Looking to build on the exposure offered by recent hits like Netflix’s “Emily in Paris” and “Lupin,” France’s Centre National du Cinema has set out an ambitious reinvestment plan for the country’s production ecosystem. This past July, the Gallic national film body announced a $11.5 million scheme to “shock and modernize [France’s] production apparatus,” dividing those public subsidies between eight studios and 12 digital facilities as part of a larger initiative to lure international shoots.
Among the selected projects are a handful of post-production studios, the country’s first LED-operated digital soundstage – spearheaded by an alum of Disney’s “The Mandalorian” – and the TSF Backlot – an expansive, open-air studio run by the country’s leading production services facilitator.
“There’s been an explosion of series production, and that’s going to continue for the next few years,” says TSF marketing director Laurent Kleindienst. “So we want to be ready. We’re taking calls from all the platforms at the moment.
“They’re requesting huge surfaces in terms of production facilities everywhere in Europe,“ Kleindienst continues. “And we think 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 a slated budget between 50-80 million euros, this TSF venture will mark a significant step forward for the backlot project, which originally launched on two miles of unused tarmac at a converted air base just outside of Paris in 2017.
At its original site, the backlot helped recreate the streets of Napoleonic-era France for Jean-Francois Richet’s thriller “The Emperor of Paris,” and one particularly auspicious 19th century construction site for Martin Bourboulon’s “Eiffel,” while hosting a full Airbus A300 and a cockpit refitted to accommodate production needs. The most recent – and final – project to shoot at the original site was Guillaume Canet’s upcoming “Asterix & Obelix: The Middle Kingdom.”
In recent months, the cockpit has moved to the Coulommiers – Voisins Aerodrome – a reformatted airport, 34 miles from the center of Paris, that the backlot will now call home. Slated for completion by mid 2023, the 80 hectare facility will nearly double the grounds of the previous backlot while housing 12 soundstages offering over 4 acres of studio space.
“We needed more space to have more privacy and greater freedom of perspective,” says Kleindienst. “The idea is really to modernize – to make France [a more attractive partner than before].” While the 12 green friendly and eco-certified studios won’t be fully operational for another 16 months, and the outdoor space will host its first project in Spring 2022, the new TSF backlot has already kicked into gear, lending its A300 frame to local productions.
Meanwhile, the TSF brass hopes to further enhance the backlot’s promise. Born of both pragmatic and ecological considerations – and, perhaps, of a certain degree of swagger – the backlot will also include a 765-yard Parisian streetscape. Reminiscent of those storied urban recreations found on Hollywood backlots, the ersatz Paris will feature 80 facades – mostly mix of early and late 19th century architectural styles, with a modern fronts thrown in for good measure – that will feature a ground floor and three subsequent flights, ultimately measuring just under 40 feet in height.
“We’re 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 certain Hollywood sets, of course, but at 700 linear meters (765 yards), it isn’t bad.”