This is the latest in a series of posts by the MIPCOM News team, summarising the highlights of an action-packed week in Cannes. Top photo: Aoi Miyazaki, star of NHK’s Kurara: The Dazzling Life Of Hokusai’s Daughter.
Drama continued to dominate the headlines at MIPCOM, with an array of stars in Cannes to promote their shows. In several cases, these scripted series were also the subject of well-attended screenings in the Palais des Festivals.
Oscar winner JK Simmons was in town to support Sony Pictures Entertainment drama Counterpart, subject of a World Premiere TV Screening on Sunday, October 15. Simmons plays Howard Silk, a low-ranking member of a bureaucratic UN agency which, he discovers, is secretly charged with protecting a portal into a parallel dimension in which alternate versions of each character exist. The screening, followed by a panel discussion involving members of the cast and crew, was the culmination of a two-year collaboration between the show’s co-writers Justin Marks and Amy Berg. Marks, who is noted for his Disney live-action imagining of classic children’s story The Jungle Book, said moving to television had given him the “opportunity tell an original story and work with characters and actors for a long time. We don’t have to thumbnail or shorthand the story.”
There was also a strong showing at MIPCOM from the cast of Sky Vision’s Britannia, with David Morrissey (The Walking Dead) among those attending the programme’s World Premiere Screening. Set in 43AD, Britannia is the story of ancient Britain, a country ruled by powerful Druids and warrior queens. Morrissey plays Roman General Aulus Plautius, determined to conquer this mythical land at the edge of the Roman Empire. Standing in his way are Kerra, the daughter of the King of the Cantii, and her arch-rival Queen Antedia, who are forced to put their differences aside when the Romans invade. Another key female character is Cait, played by rising star Eleanor Worthington-Cox (The Enfield Haunting). Also in Cannes to promote the show and attend the Screening were actor Nikolaj Lie Kaas and musician Donovan, whose song, Hardy Gurdy Man, is the title track of Britannia.
MIPCOM 2017 also saw the largest ever showcase of new Russian scripted content, with titles such as Trotksy, Road To Calvary, Demon Of The Revolution and Gogol taking pride of place in the Russian Content Revolution showcase. Trotsky, an 8 x 52 mins epic from Channel One and Sreda Production, was subject of a World Premiere TV Screening and had actors Olga Sutulova and Konstantin Khabensky on hand to support the show. Alexander Tsekalo, founder of Sreda, said the series aimed to “reveal Trotsky’s ambiguous personality. We explore his memories as he revisits the major events in his life.”
Russia’s content distributors were out in force, with Sovtelexport director Julia Matiash headlining Demon Of The Revolution, which tells the story of how Alexander Parvus found money to finance the 1917 Russian Revolution and brought Vladimir Lenin out of exile to lead the struggle. Sovtelexport, which distributes content on behalf of channel Russia 1, also brought its first-ever scripted format to Cannes, said Matiash. “We have 600 hours of a telenovela called Carmelita which was extremely popular with Russian audiences. We are marketing it in regions like Latin America, Eastern Europe and Italy.”
Vying for attention with the Russian shows was a strong array of drama from Spain, notably from leading pay-TV platform Movistar+. Domingo Corral, head of original programming at Movistar+, gave a keynote speech on Monday, October 16 in which he discussed the Telefonica-owned company’s huge investment in high-quality TV drama. Movistar+ titles on show at MIPCOM 2017 included Gigantes, distributed by APC; La Peste, distributed by Sky Vision; La Zona and Velvet Collection, both distributed by Beta Film. Prioritising Spanish content, Beta Film was also in Cannes with Morocco – Love In Times Of War and Farinia – Snow On The Atlantic, both produced by Bambu for Antena 3.
Japan has started to gain ground in the international drama business, with several new scripted formats deals announced during the week. There was also a high-profile Japanese screening on Tuesday, October 17. This was the Asian World Premiere TV Screening of NHK’s Kurara: The Dazzling Life Of Hokusai’s Daughter — a spectacular 89-minute drama special shot in 4K.
