4 December 2010

Hollywood will always have Paris (and is being offered the rest of France)

Free annual trips to different regions of the country aim to inspire the writers in their work as France tries to lure more movie production away from other European countries.

Part of the film set for "The Invention of Hugo Cabret," directed by Martin Scorsese in Paris. (AFP/Getty Images)

By Eric Pape, For the Los Angeles Times
December 5, 2010
Reporting from Paris

Some things are just done differently in France. Take the invitation of 10 successful Hollywood screenwriters on an eye-popping, all-expenses paid, eight-day trip to rural France in exchange for, well, nothing.

The guests were suspicious from the get-go. Why, after all, would anyone offer them a dream trip to two regions of France that they knew little, if anything, about? Still, the iPad-toting writers accepted a welcoming glass of wine or two and boarded a hot-air balloon outside of the eastern town of Metz in early autumn. They later stepped into a helicopter that offered them a striking perspective on the Saint-Nazaire shipyards. Screenwriter Anya Kochoff-Romano forgot such questions as she and her contemporaries stood, slack-jawed, alongside a giant water-spewing mechanical elephant that she referred to as one of the "tools for the imagination" being placed before her.
Such experiences got many of them wondering when they would be killed off, one by one, as in Agatha Christie's novel "And Then There Were None."

And that's exactly what the French were hoping for: the introduction of a little Hollywood drama into non-Parisian France. More concretely, the tour aimed to inspire France-based scripts that will circulate around Hollywood and result in more big-dollar productions landing on French soil. The calculation is that a major U.S. production means more than $2 million a week in spending, with about half going to salaries here.

With such payoffs, the third annual screenwriters' trip — which brought the pens behind "Pirates of the Caribbean," "The Game," "Che," "Terminator" and "Valentine's Day," among others — makes a lot more sense. "Everyone knows cinema generates tourism, but the opposite is also true," said Patrick Lamassoure, the managing director of Film France, which promotes the nation's audiovisual industries and aims to bring international productions to France. "Tourists are writers. Writers tend to focus on what they know, and they tend to know Paris."

The first year involved a trip to Marseille and Paris, a city that gets plenty of attention from Hollywood these days thanks to its position at the perch of global tourism, a 20% tax rebate for international film shoots, simplified bureaucracy and relatively easy access to French film world expertise. The second year involved a trip to Tahiti. This year's eight-day inspiration sejour included visits to the Loire Valley and the Lorraine regions.

The goal is to inspire prominent writers to produce the broadest range of feasible scripts set in France, and as Paris takes care of itself, that now means promoting other parts of the country. That explains the special guided visits to the oppressive war bunkers in the Lorraine region. "I can see a horror/thriller set in the Maginot Line tunnels. They had a spooky feel to them," said screenwriter Peter Buchman (" Jurassic Park III," "Che I and II" and "Eragon").

No one complained about the visit to one of France's new architectural gems, the new Shigeru Ban- and Jean de Gastines-designed Pompidou-satellite museum of contemporary art with its undulating soft-hat roof. Dinner was laid out on what Buchman called "one of the most elegant tables I had seen: a long red carpet, white cloths, flower petals on the tables, and a view of Metz and all of the city lights."

To film producers, there are three basic types of places: those where films are never shot or set because no one knows enough about them; stand-in locations that pretend to be other places, but at lesser cost (the Czech Republic, Romania, Baja California, Vancouver, Toronto, Morocco); and those countries that generally only portray themselves, as is the case with France.

The French capital welcomed a trio of high-profile film shoots late this summer: Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" (with a cameo by French First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy), Martin Scorsese's "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" and Madonna's English King Edward VIII film "W.E.," even as "Inception" — which includes key scenes shot in Paris — dominated theaters here. They followed a flurry of other Hollywood film shoots in Paris over the last year, including "Killers" and Clint Eastwood's "Hereafter." But when you leave the Ile-de-France region, the Hollywood productions tend to peter out.

The City of Light is the historic center of so much of France's economy, history, arts and culture that many visitors, as well as Parisians, are capable of equating the French capital with the entire and quite varied country (much as some New Yorkers do). This also applies to France's own film world. About half of all films made in France are shot in Ile-de-France. French filmmakers also tend to shoot what they know — and most of them live in Paris.

The wife and husband filmmaking team of Agnès Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri are beloved for their smart, witty films ("The Taste of Others," "Look at Me") dealing with urbane characters who sometimes reek of Paris. On the popcorn-film scale, director Luc Besson ("Nikita," "The Fifth Element" and this year's graphic novel adaptation "The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec") has been a driving force for the creation of Paris Studio at La Cité du Cinema in Paris. The studio, which is slated to open in 2012, intends to compete with London's Pinewood and Berlin's Babelsberg. Another half of all films are made elsewhere in France, like this year's Oscar hopeful "Of Gods and Men," a remarkably popular drama about Cistercian monks facing off against fundamentalism.

The region does offer a diversity of eras, historic and natural settings, as well, and it is easier to get stars — most reside in the French capital — to work where they live. Cost also comes into play; producers don't have to pay to lodge Paris-based film professionals when they shoot at a beach resort on the Côte d'Azur or in a ski village in the French Alps.

The tax rebate, initiated a year ago, was crucial in making France competitive with other rebated European locations that are increasingly snagging Hollywood productions, like Britain. "Everyone here says no one wants to shoot in France — it is too expensive," explained Katherine Fugate, who is on the board of directors of the Writers Guild and who penned "Valentine's Day." "And what the French are trying to show is that you can have these tax credits and look beyond Paris, and we'll work with you to find a way."

