France, finished

The sweet, dark gravity of jetlag has subsided, so it’s time I put up a link to the rest of my pictures from France. They’re not all labeled at the moment, but proper titles are coming.

photo gridFor those who don’t recall, I joined a group of nine American screenwriters on a program organized by Film France to explore Paris and Marseilles. The trip was exhausting in just the right ways, with too many people to meet and too much to see. Over eight days, I rode in several vans, a helicopter, a high-speed train, a very slow-speed train, and far more boats than I would have imagined. I even took a VĂ©lib bike for a spin around Paris.

The purpose of the trip was to inspire American screenwriters to write more movies set in — and ideally, shot in — France. Going in, I thought of it like a location scout: a bunch of interesting backdrops, including things a tourist wouldn’t get to see. But as we got more into it, I found myself more drawn to people than places. I would ask a shipping yard exec about daycare, and an heiresses about divorce.

Of our group, I spoke the second-best French (or more precisely, eighth-worst), so I occasionally found myself shoved at the growing pool of journalists who accompanied us. And while my comprehension was surprisingly good, I found no quantum of eloquence when trying to answer questions in French. I sounded like a drunken third-grader. So I learned to nod thoughtfully, then plow ahead in English unabashed.

The trip was full of strange moments that I’d love to string together in a Sedaris-like monologue. The most meta-cinematic was when we found ourselves on a private island owned by the Ricard foundation. A tram tour took us past experimental lagoons, an old Nazi watchtower and the grave of founder Paul Ricard. It was already feeling a little Lost-ish when we got to the Institut, where we watched a self-produced film which could have come directly from the Dharma Initiative.

There was even a scale model of the island:

bubble island

Later, we had a lunch in which every course featured truffles. That was on the other Ricard island.

On our last day, we toured Marseilles’ port in a pilot’s boat, brushing up against giant tankers. It provided good reference for my latest obsession, African piracy. Somehow, I don’t think the Somalian film industry will be getting a program together for us to visit.

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