'Fifty Shades Freed,' 'Jackie' Help Boost Foreign Production in France as Incentives Trump Security Concerns

Best Actress
Fox Searchlight Pictures

Natalie Portman is nominated for her role as Jackie Kennedy in Jackie. This is her third nomination and the second in this category. She won an Oscar for her leading role in Black Swan (2010) and was nominated for her supporting role in Closer (2004).

Production increased nearly $108 million last year as a film body executive says, "Security has had no impact," following the 2015 terror attacks.

Security concerns haven't stopped big Hollywood productions from filming in France. With several major films flocking to the country in 2016 amid improved production incentives, production rose by 166 percent, or 100 million euros ($108 million), nationwide.

While some tourists have stayed away since the dual terror attacks of 2015, several big-budget productions have come to Paris, including the final Fifty Shades installment, Fifty Shades Freed, and the bulk of Oscar contender Jackie. Showtime's The Affair was among the TV series to shoot there, wrapping its third-season finale in the French capital.

Christopher Nolan's WWII blockbuster Dunkirk, due out in July, also shot in the north of France, using 6,000 extras. And the next installment of Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible franchise is rumored to be shooting in Paris this spring.

Film body executives at the Paris Images trade show this week assured industry folks that safety concerns have not affected filming.

“[Security concerns were] quite critical last year and following the attacks, but the police force has been very helpful in coordinating shoots,” said Film France director general Valerie Lepine-Karnik. “It’s complicated, like [in] all big cities, but security is not an issue.”

“Security has had no impact on production levels in France,” concurred trade-show organizer and Ile-de-France Film Commission deputy director Stephane Martinet. “What has impact is the money, the credit, the international tax rebate. Things like that have had a major impact on production levels, but not security.”

In fact, the French film industry is flying high, despite tourism taking a post-terror hit; spending by foreign productions nearly tripled in 2016. Spending on productions in France was up from 57 million euros ($61.3 million) in 2015 to 152 million euros ($163 million) in 2016, following a change in the tax rebate structure.

That tax change created a huge benefit for the VFX and animation sections, noted Lepine-Karnik, and helped Technicolor’s Mikros Images snag DreamWorks Animation’s Captain Underpants, due out June 2, and Paramount and MGM’s Gnomeo & Juliet: Sherlock Gnomes, set for release on Jan. 12, 2018.

That spending should jump again in 2017, as the total required to qualify for incentives was reduced from 1 million euros ($1.07 million) to just 250,000 euros ($269,000) on Jan. 1 under the new tax rebate rules.

“The reason is there is a sort of a progressively tightening of the budgets for both cinema and TV, and everybody needs to be more and more efficient if we want to keep these films in France, in Ile-de-France, in Paris, and everybody understands that,” said Martinet. Films had been fleeing to cheaper Belgium or Hungary.

The success of Bollywood romance Befikre is seen as a new standard for how to work with international productions. The team behind the movie filmed around Paris and the Eiffel Tower and hosted a splashy trailer premiere there last fall.

“It’s not only about the film industry, but also the image of France that is projected to the world, knowing that tourism is the main income of France on an international level,” said Martinet. “We’ve had a decrease in tourism because of the attacks, so it’s extremely important for the government to invest.”

He said Befikre was "intelligently exploited" by cooperation with the ministries of foreign affairs and culture, the film production and promotion bodies and the tourism board, which worked together to not only lure the film, but create events around it as well.

“This cooperation will be sustained after the elections because the importance of the [production] income and the indirect income is major for France,” he added, noting that there is a contentious presidential election coming up in April and May. “Whether or not we change sides of the political spectrum, this cooperation will be kept.”

The trade show itself saw a 12 percent boost in attendance for its third edition.