Kurara is an adaptation by scriptwriter Mika Ohmori of a book by Makate Asai. Set in 19th-century Edo — the old name for Tokyo — it tells the story of O-Ei, the daughter of master-painter Hokusai Katsushika. O-Ei developed a passion for painting at an early age, while observing her father at work. She married a local painter by the name of Kichinosuke, but missing the inspiration of her father, divorced and returned to the family home to assist, and learn from, her mentor. As he aged, she became an essential collaborator in Hokusai’s great works.
The role of O-Ei is played by Japanese actress Aoi Miyazaki, who was in Cannes for the premiere. Speaking to the MIPCOM News, she said: “I knew Hokusai and his great works very well, but I had no knowledge about his daughter O-Ei. I was surprised that such an amazing woman was behind Hokusai’s works.”
Other stars to attend the market included Kristin Kreuk, supporting CBC drama Burden Of Truth, and Yulia Franz for TV3’s Gogol. Anna Chipovskaya and Yuliya Snigir were also at MIPCOM to support NTV’s The Road To Calvary. ABC Commercial from Australia brought actresses Claire van der Boom and Pallavi Sharda to Cannes for the launch of medical drama Pulse. Also the subject of a screening, Pulse is set in a busy teaching hospital in Sydney’s suburbs. “With its outstanding story, diverse cast and powerful message of personal endurance, we’re certain international audiences will enjoy Pulse as much as audiences have enjoyed it here in Australia,” said ABC Commercial director Robert Patterson.
BBC Worldwide also made a big play with crime drama McMafia this week. Speaking to the MIPCOM Daily News, Paul Dempsey, president global markets, BBC Worldwide said: “Our creative ambition in drama is encapsulated by McMafia which we showcased at MIPCOM with the help of cast members James Norton and Juliet Rylance and writer Hossein Amini. Our relationship with Curtis Brown and Cuba Pictures allowed us to be there at the beginning of the project and we were able to shape the financial plan and find a range of solutions to the funding pressures beyond the scope of a traditional distributor. We subsequently brought AMC on board as a co-pro partner and secured a global deal with Amazon (excluding USA, UK and China). We’re very pleased with the result and look forward to exploring further licensing opportunities.”
A+E Networks, the world’s most prolific producer of movies for TV, was at MIPCOM 2017 with a slate of titles featuring A-list Hollywood talent both in front of and behind the camera. Academy Award- and Tony-winning actress, Catherine Zeta-Jones attended MIPCOM to promote Cocaine Godmother. While in Cannes, she also attended the Women In Global Entertainment Power Lunch.
Turkey was another focal point at MIPCOM, with leading experts discussing how Turkish content creators are adapting to changes in the media market during the session, A New Era For Content And Partnership In Turkey (Tuesday, October 17). Ahmet Ziyalar, COO of Inter Medya, said the rise of OTT would lead to several key developments: “We will see more diversified, faster-paced drama with shorter episodes and shorter runs. OTT will allow producers to be more creative because they are less constrained by the ratings systems. And new drama formats will be valuable for us in terms of distribution.”
Tamer Uner, president of Karga 7, said traditional genres like melodrama and historical fiction continue to be popular — but that there is more effort being put into other genres such as thrillers and romcom. “We have a new show called City Of Secrets, which includes some action and crime elements. The idea is to appeal to a wider audience without losing the traditional female fanbase.”
Another key drama-based development this week was the official launch of CANNESERIES, the new international series festival, in the presence of former French minister Fleur Pellerin, president of the new event, and the Mayor of Cannes David Lisnard. During the launch it was revealed that acclaimed actress Sidse Babett Knudsen (Borgen, Westworld) will be patron of CANNESERIES. Knudsen said: “Being part of this very first edition of CANNESERIES is an honour, and I am pleased Cannes will now be hosting its own festival for series. I look forward to discovering new creative talent and interesting series.”
Running alongside MIPTV 2018, CANNESERIES will consist of five key elements. These are: CANNESERIES Addict, a series of public screenings and masterclasses; CANNESERIES Digital, a focus on shortform series; the Official Competition, a selection of 10 international series; In Development, a creative forum held in partnership with Reed MIDEM’s MIPTV; and the out of competition screenings — which will focus on three further quality shows. There will also be a CANNESERIES Institute, which will see eight French and international writers spend 4-5 weeks preparing a pre-bible and pilot script for a series. The best project will be offered a development agreement by Canal+ Group.