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The French Connection

France, a charming and romantic country, holds out a bunch of promises – financial incentives, easy permissions and, most importantly, a culture of filmmaking. Franck Priot, COO of Film France, the French Film Commission, shares his views with Rohini Nag about his familiarity with the needs of Indian filmmakers

Can you share the procedure for film production in France?

It’s actually very simple to shoot in France because, basically, what you need is to legally enter France. That means you go to the French Consulate in India, you apply for a visa and you will be given a business visa. Then you visit France alone or with your crew. There is no blanket permission required to shoot in France. There is no system that you need to give submissions or any kind of censorship to shoot in France. So, once you are in France, you can do whatever you want.

Then, of course, when you are shooting somewhere, you would have to get a permit, which is again very simple. Permits are given by city halls and 99 per cent of the time, permits are given free as it is part of our culture. If you are at a private property, you would need the owner’s permission. There are more than 50 running line producing companies in France and at least six of them have a track record of working with Indian filmmakers.

How can the French Film Commission help Indian filmmakers shoot in France?

The way we work with Indian film producers is different from the way we deal with Chinese film producers. To some extent, it’s the same mind set. We provide free of charge information about film locations; we have around 18,000 locations in our database, which is the biggest in the world. But we also provide contacts with line production companies, location managers and French artistes.

We are a one-stop shop to filmmakers’ needs. If the filmmaker faces any problems while shooting, we will help them. My team and I deal with 300 foreign productions every year. There is nothing we have not dealt with; there is nothing that we are not prepared for. We also have 40 local offices in different regions of France. This is what we do globally as a film commission.

Apart from that, we believe that we know Indian films, to some extent, and the nature of requirements an Indian producer can have. I have personally watched many Hindi and Tamil films. I visit Mumbai and Chennai nearly every year and we have worked with many Hindi and Tamil filmmakers. So we understand the requirements that Indian producers have vis-à-vis their films. We know what kind of images they want; we know what kind of equipment will be required for Indian films; we know that to shoot a song sequence, you might need a jimmy jib and the kind of lighting that is required to shoot.

We have therefore created a special section on our website that is solely devoted to Indian producers. It’s called the Sangam Zone. Sangam was a Raj Kapoor movie and was the first Indian film to be shot in France. Plus, ‘sangam’ means ‘meeting’ and symbolises bringing India and France together, not only because of Raj Kapoor who is like God but also because of the Tamil actress Vyjayanthimala.

What tax incentives does the French Film Commission offer?

The first one is so obvious that people usually forget it exists! Sometimes, we have to remind them that shooting permits in France are free. You don’t have to pay anything to shoot on the street. So if you want the Eiffel Tower in your frame, you can have an apt camera angle and have the monument and many other surrounding monuments in your frame without paying anything.

The second incentive is monetary. We have incentives for big-budget films. So, if you spend € 1 million in France, you get a special rebate amounting to 20 per cent of the costs paid in France. This means if you spend € 1 million, it is as good as spending only € 800,000. Since it is a tax rebate system, the company applying should be based in France on your behalf and it will get the returns for you. This mechanism was created in 2009 for all kinds of foreign movies; hence the threshold is so high. So far, no Indian movie has taken advantage of it because Indian producers usually shoot in France for only a few days.

If a filmmaker requires blocking a road or a public place to shoot, how should he go about it?

It depends where and when you want to shoot, and if it is in the middle of a city or in the countryside. If it is in the countryside and you need to block a road for, let’s say two hours, you would go to the local police and they would help you. But you have to understand that in French culture, making movies is a collective art form; it’s like movies are defined as an art form and the creators are artists. So the law and our culture support movie-making and let the artists do whatever they want. We don’t see them as people making business but as artists who are using our public space.

If you want to block a city road in Paris, for instance, that is also possible. It depends on the time of day and the location manager from the production company. The Paris City Hall and the police coordinate and finalise the details. There are about 15 shoots underway on the streets of Paris every day, which proves that Paris is a film-friendly city.

In the city, the difficult part is not where to shoot but where to park the equipment trucks. As our city streets are small and parking large trucks can be problematic. Indian film crews are not as big as Hollywood crews, so Indian producers do not usually face this problem. No other city in the world is as film-friendly as Paris is.

What is the difference between pre-location scouting and location scouting?

Pre-location scouting is when the filmmaker sends us the screenplay and we scout locations for them and shortlist some locations without them being there. Scouting means a team member is in France to finalise the locations. So without spending on hiring someone for scouting, you can use pre-location scouting to get to know locations with our help.

(Franck Priot handles relationships with foreign producers and supervises the tax rebate for international film productions for Film France)

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