France wants bigger slice of Hollywood action

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Because Hollywood spends a quarter million dollars a day when filming a blockbuster like Paris-located Da Vinci Code, France is laying out the red carpet for 10 US screenwriters in hopes of seeing more movies set in France.

From Nov. 6 to 13, a bunch of A List writers linked to top directors and big studios are being offered a slate of unusual decors and rare slices of action to whet their appetites.

This does not include humdrum tourist sites like the Eiffel Tower or Louvre Museum featured in Da Vinci Code. Instead the group is to go cruising with river police, buy veg with a star chef, and put up at Paris palace, Le Meurice.

The ?100,000 ($130,000) movie Tour de France is being organized by Film France, which promotes movie shoots, a giant national industry currently under fire from its neighbors, where tax rebates and labor costs are more conducive.

If we want to see more films shot on location in France, then we need more screenplays set in France, Franck Priot, deputy head of Film France, told AFP.

Even Quentin Tarantino, lover of things French, is currently shooting 95 percent of his new film set in wartime France – Inglorious Basterds – in Germany, complained Priot.

The writers may not be household names but include the likes of John August ( Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ), Michael Brandt ( Wanted ), Michael Dougherty ( Superman Returns ), Derek Haas ( 3:10 to Yuma ) and Edward Neumeier ( Starship Troopers ).

During their stay in Paris, they visit the city s giant larder, the Rungis market which is the biggest in Europe, and check out the high-speed TGV rail control centre. Rungis is a perfect backdrop for a thriller or love story, said Priot.Also on the agenda is the discovery of little-known locations in Paris that are part and parcel of US history, including a building said to be the model for the US Capitol.

In Marseille, they meet the heiress of the Paul Ricard pastis liquor-making empire, and trail the secret wartime escapeways that enabled the likes of artists Marc Chagall or Andre Breton to sneak out of France to evade the Nazis.

We re hoping this will inspire them to write screenplays set in France, said Priot.

With 70 percent of foreign shoots held in Paris or on the Riviera, the stakes are high, said Lydie Fenech, who heads a grouping of 80 movie companies in southern France.

Costs in France, she said, were 30 to 40 percent higher than in sunny Montenegro.

Of the 15-odd feature-length foreign movies shot in France each year, around six to 10 are US productions. The problem, said Film France, is that shoots are being shortened as more and more of France s neighbors including Germany and Britain offer cost-cutting tax rebates.

Yet each of the big Hollywood productions shot in France between 2005 and 2007 spent ?10 to 20 million, with daily expenses running up to between ?250,000 and 300,000 a day on blockbusters.

Hotel costs alone on Marie-Antoinette or Rush Hour 3 amounted to between half a million and a million euros, with crews putting up in Paris top hotels.

Hopefully, said Fenech from southern France, the parliament soon will enact legislation enabling rebates that would put France on a par with its competitors. This would really help, she said. -AFP

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