'Fifty Shades Darker' to Shoot in Paris as Filming Rebounds After Attacks

Paris France Eiffel Tower - H 2014
AP Images

Paris France Eiffel Tower - H 2014

Producers "want to send a message," said Stephane Martinet of the Paris regional film commission.

With major film shoots including Fifty Shades Darker and Bollywood's Befikre lined up, filming in Paris is rebounding following the terror attacks that rocked the city in November.

Both blockbusters are in the works. Darker, the next installment in Fifty Shades trilogy starring Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan, will shoot for several days in Paris “within the first six months” of this year, according to film officials. 

Indian feature Befikre, from directory Aditya Chopra and produced by Yash Raj Film, is also set to shoot for 13 weeks in France, with 10 of them in Paris. 

No major projects were canceled or postponed following the November attacks, said Stephane Martinet, deputy director of the Ile-de-France Film Commission, which covers the Paris region.

“It seems there is some sort of resilience among the film industry. Producers, in particular from the U.S., voiced their support to us after the attacks and reinforced their willingness to pursue their projects,” he said. “They want to send a message.”

Indeed, the city's two-day Location Expo, part of the week-long Paris Images Tradeshow, was a demonstration of strength for the French film industry. There were 120 exhibitors this year, an increase of 25 percent, including all the major studios from Paris and around France. Attendees topped 4,000 for the first time.

“The first week after the terror attack, shooting froze, but one week later it started up again,” said Melanie Chebance, producers' liaison for Film France. “There is an increased security level for everyone, but film shoots are proceeding as usual.”

She added: “Paris is a big production hub for France and internationally, and that hasn’t changed. For example, at the moment, there are 10 crews on the streets of Paris.”

Prickly Parisians also have been in quiet support. “Anecdotally, usually during a shoot there are complaints, about the parking, about the noise, from neighbors,” said Martinet. “Since the attacks — nothing. Everybody wants to be a part of this and knows how important it is to the city to sustain our film industry.”

Even the ministry of defense, known for welcoming shoots in its buildings, has alerted film offices that they will continue to welcome shoots and advise crews on the proper use of guns and other military equipment.

Major monuments, including the Eiffel Tower, have reinforced their security procedures, including increased ID and bag checkpoints as well as additional background checks before issuing permits.

Filming at the Eiffel Tower — which was seeing roughly one shoot a week before the terror attacks — has been at a virtual standstill since November. Some of that, however, can be chalked up to seasonal declines, said Batiste LaParliere of the Eiffel Tower film office. Because shoots must be completed before visitors begin to arrive at 9:30 a.m., winter filming is difficult and traditionally often faces slow periods. Scheduling is starting for the spring, with requests from the U.S. and Japan in the works.

After a slight dip in the number of applications to the police commission in November and December, down by roughly 60-70 applications, requests for city filming permits have since rebounded. The average of four shoots taking place daily somewhere in the city is expected to be reached again by the end of this month.

Two weeks are still the required minimum for applying for a permit, but the department is asking producers for longer lead time because of the need to coordinate with local police precincts and any additional monument security. And while the permit process remains the same, certain areas near embassies and some major landmarks are off-limits for now, though. Other high-profile targets are restricted.

“For example, a scene in front of a bank would not be possible, or shooting with guns,” said a policeman not authorized to speak on the record. “We would have to do an analysis of the scene, and fake guns could be used, but no sounds. [Gunshot] sounds would have to be done in a studio, because the noise might scare people.”

Between the industry support for Paris and a much-publicized tax-rebate increase, filming in Paris and France will see an overall increase this year.

Much of this can also be chalked up to the pent-up demand from producers, who had held off on productions last year after the tax-rebate increase was announced. It went into effect Jan. 1.

That rebate increases both the percentage from 20 percent to 30 percent, as well as the budget ceiling to €30 million ($33.6 million). Shoots outside of Paris that will benefit from the new tax plan are Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, which will film in Northern France, and the first season of Neil Jordan’s TV series Riviera, which will shoot in the south this summer. The BBC’s Death in Paradise also began shooting its fifth season on the island of Guadeloupe in January.

“Let’s be honest, the biggest beneficiary of the rebate is the U.S. in dollar amount, and the second is the U.K.,” said Chebance. U.K. productions filmed over 700 days of shooting in France, while the U.S. productions tend to come for five to 10 days, though that is expected to increase under the new rules.