In Montpellier, film and television studios boost activity in the region

In Montpellier, film and television studios boost activity in the region

In a few years, Occitanie has risen to second place among filming locations, just after Île-de-France. Film, television and special effects studios are popping up there.

Silence… On stage B of V Studios in Vendargues, in the Montpellier suburbs, the technical teams are concentrating. The scriptwriter has her eyes glued to the script, the makeup artists move away after the final touch-ups while the actors begin to exchange lines. Every day, the 350 people who work on the soap opera Such a big sun, broadcast on France 2, invested in filming a twenty-six minute episode. Nearly 250 trades are involved: from the carpenter responsible for the sets made on site to the prop maker who makes the fake banknotes essential to the plot, including those responsible for the special effects. Here, all the manufacturing stages, with the exception of writing the script, are concentrated in this shed lost in the heart of an industrial zone.

The filming office

Candice Renoir, The Pennac(s), Such a big sun …a number of television series have chosen to set up shop in this town in the south of France. For a good decade, these soap operas with southern watercolors have been appearing in the living rooms of the French. From Pic Saint-Loup to the coastline, via the ultramodern urban center of Montpellier, the landscapes of the metropolis offer a variety that delights viewers. “When we launched, we had the ambition to embody a dream California. An exceptional playground presented itself to us,” says the artistic producer of the series, Mathieu Bollet.

If production companies willingly join the Hérault city, they owe it to the resolute action of the town hall. The municipality quickly measured the interest in hosting filming in terms of employment and attractiveness. In particular, it has created a filming office which promises to respond within two weeks to a request for production in a public space. A creation assistance fund has also been allocated, in collaboration with the Occitanie region.

Each year, the production of the France Télévisions soap opera generates nearly nine million euros in local spending. A welcome economic activity, from which restaurants and hotels, in particular, benefit greatly, because it is necessary to feed and accommodate nearly 300 technicians hired on the set. Three out of four employees come from the surrounding area. Beyond the example ofSuch a big sun, it is estimated that some 13,000 jobs result from the development of the film industry in the region. An entire ecosystem has emerged. Local directors found funding for their projects. The Traveling film school was launched in 2017.

In this attractive context, even the actors no longer want to leave, like Aurore Delplace who plays lawyer Johanna Lemeur in the series. In spring 2020, the actress left Paris, seduced by the Occitan “living environment”. “We have managed to demonstrate Montpellier’s reception capacity,” rejoices Agnès Robin, the city’s deputy for Culture. And the ambitions of the municipality do not stop there: the first international studio in France must in fact be built in the summer of 2025, in Saint-Gély-du-Fesc, a town a dozen kilometers away. 40,000 m2, 9 film sets, 13,000 m2 of production space, more than a hundred million euros of investment: the project intends to generate 2,000 indirect jobs.

An international ambition

In the corridors of this industry, we make no secret of it: “We are aiming internationally. »And that starts with innovation. On the set ofSuch a big sun, the production chose to combine traditional sets with what we call “FX”, a totally virtual computer-generated image technique, almost unheard of on daily filming. “Today we are pioneers in the use of technology,” emphasizes producer Mathieu Bollet. With the aim of reaping the benefits in a few years. »

This dynamism also attracts cutting-edge companies. Like the special effects company Mathematic, which came to settle in Montpellier almost a year ago, attracted by “the concentration of talents”. At the same time, the State finances these decentralization projects thanks to its France 2030 plan. Film studios, animation companies, palm trees, sunshine… White wooden capital letters do not yet sit on Mont Saint- Baudille, about fifty kilometers away, but Montpellier already shares some features with Hollywood.

Recipes for success

  • Specialized schools. The Montpellier ecosystem can count on recognized teaching, particularly in special effects, and is home to quality training for hairdressers, chief electricians and carpenters, essential to the cinema industry.
  • Political will. Since 2010, the cultural cabinet of the Montpellier metropolis has implemented a policy of promoting its territory through cinema. She hired four full-time people and made filming in public spaces free.
  • The spirit of innovation. Studios specializing in special effects, cutting-edge animation companies, a creative city dedicated to the performing arts… the city is full of innovative players.

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