• The costumes of '60s-set 'Le redoubtable' make it easier to avoid panicking the public during the production of action scenes. (StudioCanal)Source: StudioCanal
Shooting movies with gunfire and explosions are understandably more problematic in a jumpy nation still reeling from a succession of terror attacks.
Elsa Keslassy

19 Aug 2016 - 12:30 PM  UPDATED 19 Aug 2016 - 12:30 PM

For the makers of Mission: Impossible 6, the biggest challenge might not be how to keep the franchise fresh, but how to keep shooting the action-packed film in France. In the wake of recent terrorist attacks that have killed more than 230 people, filming in the country is more complicated because of increased security.

France has served as the backdrop for many high-voltage action movies, including The Bourne Identity, Taken, Inception and Lucy. But ever since the Charlie Hebdo massacre in January 2015 in Paris, authorities have been reluctant to allow the filming of sequences featuring explosive violence. With the country now locked down after the recent attacks in Paris and Nice, getting permits to shoot action scenes has become almost impossible.

"The official word from authorities is that we can't film car chases, bank robberies, shootings, or actors dressed in police and military outfits, because these scenes could disrupt public safety and create confusion and panic among residents," says Raphael Benoliel, a French line producer who worked on Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris.

According to producer Matthias Weber of 2425 Films, the restrictions recently pushed director Yann Gozlan to consider relocating the shoot of his thriller Burn Out from Paris to Amsterdam. Gozlan eventually opted to film certain scenes on private property in Paris, rather than on the street. Director Jalil Lespert did the same for his thriller Iris.

"The official word from authorities is that we can't film car chases, bank robberies, shootings, or actors dressed in police and military outfits, because these scenes could disrupt public safety."

Officials emphasise that France remains open for business when it comes to filming. In spite of the volatile security situation, an increase in the government tax rebate from 20% to 30% has helped make 2016 a record year for production so far. The rebate was a key factor in attracting projects such as Fifty Shades Darker and Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk.

Watch the trailer for 'Dunkirk'

But terrorism has taken its toll on France's industry. After last November's attacks in Paris, all filming permits were suspended briefly, including for David Michod's War Machine, with Brad Pitt; the film's two-day shoot in the French capital was postponed to January.

Mission: Impossible 6, which could start filming in January 2017, according to sources, will need to operate under new, more stringent practices, though authorities appear willing to work with filmmakers on ways around the restrictions.

"It just requires that more resources have to be used and rules followed," says Michel Gomez, who heads Mission Cinema, the organisation that coordinates all Paris filming. "Shoots must be well-publicised to residents and neighbours in order to avoid disruption to the public order, and when weapons or explosions are used, they have to be soundproofed."

'I heart Paris. I hate bastards'
Film writers from around the world had gathered in Paris to interview actors and directors ahead of the French Film Festival. And then Paris was attacked by terrorists.

Gomez cited Michel Hazanavicius' film Le Redoutable, which is currently being shot in Paris. The action takes place in May 1968, and shows scenes of riots in the capital, with actors dressed as cops.

"Our big advantage is that it's a period film," says Francois Pulliat, a veteran head of production who's working on Le Redoutable. "So our police costumes are from 1968 -- they're easily identifiable. It limits any possible confusion by residents."

The shoot called for eight days of demonstrations, which required closing down a large area, and having real police officers on the ground to maintain order. "We knew it would have been extremely difficult to get permits to shoot these scenes on the Champs Elysees in the middle of May. That's why we chose to film them during the first two weeks of August --- a very quiet period -- in an area that's not as affluent," Pulliat says. When they blew up a car, he adds, the production used soundproofing material.

Security concerns in Europe have also forced insurance firms such as Tokyo Marine, Circle, Axxa, and Allianz to increasingly take into account the risk of terrorist attacks, restricting coverage and in some cases increasing premiums. In 2013, Allianz launched a crisis-management division specialising in terrorism coverage that can be sold in conjunction with a film insured by Allianz or separately.

"We do have a volatile security environment in certain countries,"- including France, Belgium, and Germany," says Bjoern Reusswig, executive underwriter for terrorism insurance at Allianz. "But in general, all film shoots and events in France are insurable."

Policies usually cover losses due to terrorist incidents within a defined radius around the filming location. A different bond is required for losses from the threat of terrorism rather than an actual attack. In the case of a threat, a local authority has to order or recommend stopping or delaying the shoot.

Weber, who was shooting The Eavesdropper with Francois Cluzet in the Brussels neighbourhood of Molenbeek during the massive police operation that followed the March 22 terror attacks in Belgium, lost a permit to shoot a scene at the local police station. Shooting the scene weeks later cost an additional EUR40,000, but the production's insurance policy covered the loss.

Despite the new obstacles, producer Benoliel is confident that France will remain a draw for Hollywood. Though some American producers are now as concerned about filming in France as they would be in the Middle East, he says, they keep coming. "The danger can be everywhere," he adds, "and France is France -- we'll always have iconic sites and good tax rebates."

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