The European Film Forum stops off in Brussels to talk about the art of writing series
by Aurore Engelen
- During the 3rd edition of the Are You Series? Festival organised by the Bozar, the European Film Forum brought together a number of European experts in writing TV series
The European Film Forum, which was set up by the European Commission in 2014, aims to offer a space for structured dialogue between Commission representatives and European audiovisual professionals. Since its creation, the Forum has looked into a number of issues, and wanted to make the most of the Are You Series? Festival to generate food for thought on how European authors have invested in TV series to develop powerful and ground-breaking creative content.
In her introduction, Lucía Recalde, the head of the MEDIA unit at the Commission’s DG Education and Culture, focused on how for several years now, European authors and the harbingers of new Scandinavian fiction in particular, have given extensive proof of their ability to produce high-quality stories capable of moving the general public on an international and no longer just local scale. We’re seeing a new golden age of televised production, even if things are constantly changing on both a creative and distributive level. In these complicated times when we need stories more than ever, television has managed to preserve its ability to re-contextualise the world and society, to promote cultural diversity, and to move the general public. Many of the TV series teams present at the Forum explained that the key to their success is most probably rooted in their ability to adapt to tried-and-tested methods developed in the United States, team writing especially, to the richness of European creativity.
Indeed, the Bozar theatre and the European Film Forum brought together a panel to share their experiences, made up of Alex Berger (Le Bureau des Légendes, FR), Clive Bradley (Trapped, UK), Ben Harris (The Paradise, Transporter, UK), Carl Joos (Cordon, BE) and Karianne Lund (Occupied, NO). All of them highlighted the potential creative catalyst role of writers’ rooms, although independence is often one of the motivations for screenwriters. Writers’ rooms also boost efficiency, which is of no small importance when you hear about shows returning to the screen year after year.
Collective writing often allows writers to pin down the key points of the plot and the traits of their characters more quickly, gaining them precious time and even allowing them to skip screenplay drafts, in particular the first draft, in which the screenwriter runs into unidentified narrative dead-ends. Despite its proven virtues, however, collective writing is far from being a foregone conclusion, for one entirely material reason: money, which is what makes the world go round at the end of the day. Indeed, locking screenwriters into a series, especially one that is still under development, requires a financial investment that is rarely put up by TV channels or institutions, and it is therefore often difficult for production companies to find the funds. Last but not least, the discussions between the screenwriters and producers in attendance showed that far from representing a weakening in creativity, collective writing is a precious tool, a creative form of mentoring which, despite its constraints and if done in an atmosphere of trust, enriches and strengthens a project.
(Translated from French)