Sylvie Barnaud must be one of the most credited police chiefs in the history of IMDb. Julie & Julia and The Da Vinci Code are just two of the productions to mention the Paris-based police commander for her help during shoots.
Compatriot Luc Besson thanks Barnaud in the closing credits of his costume action drama The Extraordinary Adventures Of Adele Blanc-Sec, for which she assisted on a complicated, late-night shoot on the Place de La Concorde in the heart of Paris.
“It’s a key thoroughfare and difficult to shut down,” says Barnaud, who as head of the Public Highways Department at the Paris Prefecture of Police co-ordinates permits for shoots on the city’s streets. “A month before filming, I came into the office one Saturday and spent four hours going over the details with Besson’s assistant director,” she recalls. “On the night, I went down to check things were going to plan. Besson wanted to change the shoot at the last minute which I was able to authorise. I also co-ordinated things with the traffic department control room. I ended up leaving the set at two in the morning.”
Barnaud’s department, which oversees all events which might block the public highway, processes roughly 1,000 shooting requests a year.
“That includes feature-length films and shorts as well as fashion and publicity shoots,” says the police chief. She has just come from the set of Braquo, a popular Canal Plus-produced police series, which was shooting in a cafe in the 16th arrondissement.
“We don’t visit all the sets,” she says. “If there are stunts involved we like to look at the location carefully beforehand. Our main priority is public safety. For the crash scene in Little White Lies (Les Petits Mouchoirs), for example, we visited the location on Avenue Rapp with director Guillaume Canet, his assistant director and stunt director and went over the scene in depth.”
Barnaud admits to getting a kick out of her work: “It tickles me a bit because when I was a law student in Lyons I worked at Roger Planchon’s TNP theatre where I came into contact with cinema stars such as Annie Girardot and Michel Serrault. Little did I imagine that 25 years later I would end up doing this job.”