move to expand their studio offerings, industry eyes have turned to a 20-hectare stretch of land 20 miles south of Paris. There, in the commune Plessis-Pâté, sits the TSF Backlot 217, a converted air base that has become one the Gallic industry’s banner initiatives.
One of France’s leading production suppliers, TSF scoped the onetime military airfield for the 2017 shoot of Jean-Francois Richet’s period thriller, “The Emperor of Paris.” Rather than relocating to Eastern Europe, the film’s design team recreated the cobblestone streets of 19th century Paris on the former base’s two miles of unused tarmac. Delighted with the results, TSF renamed the base Backlot 217, and opened it for business the following year.
Since then, the backlot has been used for a variety of commercials and period films, with the long stretch of runway recreating the streets of Paris for Roman Polanski’s recent “An Officer and a Spy,” for Pathé’s 2021 film “Eiffel.” For that Romain Duris-led biopic of the famous engineer, production designers built a scale model of Eiffel Tower’s base, resulting in a shoot that was well covered by the local press and in TSF’s own promotional materials.
While the location also features both a full Airbus A300 and a cockpit refitted to accommodate production, TSFs marketing director Laurent Kleindienst has been also equally vocal about the backlot’s future plans. “Altogether we have between 50-60 acres of land,” he says. “Which we plan to use for production bureaus, workshops and soundstages.”
TSF has already started building six soundstages of various scales, with three more planned in the long term. Ranging from 1,200-4,000 square meters, the six studios under construction should be ready for September 2021. In the meantime, Kleindienst is out there promoting his company’s services to producers in need of studio space.
“There’s been an explosion of series production, and that’s going to continue for the next few years,” he notes. “[One American executive] told me what she needed in terms of studio space for just one show, and it was larger than all the studios in France combined. But that is going to change with what we’re building.”
“Studio sets are really busy all around the world,” he adds. “When I met with American producers this past November, they asked us to please open as quickly as possible. And when I got back to France, the first thing I did is call up our CEO and said, “we need to be very, very quick!’”