Name: Michel Gomez
Role: Délégué Géréral de Mission Cinéma
Notable Works: Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Midnight in Paris,…
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Paris is a unique city with an impressive diversity of cinematographic offer. The objective of Mission Cinema is to preserve this richness, but also to promote a coherent policy of support for cinema. We had the chance to meet Michel Gomez, Delegate of the Mission Cinéma, in the Mission Cinéma offices in the heart of Paris. Surrounded by photos of filming on the walls, we began the interview.
– 5500 days of shootings in average per year in Paris
– 400 commercials
– 120 films
– 100/150 series
– 20 shoots in Paris per day
– 90 cinemas in Paris, which represents 420 screens
Can you tell us a little more about your background?
I actually studied to be an economist, and life’s chances led me to start working in the film industry at the same time as I was studying at Paris 9 Dauphine! After writing the screenplay for a film I shot with a group of friends after graduating from high school, I joined the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight’s team; for a very long time I had a double life! A university life and a life in cinema!
I joined an association called the “Society of Film Directors” and a few years later, at the time of the negotiations of the cultural exception, I became General Delegate of the ARP Société civile des Auteurs Réalisateurs Producteurs) .
Thanks to the ARP, I was able to take part in incredible projects, including the construction of a cinema in Kabul. In 2009, Mission Cinema asked me to be part of their project! After a moment of hesitation, I agreed to join this small shop with big projects.
I’m aware I’m lucky to have a job with a very interesting diversification of tasks, where no two days are the same. We can take care of a huge American film shoot on our streets, just as we can help an independent cinema start up its business. It’s a very rewarding job both personally and professionally. It is very satisfying to work on concrete projects, to participate in the pre-production of a film, and to be present at the shooting on D-day. We also work to support projects related to creation and development. Seeing the results of our work is particularly rewarding. However, it’s essential to have a certain flexibility. This morning, for example, I had the opportunity to put the Prefect of Police in touch with director Jean-Jacques Annaud, whom is currently preparing a feature film about the fire at Notre-Dame at Paris Cathedral.
How is the Mission Cinema team composed and how do you divide the work within the team?
We have two very distinct activities. The first one, which takes up the most of our time, is the reception of the shoots! We welcome more than 5000 days of filming per year in Paris!Last year, we had 5500 days of filming, which represented an average of about 20 shoots in Paris per day! A large part of the team is therefore focused on this work and we then have a policy of cultural action. Thanks to two aid funds (for short films and new media) we help projects to see the light of day. As our aim is to promote cinema in Paris, we can be solicited for various projects. Among other things, we’ve been asked to organise an important event in Cannes as part of Paris’ participation in the 2024 Olympic Games. We also subsidise associations organising festivals. We are particularly keen to develop festivals for children, and we do everything possible to ensure that the youngest children, from kindergarten to high school, can discover the cinema.
Can you tell us about the Forum of Images?
The Forum of Images is an institution that has evolved considerably since its creation. The Forum was created in the 1980s, when the Forum des Halles was built. Beyond being a commercial site, the elected officials in place at the time wanted to make the Forum des Halles a cultural venue. This is notably why libraries, conservatories and the Forum of Images were built. At the beginning, the Forum of images aimed to be a place of visual memory of Paris. One had to be able to consult all the films or extracts of films in which the capital appeared. The role of this place very quickly evolved, until it became a festival for learning about images, where films were shown by theme, and not by director (as is the case with cinematech).
For the past 2 years, we’ve also installed a program called TUMO which allows those of interest to learn how to make animated images.
How do you contribute to Parisian independent theatres’ development?
Cinemas are private places of activity so our role is to make sure that they offer cinemagoers the most diversified film offer possible. Paris is the world capital with the highest number of screens per inhabitant… We have about 90 cinemas in Paris, which represents 420 screens across the capital! We also help large cinemas in their renovation or improvement projects for their buildings. For smaller cinemas, we have a budget of €1 million EUR per year to help them develop different projects and finance their work. With the current health crisis, this budget is allowing us to support small cinemas and help them to restart their activity after being closed for 3 months. This is a terrible ordeal for them, and we must now concentrate all our efforts to ensure recovery.
What is your level of involvement in educating the public about cinema?
We’re implementing various projects to educate the public about cinema. With “Mon Premier Cinéma”, we screen films in kindergartens for the youngest of children. We also have a very big festival dedicated to youth during the All Saints’ Day holidays. And the Forum of images has become a place for the formation of images. Through these projects, our main cinematographic policy is to enable education in the image. Paris is an internationally renowned city, especially thanks to films that (almost always) highlight the beauty of the city!
How does Mission Cinema participate in this promotion?
It’s simple, it’s the films that promote the city. Our role is to assist production companies in making films in Paris. We are just there to support them and to supervise the filming… We work with production companies, directors and location managers to make sure that shooting goes smoothly and to avoid any incidents or damage.
Films shot in Paris, such as Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” or the latest “Mission Impossible: Fallout” with Tom Cruise, contribute significantly to the city’s international reputation. It’s thanks to these type of films that the image of Paris travels around the world. It allows tourists to discover the city and make them want to visit. As far as professionals of the industry are concerned, we don’t even need to advertise, they know that Paris is a central location for filming. Through these films, directors and production companies can discover the different sets that the city has to offer, and this encourages them to come and shoot in a natural setting.
Many series are also shot in Paris. The shooting of the Netflix series dedicated to jazz, THE EDDY, for example, lasted a year and a half. We’re currently preparing the shooting of a series for Apple TV which will start in September and should last until next July.
How do you manage to maintain a balance between the needs of filming and the lives of Parisians?
