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Series Mania 2024 - Series Mania Forum

Industry Report: Produce - Co-Produce...

A series off the beaten track, Rematch forms the focus of the Series Mania Forum


The event saw Unité, Arte and Federation revealing the incredible journey of a locally managed international project

A series off the beaten track, Rematch forms the focus of the Series Mania Forum
The series Rematch

For years, platforms have been playing the “Glocal” card. What if a local broadcaster were to think outside of the box and localise a series in another region? What if, thanks to an excellent combination of pre-sales around the world and securing the best platforms and first-rate broadcasters, a creator could develop a vision without having to deal with multiple instances of feedback and notes from a variety of stakeholders? As it happens, the team behind the Rematch series – unveiled yesterday in the Series Mania Festival’s international competition - which brought the iconic chess duel between Gary Kasparov and “Deep Blue” to our screens, did just that. And the festival proved the perfect opportunity for its producer and co-creator Bruno Nahon (Unité) to share their production adventure during a fascinating conference in the Series Mania Forum, surrounded by Adrienne Frejacques (Arte France), Lionel Uzan (Federation Studios) and Yan England (the Canadian co-creator, co-author and director of the series).

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"I was 23 years old and I was at university when the rematch between Kasparov and Deep Blue took place", Bruno Nahon explained. “It was the beginning of the internet and I remember that the event felt like an important moment for civilisation. I held onto that thought and then I became a producer, of documentaries initially, and then of fiction films and, later, series. I always had that idea in my head but, ten years ago, debates on artificial intelligence and The Queen’s Gambit were non-existent. What’s more, generally speaking, my ideas are never "mainstream ", they tend to be under the radar. I would never for a second have thought that I could produce the American project that this story required. There wasn’t even anyone in France who could write this story. That’s where agent Céline Kamina played a decisive role by introducing me - without any clear goal in mind - to Yan England. I saw his short films and feature films, and Quebec is unique in that it has one foot in Europe and the other in the USA. It was also the time of the new Quebec wave, involving the likes of Denis Villeneuve, Jean-Marc Vallée, Xavier Dolan… Yan and I chatted about sport and, randomly, he told me that he played chess after tennis. So I spoke to him about my impossible idea, and we got to work on it, thinking that it would be a film. But when he came back with a film treatment co-penned alongside André Gullini, it was so dense, there were so many hidden stories within it that I realised it had to be a series".

"We’d already worked with Bruno Nahon on various series (Ainsi soient-ils, Mythomaniac), Adrienne Frejacques explained. "It was a strong subject, the producers and authors were high calibre, and the language question wasn’t an issue because we’re flexible on that front. That said, we did have questions over the drama aspect of the story: would chess interest or bore our audience? And how close to the truth could we get when it came to Kasparov’s personality and IBM? This was five years ago".

"You have to follow through on ideas, even if they involve other countries", Bruno Nahon continued. "The US doesn’t have a problem doing this, as proven by series like Chernobyl, for example, and they don’t have any legitimacy issues. We need to step outside of our comfort zone in Europe too, and we can do it. But it’s a hard thing to finance. With Rematch, Federation were crucial. Arte had given us between 50% and 66% of our budget for a series which was going to cost 9 million euros. But, as it was in English, we couldn’t receive support from the CNC or from the tax credit initiative. It took a year to round off funding".

"We’d already worked with Bruno to positive acclaim on two series", Lionel Uzan added. "I read the treatment, and I thought it was impossible, but it was fun. When Arte came on board, it moved to the next level and six months later we had a screenplay. We started out trying to pre-sell the series to the USA, which was clearly a strategic error. It led to auditions, etc., but it was a failure. However, someone at HBO loved the project and passed it on to the European team, who turned out to be interested and made us an offer five months later. Shortly afterwards, we had the same conversation with Disney and they came on board too.

"And we shouldn’t forget the Hungarian production company Proton Cinema, who are real independent producers like Unité. Thanks to our presales, we were able to maintain control over the project’s artistic vision. Because when the number of co-producers grows, you risk losing your vision and the coherence of a project", Bruno Nahon concluded.

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(Translated from French)

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