They are trying. Some 30 screenwriters have enjoyed these trips, and at least three or four are believed to be writing screenplays that take place at least partially in France. Given the slow process in Hollywood, it could be several years before the French know whether their dream trips are bringing any likely returns.

"The bottom line is that these decisions are about budget," said Fugate, who was also the executive producer of the television series "Army Wives." "If I can set something in France that I would otherwise put in Vancouver, the beauty there will make the movie look like we spent a lot of money. I just have to show that it won't cost more."

Such quandaries were far from the more writerly mind of Buchman who, plopped back into the real world after eight days of coddled comfort, felt bereft when the writers' French guides left them at the airport. "I wondered how we would get by on ourselves," he said. "It is like being an A-list actor and then having to readjust [when your career sinks]."

15 September 2010

Variety Logo

Hollywood scribes go to Gaul 

Film commission organizes trip to Metz, Nantes
By Elsa Keslassy


PARIS -- A crew of 10 top Hollywood scribes, including Stuart Beattie ("Pirates of the Caribbean"), Katherine Fugate ("Valentine's Day"), David Hayter ("X-Men"), will participate in an inspirational trip across Gaul organized by the Film France Commission.

After exploring Paris, Marseilles and Tahiti in the first two years, the third edition of France Unlimited Access, Cities by the Borders, will take the screenwriters to Metz and Nantes, two towns known for their dramatic and romantic appeal.

"We want to inspire talented and well-connected screenwriters to imagine stories set in France because we know that Hollywood films only shoot here when our country is explicitly represented in the script," said Nicolas Traube, prexy of Film France, pointing to Martin Scorsese's "Hugo Cabret" as a production that has benefited from French locales.

"It also works hand-in-hand with our new 20% tax rebate, which was conceived to attract big-budget productions," he said.

The trip, which will run Sept. 19-27, is backed by the French Embassy's Los Angeles Film and TV Office.

The other participants are Peter Buchman ("Che"), Michael Ferris ("Clones"), Anya Kochoff ("Monster-in-Law"), Steven Maeda ("CSI"), Josh Olson ("A History of Violence") and Daniel Waters ("Batman Returns").

According to Patrick Lamassoure, managing director of Film France, "A studio film shooting in France for a week brings between $1.9 and $2.5 million in spending, half of which goes to French employees working in the sector."

Direct link to Variety article

24 september 2008

variety logo

WGA selects board members

Katherine Fugate leads all vote-getters


Seven months after the end of a bruising strike, Hollywood scribes have issued an early warning to the majors: Get ready for a contentious rematch in 2011, when the current Writers Guild of America contract concludes.

She Knows logo

Army Wives: an empowering interview with creator Katherine Fugate

An Army wife talks Army Wives
Victoria Lutz

I’m a 20-year Army wife veteran, and if there’s a critic out there who can nitpick "Army Wives," a series about military spouses apart, it is me. You can imagine the surprise after sitting down with Katherine Fugate for an interview to find she has it just about right. click here to read more ...


29 june 2008

katherine is honored to run for the WGA's Board of Directors.  she's a great believer in her union and in giving back and looking forward.

variety logo

WGA West unveils board candidates
Tim Day, Katherine Fugate among candidates

By Cynthia Littleton

The Writers Guild of America West has unveiled the candidates running for eight open seats on the guild’s board of directors. click here to read more ...


 10 june 2008

katherine was interviewed by Hot Moms Club about her journey, her spirit, Army Wives, and motherhood.

(1) Why do you think this show hit such a nerve right now?

It’s my belief we’ve touched a nerve because we deliberately hit a nerve.

We tell our war-peppered stories from the most humanistic point of view possible: from the heart.

Some may call that the female perspective of war, but to me, it simply means we’re bypassing the traditional imagery of war on the battlefield, by concentrating on the personal relationships of our military families that are left behind.

What happens behind closed doors – with the wives, the children and the soldier, who are all sacrificing for our country in their own way, by being absent or adjusting to life as a soldier and a husband and father – hasn’t really been illuminated so directly before.

And I also use the term “wives” as gender-free, because as we’ve found out, many men become Army wives when their wife or partner goes to war.

(2) Do you think we as Americans are becoming more aware that being in the military is a hard job no matter if you’re stateside or deployed?

Yes. I believe we’re discovering that being at home, after returning from war, has its own set of obstacles and challenges to overcome.

We’re more and more aware of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). We’re more aware of what it means for a soldier to leave his family for 2 years at a time, then come back and meet his son, who is now a toddler, for the first time and how that affects him. Affects them both, really.

The soldier misses so much of his children’s lives and of his life with his partner, soul mate. It’s a great sacrifice on so many fronts and whether at home or in country – our love for our military families only grows with this fuller portrayal of all they give to us.

read the entire interview here. pdf


05 june 2008

katherine made an encore visit to SpouseBUZZ Talk Radio to be interviewed by Army wives about "Army Wives." check out the interview below.

18 may 2008

katherine did a live radio interview with Mr. Media, Bob Andelman. tune in to hear all about the word "bitch," being jeannie's niece, and the working life of a screenwriter in hollywood.

courtesy of the unpredictable medium of live radio, there are some technical difficulties (dead air) starting around the 18:48 minute mark that resolve around 21:53. the rest of the hour interview is without a hitch. enjoy!

1 may 2008

katherine is in the May/June issue of Creative Screenwriting magazine.

creative screenwiting magazine pdf


25 april 2008

katherine was interviewed on SpouseBUZZ Talk Radio by Army wives about "Army Wives."  Click here to listen.