Seeking to capitalize on the exposure afforded by recent hits like Netflix’s “Emily in Paris” and “Lupin,” France’s National Cinema Center has put together an ambitious reinvestment plan for the country’s production ecosystem. Last July, the Gallic national cinematographic body announced an 11.5 million dollar program to “shock and modernize [France’s] production apparatus”, dividing these public grants between eight studios and 12 digital facilities as part of a larger initiative to attract international filming.
Among the projects selected are a handful of post-production studios, the country’s first digital LED sound stage – led by a Disney ‘The Mandalorian’ alum – and the TSP Backlot – a sprawling outdoor studio run by the country’s leading production services facilitator.
“There has been an explosion in mass production, and this will continue for the next few years,” says Laurent Kleindienst, marketing director of TSF. “So we want to be ready. We are taking calls from all platforms right now.
“They are asking for huge areas in terms of production facilities all over Europe,” Kleindienst continues. “And we believe that France has the opportunity to raise the bar, both in terms of numbers [of productions] and in terms of quality.
Still under construction, with an expected budget of between 50 and 80 million euros, this TSF venture will mark a significant step forward for the backlot project, which was originally launched on two miles of unused tarmac at a converted air base just outside Paris in 2017.
At its original site, the backlot helped recreate the streets of Napoleonic-era France for Jean-François Richet’s thriller ‘The Emperor of Paris’, and a particularly auspicious 19th-century construction site for Martin Bourboulon’s “”eiffel“, while accommodating a complete Airbus A300 and a cockpit refitted to meet production needs. The most recent – and last – project to shoot on the original site was the upcoming “Asterix and Obelix: The Middle Empire” by Guillaume Canet.
In recent months, the cockpit has moved to Coulommiers – Voisins aerodrome – a reformatted airport, 34 miles from central Paris, which the backlot will now call home. Scheduled to be completed by mid-2023, the 80-hectare facility will nearly double the land of the previous backlot while housing 12 soundstages offering over 4 acres of studio space.
“We needed more space to have more privacy and more freedom of perspective,” says Kleindienst. “The idea is really to modernize – to make France [a more attractive partner than before].” While the 12 eco-friendly and eco-certified studios won’t be fully operational for another 16 months, and the outdoor area will host its first project in spring 2022, the new TSF backlot has already kicked off, lending its A300 framework to production premises.
Meanwhile, the TSF brass hopes to further enhance the backlot promise. Born out of both pragmatic and ecological considerations – and, perhaps, a certain degree of bluster – the backlot will also include a 765-meter Parisian streetscape. Reminiscent of those legendary urban recreations found on Hollywood backlots, the Paris ersatz will feature 80 facades – mostly a mix of early and late 19th century architectural styles, with modern facades for good measure – which will include a ground floor and three subsequent flights, eventually standing just under 40 feet in height.
“We are building the infrastructure to be ready [for April 2022]says Kleindienst. “But the nature of the sets themselves will change from project to project. It’s not as big as some Hollywood sets, sure, but at 700 linear meters (765 yards) it’s not bad.
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