"We’re in a golden age for series"
Industry Report: Series
Francesco Capurro • Director, Series Mania Forum
The head of the professional days programme of the Series Mania Festival, taking place in Lille from 22 to 24 March, shares his thoughts on the status of a booming industry
An expert in the universe of series, Francesco Capurro, director of the Series Mania Forum (22 - 24 March - read the news), the industry sidebar of the Series Mania Festival (which began last Friday in Lille - article), analyses the trends animating the sector.
Cineuropa: The previous edition of Series Mania took place in late August 2021 and you are already back. Has this shortened gap had an impact on the number of projects that were submitted for the Co-Pro Pitching Sessions ?
Francesco Capurro: It is true that organising such a large event in less than six months was a real challenge. But things are looking very good. Despite everything, we still received a great number of projects, 330 from 56 countries; almost 3,000 people are accredited; our stands and our commercial spaces all sold very well: we can feel that the industry is eager to get together again in an in-person format. And we were lucky because, after a rather difficult winter regarding the Covid situation, the French government has stopped vaccine pass requirements since 14 March. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel and everything is on track and ready to go.
Does this substantial number of projects reflect a high level of production in all countries?
It truly is a worldwide phenomenon, from South Africa to Latin America. It is like a Gold Rush. We know that we’re in a golden age for series, with an enormous number of new platforms, new broadcasters, and a great demand from the public. So everyone is taking part: those who already were in the sector before, but also many film producers who are turning towards series. There is therefore a rather consequential amount of projects being developed. Not all of them will be completed, but there is a great dynamism around the series internationally.
Are we seeing new trends emerge among the usually favoured genres, traditionally dominated by thrillers and historical series?
These two pillars remain the majority, but we are also seeing series reflecting current societal preoccupations. There are therefore a lot more female characters at the centre of stories, for example with the Italian project The Impossible She which centres on the first woman in Formula 1. There are also in our selection many series projects tackling subjects such as racism or the rise of far right movements, like the German project Island of Youth or the Danish project A Boy Disappears. We have also noticed the presence of many “teen dramas,” a genre that was initially rather American, but which is starting to be produced also in Europe with, for example, the German-French project The Mars Project.
What about formats?
The formats are rather varied, but the trend is rather for short series, with a reduced number of episodes, now between six and eight, compared to the great series which are much longer that we knew a few years ago. Now, the question is about the increasingly blurry boundary between the mini-series and the series.
What about budgets?
This is rather linked to each country’s production capacity. In Europe, there is a great difference between East and West in terms of budgets, on projects of often equivalent quality, but it is more expensive for example to shoot in Germany, in France or in Italy. However, there hasn’t been major evolution on that front since the last edition.
Many film production companies are now investing in series. Does this impact the content?
It is a real richness in Europe, because there is a very important reserve of filmmaking know-how there, and when these professionals move to series, they bring to it a certain quality, an aesthetic in the realisation, but also a complexity in the scripts and in their artistic approach. I think that the rise in artistic quality of European series is in part due to this migration of talent, producers, screenwriters, directors who come from cinema. We are actually organising a debate at the Forum around this question, which we will study in partnership with ACE and EAVE, two film producers’ associations where more and more of their members are now making series.
You are also organising a debate on the phenomenon of concentration (equity participation, buybacks) now taking place in the industry. Is that a good thing for European series, as they will have bigger budgets, or is there a risk of standardisation for creativity?
It is a phenomenon that cannot be denied, but depending on the way each group works, more or less creative and artistic freedom is allowed. From what I’ve seen, the great majority of producers are not complaining, because there is still a great number of good practices that allow for a form of freedom, and this no doubt offers an industrial and financial solidity. We must however pay attention and preserve the independence of creation and the role of the independent producer. As an event, we do not have a definitive position on the topic: we try to give a voice to everyone and to confront points of vue. I don’t think there are the good guys on one side and the bad guys on the other side, but only different ways of working.
What do you make of the worldwide success of the South-Korean series Squid Game, which embodies this country’s art of producing content that can meet the audience with a mix of realism and “trash,” a genre often confined to niche broadcasts in other countries, in particular European countries?
When a "success story" like this happens, it has the merit of sometimes breaking down taboos and reluctance a little. Now, maybe there will be less fear about taking risks to launch into projects that before might have seemed a little audacious. But again, it reflects the vitality of the series and the form of freedom that can bloom in it and which sometimes allow for such surprises. There also are audacious projects in Europe and we hope that broadcasters will take the risk of working with them.
(Translated from French)
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