"There’s been an explosion in production; there’s a lot of competition right now and it’s difficult to stand out: setting yourself apart is incredibly important"
Industry Report: Series
Francesco Capurro • Director, Series Mania Forum
The head of the Series Mania Festival’s professional sidebar explains the current state of the series industry
We met with Francesco Capurro, the director of the Series Mania Forum (running 21 – 23 March – read our news), which is the professional sidebar of the Series Mania Festival (which kicked off on Friday in Lille – article).
Cineuropa: What trends have you picked up on during the Co-Pro Pitching Sessions selection process?
Francesco Capurro: We received 450 submissions from 66 countries. It just goes to show the number of projects being written right now all over the world! In terms of trends, there haven’t been any great surprises: the thriller and detective genres are still largely dominant because we know that they work. We also get the feeling that there’s a strong interest in the 80s and 90s, a period which series are focusing on a lot right now. It’s true that there were seminal events taking place in Europe at the time, like the fall of the Berlin Wall, but this re-reading of recent history might also be a generational thing, linked to the age of the creators and broadcasters in question. There are also lots of female characters in lead roles: it’s a societal trend, a change in motion that we’re also seeing in creation, in the same way that we’re seeing ecological or climate-related themes, which often take the shape of dystopias or pessimistic outlooks on the state of our planet and what awaits us. Because series reflect the world we live in. And to answer your question more generally, above and beyond the Co-Pro Pitching Sessions which are our flagship event, we’ve got lots of other pitching sessions taking place during the Forum, whether concluding the workshops-residencies we organise, such as the Writers Campus, the French-Israeli co-writing residency, DEENTAL, etc., or partner initiatives such as the Taiwan pitches (with TAICCA) or the Africa pitches (with AuthenticA). In all, more than 45 projects will be pitched over the space of three days: there’s something for everyone! That’s the Forum’s speciality: being a development market where people come to find projects.
How do you assemble your selection of 16 projects for the Co-Pro Pitching Sessions, in terms of their countries of origin?
We set ourselves the task of ensuring a certain level of geographical diversity, because we receive projects from all over the place and we have buyers from all over the place. But it’s true that certain countries, especially European ones, send us more projects, France first and foremost of course, because we’re based in France, but also the UK, Germany, Italy, and Spain which is experiencing a real boom right now. We could have chosen more projects from these countries because there’s a lot of quality involved, and significant companies, but we insist on keeping a balance. We’ve got more European projects in the selection, which is in line with the history of the Forum which has been supported by MEDIA from its very early days. But we’re receiving more and more projects from outside of Europe, and we’ve got one South African and one Canadian project in the selection this year.
The press conference presenting the Series Mania Festival identified "a trend in global series production towards a certain standardisation of storytelling". Do you share this analysis?
It’s true that there’s a certain homogenisation taking place, no doubt linked to certain standards. Typically, police investigations tend to trap stories in a framework that we’re already familiar with. There’s a certain number of codes; we know that they work for audiences but they can sometimes hinder creativity: we try to stick to patterns, to reproduce them, and it’s a vicious circle, no doubt owing to challenges relating to audiences. So projects which go off the beaten path immediately stand out. Our role is also to highlight slightly more original offerings, without abandoning thrillers, because we like them.
What about young audiences? Have you noticed any changes in writing, in order to reach this audience segment more specifically?
Producers and authors know that broadcasters want to attract young people, and we’ve received a greater number of projects targeting youngsters and young adults: lots of coming-of-age stories, stories about teenagers discovering life, their sexuality, etc. It’s a trend because it’s a key factor: audiences of traditional linear channels are getting older, young people tend to consume content in other ways, online, via their phones. There’s a real desire to capture this highly volatile audience, and this is clear from the content we’re receiving.
The Series Mania Forum is also a rich space for reflecting on major industry issues, with its conferences, panel discussions, the Lille Dialogues, etc. What are the hot topics right now?
This year, we’ve prioritised a real focus on marketing series. There’s been an explosion in production; there’s a lot of competition right now and it’s difficult to stand out: setting yourself apart is incredibly important. Unfortunately, some series don’t have the notoriety they deserve because they get lost in the oversupply of works on offer. That’s why we speak to experts to find out the best techniques for standing out in these highly competitive markets, and we’ve also created a prize for an especially creative and innovative marketing campaign, which will be awarded during the Forum. There are also some more industrially themed discussions, relating, for example, to the protection of European intellectual property (IP), notably in the face of global platforms. We might also talk about the hybridisation of genres, for example; links between video games and series: the great success of The Last of Us on HBO and Amazon Prime Video showed us that the two worlds are growing closer and closer together, owing to the fact that serial narration lends itself well to video game re-transcription on account of its length and episodic nature, etc. And finally, with the Lille Dialogues - our slightly more strategic and institutional day - we’ll tackle other issues more closely linked to the future of the sector and the challenges yet to come; notably the question of ecological transition.
(Translated from French)
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