By the late 1950s, Van Peebles had been involved in filmmaking and had made two short films. He was unable to establish himself as a film director in Hollywood because the concept of a black director was unheard of in America at that time. Consequently, he went to France, learned the language, and wrote La Permission in French.
Learning he could adapt one of his novels into film with a $60,000 grant from the French Cinema Center, so long as his film was "artistically valuable, but not necessarily commercially viable," he sought a film producer. Once partnered with the Office de Production d'Edition et de Realisation (OPERA), a collective consisting of Michel Zemer, Guy Pefond and Christian Shivat, he shot La Permission in 36 days for a cost of $200,000, finally releasing the picture under the title The Story of a Three-Day Pass (1967).