Fun fact: “Emily in Paris,” which films all across the city of Paris and throughout France, was originally slated to film in New York. The idea was to shoot the majority of the Netflix series in the U.S. and head to France for a few weeks to film exteriors of iconic locations. Upon discovering showrunner Darren Starr’s plans, director and executive producer Andy Fleming exclaimed, “This is crazy, you have to shoot [in Paris].”
Referencing the charmingly worn doors in Parisian apartments that would be difficult to recreate in the States, Fleming talked about how he pushed for production to cross the ocean. “I thought, if the writers go over there, they will get in a taxicab going the wrong way around the Louvre, and they will be embarrassed in a restaurant and they will do all of the things that Emily would do, and [that] will inform the writing,” said Fleming. The decision would give the Lily Collins show a unique and playful vibe impossible to recreate anywhere else as well as provide a degree of authenticity.
Partnering with the French Film Commission, Variety hosted “U.S. Filmmaking in France: Living the French Experience,” a series of panels with directors, producers and executives who discussed their experiences filming in the European country. The event took place on Tuesday at the 1 Hotel in West Hollywood.
The panels included “The Making of ‘Emily in Paris,'” “Understanding the French Tax Rebate for International Productions,” “The Making of ‘The Veil,'” “MacGuff’s Face Engine Demo,” “The Making of ‘The Nun II,'” “Choosing France for Your VFX” and “TSF’S New Studios and Streets of Paris Backlot.”
During the “The Making of Emily in Paris” panel moderated by Variety chief production officer Claudia Eller, Fleming and producer Raphaël Benoliel spoke about the practical benefits to the Parisian setting as well.
“Our rates are slightly lower for the crew [in Paris],” Benoliel explained regarding the difference between filming in New York and Paris. “On ‘Emily,’ after running the analysis, we were like 20% less expensive by shooting the entire show in France than by splitting the show between two countries.”
“The first season that we did, the show had a very small budget. People thought it was a very big-budgeted show because you could just take a very simple dialogue scene and put it out on the street and see the Arc de Triomphe in the background, and it looks like a million bucks,” Fleming added. “Being there really made it look richer than if we had been in New York trying to fake things.”
With the end of the SAG-AFTRA strikes, “Emily in Paris” season four is expected to begin shooting Jan. 22.
In a panel moderated by Eller, executive producer Denise Di Novi and producer Xavier Roy of “The Veil,” an upcoming FX international spy thriller starring Elisabeth Moss, discussed their experience shooting in Paris.
When asked about whether she faced language barriers shooting in France, Di Novi said it was not too difficult since all of the crew spoke English. Roy added, “The French crew, the British crew, the supervising director — for example, is American — and they really worked well together. It was a great experience for everybody, everybody enjoyed working together, so no language barrier, no cultural barrier.”
Di Novi said she was nervous going into shooting, given that the U.S. has different working regulations than France. She sat down with Roy and asked, “Is it true that the French crew won’t work overtime? Is it true that we have a cut off?” However, Di Novi realized she did not have to worry because the French’s work ethic is at “such a high level,” and everyone is dedicated “to making something great on an artistic level.”
She then gave her advice for others looking to film projects in France: “I think people make a mistake when they try to stay 100% American when they’re going there … You really need the local crew and the local producer like Xavier. You need that expertise, and you need to trust that person and rely on them.”
“The Making of the Nun II” panel saw “The Nun II” director Michael Chaves, line producer John Bernard and Variety’s EVP of Content, Steven Gaydos, sitting down to discuss filming the horror film. France inspired the film’s core aesthetic.
“We really looked at the locations, and the script originally was set in more like a town … we just kind of retooled and we found this great old [structure],” Chaves said of finding a convent-turned-school in Aix-en-Provence that was later abandoned. “It had so much great character … it became our central shooting location. Honestly, that’s totally changed my outlook of looking at other productions, you gotta really try and use the location.”
“When you go to France, they have such a love of cinema, they have such a love of art. It’s embedded. They love making art, and they love making film. They love film,” Chaves emphasized. “They bring that passion. Everyone on the crew had it.”
Laurens Ehrmann, founder and visual effects supervisor of The Yard VFX, and Benoliel, producer of “Emily in Paris” and founder of Firstep, discussed the benefits of working on visual effects in France in a conversation moderated by Variety’s senior artisans editor Jazz Tangcay. The duo has collaborated on several projects together, including “Enola Holmes 2,” “John Wick: Chapter 4” and “Murder Mystery 2.”
“I’ve been lucky enough over the years to work on huge blockbusters as well as smaller, indie movies. I love what I do, and so for me, every project has its specific thing. It’s a passion,” Benoliel said.
When asked about what the future holds for visual effects work in France, Ehrmann said he hopes to have more international vendors coming to France and bigger projects. “From my point of view, the key thing is the relationship, and the way you discuss with the studio, the way you understand what they need,” he said.
Ehrmann also offered his advice to French visual effects students: “Doing movies is a tough game because even if we are doing a great job, it could be tough everyday. To continue and to stay longer in the business, you need to be passionate.”
The duo were then asked about their thoughts on how AI will effect visual effects. While they said some of its use should be controlled, they both agreed it is a tool.
“We cannot be afraid of something that is going to help us, and we cannot be against it because you know we cannot stop it. A better way to see the future is to say, how are we gonna deal with the new tools?” Benoliel said.
Laurent Kleindienst of the French rental house TSF showed off his company’s brand new studio and backlot facility opening east of Paris, totaling about 130 acres.
The new facility includes brand new facades of Paris streets in addition to an old airfield once utilized by Germany during wartime, which Kleindienst described as “so destroyed you can use it as it is.” He shared that “The Walking Dead” will be filming their upcoming season there, a fitting location for the post-apocalyptic show.
Although the backlot’s Paris facades are not far from the city itself, Kleindienst said that filming on the backlot offers “control” to filmmakers.
“There’s going to be the Olympics in Paris very soon. Then again, any big city is becoming tougher and tougher to shoot in. It’s the same in New York, it’s the same everywhere,” he said. “So if you want to shoot the Eiffel Tower, or the obelisk or whatever you will have to come to Paris. But if you’re shooting and you just need a pair of streets, you can come here and you will have full control, and that’ll be better for you. So 3000 linear feet of streets is quite big.”
The facades also span three different time periods, with medieval elements to be added in the future.
TSF also offers an airbus liner that can simulate takeoff. There will also be a facility consisting of 12 stages, the largest of which is 43,000 square feet.
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