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Industry Report: Television

Frédéric Lavigne • Artistic director of the Séries Mania Festival

by 

Frédéric Lavigne  • Artistic director of the Séries Mania Festival

- At the end of the eighth edition of Parisian festival Séries Mania (13-23 April 2017), Cineuropa caught up with its artistic director, Frédéric Lavigne, to talk about the latest trends we’re seeing in TV series, which continue to develop and evolve, especially in Europe.

Cineuropa: What new trends surfaced at this year’s 8th edition of Séries Mania ?
Frédéric Lavigne: 
In terms of form, more and more is becoming possible when it comes to format and means of dissemination. First of all, it’s been confirmed that television series can exist even without televisions, with platforms like Netflix and Amazon, which have an important place in our programme. Television is still there, but there’s now a real coexistence between the two forms of dissemination. This has been compounded by the arrival – which we have acknowledged with the creation of a new dedicated section with its own new jury – of short digital works, designed for new mobile applications like Studio+ and BlackPills (launched 15 days before the festival), which bring users dramatic fictional series in 10 x 10-minute episodes every week, of increasingly high quality with increasingly large budgets behind them. Series with 20-30-minute episodes still occupy a large part of the market, but they are no longer used mainly for comedy as they once were. This format is used mainly for dramedies (like I Love Dick) and drama, like German series Tempel, and Missions in France, which enters the realm of sci-fi with 22-minute episodes.

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Essentially, what has struck us this year is the presence of the theme of religion (faith, inwardness, etc.) with series like Broken, Leftovers, and Ride Upon the Storm from Denmark, which is about a family of farmers, and even our opening series, Israeli production Judas, which broaches the theme in a more playful way, combining it with stories about vampires.

What are the trends in Europe when it comes to series, compared to the American model?
What’s striking this year in Europe is that European TV series makers are no longer scared of re-appropriating genres used more traditionally, especially in the United States. Sci-fi for example is proving to be very popular: to name but a few, there are eagerly-awaited French series Transferts and Missions, a Russian series about androids by the name of Better Than Us, and Dutch catastrophe series The Swell. Europeans never used to explore these genres – for budget reasons, mainly, but also because they felt like it wasn’t their turf. Nowadays, this barrier has disappeared. It’s also very interesting to see that the famous Nordic detective series format, which is still being used on its home ground (for example: Before We Die in Sweden, Monster in Norway, etc.), is now everywhere: in the United States, in the United Kingdom, and even in Poland (with The Teach, which very much resembles a Nordic crime series).

Indeed, Danish series in particular are known for their quality and success. Are other European countries starting to follow in Denmark’s footsteps?
For two or three years now, we’ve seen the rise of two giants: Italy and Germany. The fact that these two countries have their own branches of Sky isn’t completely irrelevant, but in Italy, for example, it’s also the success of Gomorra that has boosted things and made companies like Cattleya want to produce very ambitious series with more international 52-minute episodes – which have somewhat replaced the classic 90-minute format, the long preferred episode length of Rai. In Germany, following pioneering series Deutschland 83, which first aired two years ago now, we saw 4 Blocks by American group Turner (Germany’s Gomorra), which was screened at this year’s Berlin Film Festival and awarded at our festival, as well as Tempel by ZDF, a highly endearing and successful series. France has also picked up a good pace: in addition to season 2 of Dix pour cent and Bureau des légendes, this year we presented Arte series King Kong and Transferts, along with Missions by OCS, which won an award. This last highly-anticipated series, which imagines an Asian dictatorship in which a French filmmaker is forced to make a propaganda film, is incidentally a beautiful ode to film.

Where are the convergences between TV series and film, and how do they affect one another?
There are a lot of convergences and a lot of ways in which they affect one another, as we have seen for a number of years now. In some countries, there’s never even been a barrier between film and television, particularly in the United Kingdom, the United States and the Nordic countries – the new series by Dane Adam PriceRide Upon the Storm, features some high-profile actors, but that was already the case for Borgen, as there’s a rather classical convergence between film and TV series there. In the aforementioned countries, directors and actors have long moved between television and film, in the United Kingdom above all, where they even alternate between film, television and theatre, the latter contributing to the high quality of their series. The same thing is happening in France, with people like Éric Rochant (Le Bureau des Légendes), and Laetitia Masson with Aurore by Arte, which also features some outstanding film actors (Élodie BouchezHélène FillièresAnna Mouglalis). On the American side of things, great directors are flocking to TV series, like the Wachowski sisters for example, as the format gives them greater freedom than the Hollywood system, where concerns over the immediate profitability of films means reactions and reviews are more important than encouraging new creations, whilst television (with cable channels that only look at the number of subscribers) no longer concerns itself with viewer figures. That’s why HBO has been able to make three seasons of Leftovers, when it isn’t profitable, because it contributes to their brand image. With Netflix, the success of series is an even more heavily-guarded secret: it can only be measured by comments left on social networks. That said, we must remember that film and TV series are two fundamentally different things. TV series are in many respects closer to literature (the way in which they are created, the way the characters develop over the series, their relationship with viewers and the option they have of completely unfolding in the space of just one night or extending as they please over a longer period of time), to the extent that the success of TV series affects book sales more than film admission figures.

(Translated from French)

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