Building on the critical success and renewed public interest drummed up by the Canal Plus series “The Bureau,” and inspired by the U.S. Defense Department’s various Hollywood liaison offices, France’s Ministry of Armed Forces launched its own outreach post, opening the Mission Cinéma in 2016.
Meant to be a one-stop-shop for all production needs, the Mission Cinéma presents itself as a single point of access to France’s defense department, offering filmmakers technical support, trainings sessions and immersive residencies free of charge.
In practical terms, that means coordinating requests for costumes, locations and highly guarded materials (including the Presidential plane, apparently a common request), while organizing creative scouting missions for screenwriters and producers, depositing film pros on aircraft carriers and letting them witness training drills in order to kindle the spark of imagination.
The Mission paired with director Jean-Jacques Annaud early in pre-production on his upcoming “Notre Dame on Fire,” putting the filmmaker in contact with the real firefighters who put out the blaze, offering access and advice and full technical support throughout the process.
“This office has one single goal,” says Mission Cinéma director Eve-Lise Blanc Deleuze. “To bring authenticity and credibility to a project. We’re not here to exalt the military and its activities. We don’t want a hagiography. We just want to show things as they actually are.”
“We work very closely with screenwriters and directors,” she continues. “Our job is to help with resemblance, not to recreate reality. The creative side is their responsibility; we are just happy to make available our technical skills, experience and materials in order to bring their visions to life.”
For 2019’s “The Wolf’s Call,” the Mission consulted with writer/director Antonin Baudry on questions of authenticity and protocols, offered technical consulting for the sets, and planned real nautical maneuvers to coincide with the shoot. “Even a big Hollywood production wouldn’t have the means to acquire a real submarine,” says Blanc Deleuze. “So we coordinated our own exercises with the shoot, making production a lot less costly!”
The Mission recently assisted two event series slated for 2022, helping the Amazon Prime produced “Black Hearts” evoke the 2016 Battle of Mosul, and the OCS original “Sentinels” recreate the Sahelian campaigns against Boko Haram.
And on the film front, they worked in a more intimate register, consulting on André Techiné’s “Feet on the Ground,” which follows a young soldier recovering from a traumatic injury, and on Robin Campillo’s “École de l’air,” which follows a boy growing up on a French military base in the 1970s. Both projects are aiming for Cannes.