Ever since France revised its tax rebate for international productions in 2016, local authorities have embarked on a full-court push to attract Chinese projects. In 2019, that campaign saw its most successful expression to date with the arrival of Middle Kingdom mega-production, “The Hunting.”
“In recent years, we’ve welcomed more and more Chinese projects, especially series, but ‘The Hunting’ is really the biggest, and most ambitious film to date,” says Stephan Bender, interim CEO of Film France. “It was a project we knew about since 2016, though it took a few years to put in place. When it did come together, it saw more days of shooting, and brought together more Chinese and French technicians than ever before, marking a real step forward for Chinese productions in France.”
Directed by Leo Zhang (“Bleeding Steel”) and starring acclaimed leading man Tony Leung (“The Grandmaster,” “Infernal Affairs”), this Mandarin-language potboiler shot for nine weeks in the Paris region this past summer. As an international action-thriller about a pair of cops going up against an international money trafficking cartel, the production also cast local actors Olga Kurylenko (“Quantum of Solace”) and Olivier Rabourdin (“Taken”) while employing a crew of more than 50 French technicians.
Often, productions come to France for our scenery. They want to shoot the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elysées, or the Côte d’Azur,” Bender continues. “Whereas in this case, we shot more than 15 days of stunts. The film’s producers didn’t only think of us as a postcard, but considered France as the setting where this Chinese story takes place. They counted on our expertise to make that happen, and this film was really made in the spirit of collaboration.”
In order to foster that partnership, Film France will continue their outreach program with a Mandarin-language website that touts the benefits of France’s 30% tax rebate, and a series of visits planned to the mainland in a few months’ time. Most of all they hope to use “The Hunting,” which is slated Chinese release later this year, but has no international distributor to date, as a calling call for the French industry and sizzle reel that could lure further productions to France.
“We hope that the film becomes a big success, that it becomes a franchise,” Bender winks. “In any case, it can be a big draw for other projects. The film’s producer, Qi Weili, has other ambitions in France, so this just the beginning of a long collaboration with him.”