La Trêve and Ennemi Public: French-language Belgian television series at Séries Mania
by Aurore Engelen
- The Séries Mania Festival, which will take place from 15-24 April, will welcome two French-language Belgian television series
This double selection at the Séries Mania Festival (in the “French-language Series” section) represents a slight revolution in the Belgian audiovisual scene. Indeed, while locally produced Flemish-language television series represent a real phenomenon, and for a long time they certainly have, this is far from the case for the French-language side of things. La Trêve (lit. “The Truce”) and Ennemi Public (lit. “Public Enemy”) are flying the flag for a new generation of French-language Belgian series, the result of the RTBF’s and the Wallonia-Brussels Federation’s (FWB’s) desire to support 100% locally produced and funded TV series. It must be said, however, that these series were developed under relatively drastic financial conditions, as their average budget is just a little under €200,000 per episode (equivalent to €4,000 per minute), of which 60% is covered by a joint fund between the RTBF and FWB.
The low budgets may be surprising to some, but the broadcast of La Trêve’s (created by Stéphane Bergmans, Benjamin d’Aoust and Matthieu Donck, produced by Hélicotronc) first few episodes in February demonstrated the desire and talent that these young Belgian auteurs possess. Having originally written for cinema, the authors have now been snapped up by the televisual medium, which presents new constraints as well as new liberties, and they use this platform to tell this breathtaking story, which is so quintessentially Belgian, yet decidedly universal at the same time. Piquing your interest and then leaving you hooked, La Trêve is proving to be a real success with audiences, attracting an average viewership of more than 360,000 people (or 22.3% of the market), improving the market share in this highly competitive timeslot by more than 4 points! (Very) roughly speaking, La Trêve is a kind of Broadchurch meets True Detective, about a traumatised cop who is looking into the disappearance of a young footballer from Togo in a community which, at first glance, appears incredibly tight-knit. With a limited budget, the director, Matthieu Donck, claims he was able to create a series “double its worth”, thanks to the team’s enthusiasm and freedom. Nevertheless, the second season, which seems the logical next step, will surely be the subject of fierce financial negotiations… Following the success that the show has been enjoying, RTBF television director François Tron has announced the potential to increase certain series’ budgets on a case-by-case basis (up to a total of €250,000 per episode), and envisages foreign involvement of up to 20%. Besides their national success, Belgian TV series also seem to have garnered interest from international audiences and investors. Ennemi Public (Antoine Bours, Gilles de Voghel, Matthieu Frances and Christopher Yates, produced by Playtime Films) follows hot on Guy Béranger’s footsteps, a paedophile and murderer who is taken in by a small abbey in the Ardennes following his conditional release. With this strong pitch that could easily be transposed into other surroundings, Ennemi Public is being sold internationally by Zodiak, with its broadcast slated for the spring.
RTBF has no fewer than 13 TV series in development on its books. While it is certain that not all of them will get the go-ahead, RTBF’s mid-term goal is to produce 40 52-minute episodes per year, in other words, to ensure 20 evenings of primetime television filled with Belgian French-language TV series. Also of note is that the Séries Mania Festival has selected an RTBF-produced web-series project (Burkland) as well as a Flemish series, Beau Séjour.
(Translated from French)
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