It takes a lot of work and it can be very complicated. In recent years, we‘ve seen a boom of requests for period films, such as Roman Polanski’s “J’accuse” or the TF1 series “Le bazar de la charité”. Period films represent considerable logistics! You have to remove all the cars, the street furniture, put earth on the ground, change the lampposts… Everything that is contemporary has to be removed! At the moment, we‘re preparing the shooting of an important production called “Eiffel” with the actor Romain Duris. This film will talk about the life of Gustave Eiffel and the construction of the Tower!
We‘ve established a rule to allow the city and its inhabitants to breathe a little. When a film is shot in a neighborhood, we make sure with the crew that no filming will take place in that area for the next 2 to 3 weeks. We set the area “fallow” because Paris is not a permanent studio. Our role is to make sure that filming is carried out with the well-being of residents in mind. Unlike other cities such as London, Paris is a relatively dense and small city so the concentration of filming there [London] is therefore quite high.
A shoot such as “Mission Impossible” with Tom Cruise, requires 140 trucks of 40 cubic meter to be parked in the city and needs considerable management! It took two months of shooting full every day and our crews were intensively involved. We also had to deal with the demands of the actors and directors. Tom Cruise wanted to have 3 dressing rooms: one for himself, one for his costumes and one for the gym! So we had to find a place in Paris big enough to meet his requests. His dressing rooms were installed on the Place de la Concorde.
For Woody Allen’s film “Midnight in Paris”, the film had to be shot at night! The streets being empty at night, it was easier for our teams to manage. Moreover, Woody Allen went to bed early, so we had to attend to his requests. For instance, we were warned 3 weeks before shooting started that it would start at 9:00pm, which was very complicated for us in terms of logistics.
It’s important to know that all foreign films are shot by a French executive producer. Companies such as Firstep are specialised in this field and are there to negotiate shooting in Paris or other cities in France, thanks to a set of specifications. They must then ensure that the filming goes smoothly. We have no contact with the production companies, only in exceptional cases. For all French productions, all you have to do is hire a production company with stage managers and then organise the filming. Many countries now offer tax credits if production companies shoot abroad and in order to obtain this credit, you have to go through companies managed by an executive producer.
The shooting of a film or series can attract many fans. Do you communicate the location and date of the filming to the public in advance?
U.S. filming is generally closed to the press and the public. This does not preclude the presence of an audience on large shoots such as “Mission Impossible” though. For such productions as big as Mission Impossible, a barrier is put in place to keep people at a distance. Tom Cruise regularly took the opportunity to greet the crowds and sign autographs.
The security of the shoot is the responsibility of the production. We only intervene during a specific shoot or a particular scene. For example, we brought in a river brigade during a shoot on the Seine for “Mission Impossible”. The brigade then closed the Seine on both sides to ensure that the filming perimeter was secure.
What are the advantages or repercussions of all the film shoots for the city?
Job creation is the first spin-off of the activity. When you have more than 5,000 days of filming a year, it creates jobs for the 150,000 casual entertainment workers working in the Paris region and in the city itself!
The second spin-off is economic. The revenue represents about €2 million EUR per year. Filming in Paris is free, which is not the case in cities like New York or London where an admission fee is required. Shooting in a museum, city hall or a particular location, on the other hand, does incur costs though. Parking is also a production expense, which generates additional revenue for the city.
The third spin-off is the city’s global reach! Advertisements shot in Paris also contribute to this, with 400 advertisements a year. Many luxury, perfume and leather goods brands shoot their ads in Paris, such as Longchamp, which we recently hosted for a shoot.
How do you see Mission Cinema evolving? What are your main objectives in the future?
Our business is constantly evolving. The city of Paris in particular is undergoing an ecological transition and we are therefore keen to participate by integrating this dimension into the filming process. This may involve reducing the number of vehicles used for productions or the use of electric vehicles. Another challenge for our filming is the implementation of numerous pedestrian zones or cycle paths in Paris.
We also want to develop the school system with the development of access to the image and the continuation of our mission to teach Parisian youth, and to continue to subsidise short films and new media via the funds set up by the city council.
Another important issue for us is to continue to help independent cinemas develop and find their place in the city. Great projects about the construction of very beautiful cinemas in Paris are underway and require our support in carrying out the work.
How do you assess the impact of the pandemic on your mission and objectives?
The consequences are devastating. We had to pause filming for 3 months but the resumption took place as early as 11th May 2020, because we wanted to resume as soon as possible and Paris was one of the first cities in the world to resume shooting. Our challenge in the coming months will be to manage the filming delays linked to the pandemic and to avoid as much as possible the traffic jams between filming that were postponed for 3 months. We‘ll try to accommodate a maximum number of shoots while also allowing the Parisian to rest.
One last question about the premieres, and in particular about the “Mission Impossible” red carpet you organised in Paris. Can you tell us more about how that happened?
As two-thirds of the film was shot in Paris, I felt it was legitimate to suggest that the teams organise the premiere in the city. The American teams accepted this proposal on the condition that the premiere be held on the Trocadero esplanade. It should be noted that the Trocadero esplanade is managed by the Monuments Historiques and that it is very difficult for this kind of place to be associated with a commercial brand. Negotiations with the Monuments Historiques were therefore long and complicated. I personally had to involve the Minister of Culture, Françoise Nyssen, who was in office at the time, in order to convince the Monuments Historiques to let us organise the premiere on the Trocadero esplanade! An operation on this scale represented €7 million EUR, and the Palais de Chaillot hall was even renovated for the occasion. Although particularly stressful, this event represented immense satisfaction and happiness, as well as a great promotion of the city of Paris!