This is the second in a series of posts by the MIPTV News team, summarising the highlights of an action-packed week in Cannes.
In February, MIPTV and CANNESERIES unveiled 16 diverse and eclectic projects that, between them, represented the 2019 Official Selection of In Development, the Cannes Drama Creative Forum dedicated to fast-tracking drama series production – and supported for the second year by Telefilm Canada and the Canada Media Fund.
In Development has been devised as a vehicle to discover, connect and greenlight early-stage drama projects at an international level. Over three-and-a-half days, producers and creators involved with the 16 projects were given a priceless opportunity to pitch to a wide spectrum of decision-makers, including commissioning editors, platforms, broadcasters, distributors, co-producers, funds and talent agencies.
The 16 projects were selected by an international jury of drama experts out of a record 376 submissions from 41 countries (last year there were 344 entries). Reflecting the quality of output currently emerging from across the international market, this year saw titles on show from Belgium, Finland, France/Morocco, France/Germany, Germany, Greece/Serbia, Israel, Norway, Mexico, Poland, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, the UK, the UK/Mexico and the US.
Studiocanal’s Rola Bauer, a member of the selection process, said: “The quality of this years’ submissions was incredibly high with a lot of very interesting projects from all regions of the world with a variety of topics ranging from crime noir, science fiction, horror, comedy — and what was surprising — lots of period and historical dramas in the mix.”
As well as winning the opportunity to pitch to such an influential audience, the 16 projects were also eligible for funding from In Development’s Official Partners: La Fabrique des Formats and independent European studio Federation Entertainment. Three winners — Perfect Monsters, Black-Out and Ice Valley — were revealed by Federation president Pascal Breton.
Breton said his team “read all the projects” and selected France/ Mexico collaboration Perfect Monsters as the one that they would like to co-develop, co-produce and distribute. Set in Chihuahua, it focuses on a series of characters including a schizophrenic boy who falls in with a dangerous arms dealer after his family is brutally murdered. The project is from Nicholas Celis, producer of three-Oscar-winner, Netflix’s Roma, directed by Alfonso Cuaron.
Breton named the winner of the second award, which will see La Fabrique des Formats support development, as Black-Out, the first high-end TV project from film director Nabil Ayouch. An eight-hour series, Black-Out takes place on the border between Morocco and Spain’s North African enclave of Ceuta. It tells the story of a migrant crisis that occurs when a power outage disables the electrified barriers between the two territories.
The third award, offered jointly by Federation and La Fabrique des Formats, was granted to Nordic Noir drama Ice Valley. Set in Norway’s Istelen Valley, it follows two students investigating the disappearance of their housemate. As they do, they uncover eerie mysteries and deaths connected to the area.
Commenting on the process, Breton said: “The TV series is a genuine laboratory of creativity, and events like In Development, which put creatives at the heart of the business, are essential to engender the hits of tomorrow. The first edition was a success, both in terms of the quality of the content presented and the opportunities, which flowed from it. We are proud to have developed some of those projects.”
Speaking to the MIPTV News, Sonar’s David Ellender, another jury selector, noted the diversity of content on show, “with subjects ranging from a WWII crime drama to contemporary supernatural mystery, and from countries as diverse as Morocco, Finland and Mexico. The world is now much more open to creative talent, pretty much from anywhere in the world. Great creative ideas are not exclusive to any one country or culture, and the TV screen (or any screen) provides viewers with a window on the world.”
In addition to pitches, In Development’s Drama Creative Room hosted some of MIPTV’s best-supported sessions. On Monday, April 8 Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight gave a frank and illuminating Creative Masterclass about the life of an A-list writer and director. On film versus TV, he said he prefers TV “because it is more simple and solid. TV doesn’t have to prove itself on the opening weekend. Peaky Blinders had a few bad reviews at launch and people were slow to find it. So it probably wouldn’t have made it if it had been a movie.”
In another session, Soumya Sriraman, president of ‘best of British TV’ SVOD service BritBox, told delegates it has won fans by staying “very focused on what we do. It’s important to have a British core. Viewers come because a British sensibility is at the heart of our promise.”
Managing Director of Roughcut TV Ash Atalla presented the Creative Masterclass: Comedy in Demand where the co-creator of the Office told the Cannes audience how he is “fascinated by the mundane” which all fans know is a key element of the humour in The Office. But it had its downside: “One of the crew resigned because she had just spent four hours filming a photocopier.” His advice to producers included: “The world wants really distinctive stories and not just another flat-share show.”
Alongside In Development’s Drama programme, the third Drama Short-Form Series Pitch was part of the programme this year. During this session, digital short-form projects created for mobile were presented by creators and producers from around the world. The six projects pre-selected came from Canada, France, Germany, Israel, Italy and US. Zach Feldberg, executive in charge of production, digital originals, at CBC Canada was an expert jury member reviewing the finalists in Cannes. He said: “An event like In Development can help connect platforms that have shared creative and audience ambitions, alongside exciting projects that may align with those needs.”
There was also a kids component to the In Development track, sponsored by Hub City of Asian Culture, Gwangiu. Running across three-and-a-half days, In Development Kids offered sessions covering trends in kids programming, animation and digital content with a strong focus on the very young. These included the popular Fresh TV Kids session and a pre-school behavioural study. Back for a second year, the Kids Live Action Pitch was a key part of In Development Kids. It was a pitching event for creators and producers to present original Kids Live Action series which have not been commissioned or released yet, and for which the worldwide rights are still available. New to Cannes was the Pre-School Animation Pitch, a pitching event for animation projects targeting three-to-six-year-olds; and looking for creative and financing partners.
The Kids Live-Action Pitch involved five projects ranging from an idea about an Irish surf school to a posh ladies’ academy, tackling issues such as fostering, political activism, gender and cultural diversity. The session kicked off with Anarchy Anderson, produced by Mosaic Entertainment (Canada), centred around 14-year-old Anarchy Anderson and her bid to become Lakeside High-class president.
On the pre-school animation side, there were six projects presented, which came from all over the world – from The Coop Troop, a whacky comedy about farmyard animals who go to the rescue of other animals in trouble, to Korean fantasy project ShaSha, featuring a magical cat capable of turning into a girl. Also presenting were Canadian producers Buffalo Gals Pictures, whose project, Time Out Tess, addresses issues around ADHD, and Boomons, produced by Anima Kitchent Media, from Spain.
In the conference track, Cecilia Persson, vice president programming and content strategy, Turner EMEA Kids, gave priceless pitching tips in her 30 Minutes With… session. She said it isn’t the format of a show that matters but characters — and the passion with which you pitch them. “We don’t have a commissioning round, so email us any materials you can share and we’ll get back to you. Come to the London office if you can. Or we can set up a skype or a phonecall.”
Equally open was Layla Lewis, senior vice-president of global acquisitions and content partnerships at Nickelodeon in her own session: “We’re always open to new ideas. Our primary goal is to find shows that work for audiences all around the world,” she said. “We have acquisitions teams in most of our offices, and one single pitch email, so everyone sees the pitches we receive. Timing is key. We like to see ideas early in development.”
Top photo: Canada’s Coconut Effect pitching Lady Ada’s Secret Society at the In Development Kids Live-Action Pitch