Young French filmmakers embrace 3D; other hot projects at Dimension 3 include Shooting D’Artagnan.

The debut film of Pascal Sid and Julien Lacombe’s Behind the Walls (Derrière les murs) [pictured] will make cinema history in France this July as the country’s first live action, 3D feature-length production to go on general release.

“There’s a lot going on in 3D animation in France but Behind the Walls will be the first live action 3D film to come out here,” said director Lacombe.

Distributor Bac Films is due to open the film on 200 screens, most of them 3D, on July 6.

A psychological, fantasy thriller, “in the vein of The Others” according to Lacombe, Behind the Walls stars Laetitia Casta as a 1920s novelist who is plagued by terrifying visions of missing children when she retreats to a remote house to complete a book.

Conceived from the start as a 3D project the production cost €4 million, with an additional 20 percent on top for the 3D work.

Childhood friends Sid and Lacombe are currently developing a second 3D picture entitled Camerone about a modern-day soldier who goes back in time to German-occupied France in 1943.

The project, which has a script in place, was developed initially with MK2 as a French-language film but the directors are now considering making an English-language version in the company of a US producer.

The directors and Behind the Walls stereographer Céline Tricart, who also harbours 3D feature directorial ambitions, were among a handful of up and coming filmmakers creating a buzz at the recent Dimension 3 exhibition and festival devoted to 3D technology in Paris earlier this week.

Other titles prompting interest included Jean-Michel Tari’s 28-minute thriller The 3rd Way (La Troisieme Voie), an action-packed huis clos following a violent confrontation between a dangerous criminal and a tough police officer.

The stylised, high-octane work won Dimension 3’s Special “Coup de Coeur” Prize. Tari, who previously worked at French games specialist Ubisoft, and his producer Alexander Singer of Kafard Films have ambitions to make a feature-length version of the film.

“We’ve just got back from Cannes where we showed it in the Marché and response was very favourable,” says Singer.

Special effects and 2D and 3D animation specialist Cube, meanwhile, was screening a 13-minute pilot of Jerome Diamant Berger’s 3D art-house film Shooting D’Artagnan which is due to shoot at the end of 2011.

A tribute to the filmmaker’s late grandfather, the pioneering silent film director Henri Diamant Berger, who shot the first ever cinema adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, the picture stars Julie Depardieu and video artist Patrick Sorin.

“Here in Europe we have a more intimate approach to 3D. When you shoot in 3D you have to slow the rhythm down… Cinema is almost becoming theatrical again,” comments Diamant Berger.

Erwin Schmidt, producer of Wim Wenders’ innovative 3D documentary Pina which won the top prize in Dimension 3’s neo-competition, said he was impressed by the burgeoning 3D filmmaking scene in France.

“France is streets ahead of Germany in terms of 3D film-making. We’ve got a couple of big productions underway but here in France there are shorts, experimental films, documentaries. We don’t have that in Germany yet,” he said in a panel discussion on 3D filmmaking.

“The 3D scene in France is in ferment at the moment. I think we’ll see something of a 3D explosion in the coming months,” commented Audrey Bourdiol, CEO of Paris-based 3D post-production company FlyingS3D. “A lot of projects are coming together – especially from a younger generation who are more open to the new technology.”

In the meantime, Behind the Walls’ performance at the box office will be watched keenly by other French filmmakers mulling 3D productions.

“Our film is relatively small but if the box office exceeds our target of 100,000 spectators that might encourage others,” says Lacombe.

“The big test will be Astérix,” he adds, referring to Laurent Tirard’s 3D production of Asterix And Obelix: God Save Britannia, which is being stereographed by Alain Derobe who worked on Pina. “If Astérix is a hit and a phenomenon at the box office, I think we’ll see a lot of other filmmakers piling in.”