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Series Mania 2022 – Series Mania Forum

Industry Report: Series

The Series Mania Forum examines the transition from feature films to series


Producers Ed Guiney, Leontine Petit and Michael Polle share their thoughts on the transition from the 7th art to the world of series

The Series Mania Forum examines the transition from feature films to series
A moment during the discussion

Great change is afoot, and nearly all film production companies are getting ready, if not already on board, to climb onto the global series train which is thundering along at breakneck speed. But is it really that easy to make the leap from feature film production to series? Three experienced producers - Ireland’s Ed Guiney (Element Pictures), Holland’s Leontine Petit (Lemming Film) and Germany’s Michael Polle (X Filme Creative Pool) - shared their thoughts on the matter during a debate organised within the Series Mania Forum in partnership with ACE Producers and EAVE.

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Ed Guiney: "The entire industry is seeing the boundaries blurring between the worlds of cinema and series. If we take Normal People as an example, Lenny Abrahamson and I initially envisioned Sally Rooney’s novel as a potential film, but the structure of the book and the time-period covered in the story was clearly better suited to a series. There was a lot of competition when it came to acquiring the rights, but the BBC was 100% on board and we were able to guarantee Sally Rooney that her project would run its entire course. If it had been a film, it would no doubt have been well-received in the major festivals, but it would have proved far less profitable financially speaking. Overall, I think that the quality of filmmakers, and better artistic quality control courtesy of producers who are used to working in film, can make a real difference to series, a world where directors were often seen to be simple technicians, which really shocked me. The boom in series is a real opportunity to create a brilliant niche and express oneself fully within it, because the experimental film market has shrunk. Obviously, there’s a far longer creative process involved in making a series, with lots of material and more teamwork, and filmmakers probably do have to rein in their instincts to a certain degree. But there’s more than one way of doing things, as I’m currently finding out while writing the series The Gallows Pole by Shane Meadows [read our news], and I’m realising that broadcasters also expect more from producers. One of the complications we’re seeing at the moment is the incredibly high turnover of buyers, because developing a work while still having various funding options open to you is very important, in my mind. There’s also huge competition when it comes to tracking down talent, and attracting and retaining the best producers who are able to evolve within the series world."

Leontine Petit: "When it came to Heirs of the Night, we thought: why not make it a fantasy series and offer these teens who like to watch Game of Thrones a bit of quality? We started with a writers’ room, but it’s not such an easy thing to do in Europe because we’re not used to working in this way, so the results were mixed. We adapted the same approach we use for films, keeping a lot of freedom. We just worked to a different schedule, at a different speed. But it was an adaptation of a book, which probably made it easier to win partners over.

I think it’s also important to not develop too many projects, to stick to a reasonable number of them, and to have a clear idea of your aims: are you going for volume? A niche market? Mainstream, large audience approaches don’t work for all projects. And there’s also nothing wrong with directors learning from authors (who were under-appreciated before and who are now out and out stars) about how to put a series or an episode together. What’s important is remaining flexible over the initial idea, so that you can adjust things once you’ve agreed on a common vision. So even if it’s a luxury, it’s better to develop your project as best you can before attempting to negotiate with partners. And even within the production company itself, you need to be more structured, especially when it comes to the legal side, without losing creativity along the way."

Michael Polle: " We’ve always insisted on the importance of sticking with a local idea and shooting in German, like we did with Babylon Berlin and like we’re doing now with House of Promises. What’s also crucial is finding the right partners in order to better protect your project. It does sometimes work when you go from a two-page pitch to shooting your project eight months later, as often happens with streamers, but the time you spend developing the project and its ultimate quality are intimately linked. It’s the same with writers’ rooms: they don’t work for all directors. What matters is finding the right combination. What’s also essential is learning how to structure the process, to sometime make mistakes but to properly analyse them afterwards. What generally happens at X Filme is that our creatives come to us with their ideas and together we think about what would work best, a film or a series. Because the two worlds have moved far closer together and we’re in a real period of transition. The important thing is creative passion and even though everyone’s talking about IP, I do think there’s room for plenty of other things."

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(Translated from French)

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