"Content will gradually become segmented according to audiences and broadcasters"
Industry Report: Series
Francesco Capurro • Director, Series Mania Forum
The head of the professional days programme, organised within the Series Mania Festival which is unspooling in Lille from 26 August-2 September, talks about the event and the trends within the sector
As the 4th edition of Lille’s Series Mania Festival - the biggest European event dedicated to series (running 26 August to 2 September 2021 - read our article) - gets under way today, we chatted with Francesco Capurro, the director of the Series Mania Forum which is set to welcome professionals from the global series industry between 30 August and 1 September.
Cineuropa: After the 2020 event which successfully switched to an online edition at the last minute, how is the 2021 Series Mania Forum looking?
Francesco Capurro: It’s looking really good. It shows that the industry really wants to get back to itself and to get back to normal. Almost 2,000 badge-holders will take part in the event in person, compared to 2,700 in 2019, before the crisis. That’s really good considering the circumstances, which are still quite complicated, especially in terms of the travel restrictions which are still in place for various countries. It’s a bumper programme, with almost 60 events unfolding over three days, in-between conferences, pitching sessions, project presentations, etc., and our chosen speakers accepted our invitations, with most of them set to attend the event in person.
560 series projects hailing from 59 countries were submitted for the Co-Pro Pitching Sessions, which is more than double the amount of last year’s entries. How do you account for this explosion in submissions?
We were drowning in reading material [laughs]. I think that lots of producers made the most of the time we had in Covid, and during the various lockdowns, etc., to work on projects. We, too, had more time to scout around, and given that a number of festivals had been postponed, our calls for projects remained open for longer than usual. The selection process was tough because the average quality levels of what we’d been sent were very high. We had to make some difficult decisions in order to arrive at the 15 projects which are set to be presented in person on Monday 30 September [see our list], but whose pitches will also be available on our platform. Professionals will be able to organise meetings with project leaders in person or online [here].
What trends are you seeing in terms of genres?
Out of the projects we received, thrillers were the genre which largely dominated the scene. But we also noticed a huge number of historical series, with a repeated fascination for the Second World War, a time which continues to impress itself upon the imaginations of European screenwriters. There were also dystopias and science-fiction films, whose authors often used the theme to speak about the modern-day world.
Countries all around the world have now launched themselves full throttle into series production. What strengths should Europe draw on, on the global chessboard?
Series are a global phenomenon which have been on the rise for ten years now, and they’ve become firm favourites for viewers all around the world. The arrival of platforms has amplified all that, and the Covid crisis has only reinforced viewers’ passion-addiction for series. The series production sector is growing stronger in every country in Europe and there’s increasing co-operation between our territories because we need to join forces in order to compete with the Americans and big international productions. But we’re getting there, slowly but surely.
This year, three series which competed in the Co-Pro Pitching Sessions are in the festival’s official selection (Blackport, Jerusalem and The Last Socialist Artefact). You’ve also organised several residencies. What do you hope to achieve with these incubator initiatives?
We see it as a success when a project comes to us via the Co-Pro Pitching Sessions. It shows that Series Mania supports projects from conception through to their arrival on screen. And yes, we’re also developing lots of initiatives for screenwriters, because we think that the important thing, in order to be competitive, is to train creators who are capable of working on ambitious series together. Our desire is to support screenwriters from the idea stage through to the point where they meet with producers, fund their projects and have their films screened at festivals and broadcast, etc. That’s where our mission finds its meaning.
The increasing number of platforms and the growth in series production all over the world is also leading to a fragmentation of viewer access to such works as a result of exclusive rights. Could too many broadcasters kill circulation, or does it mostly encourage creation?
For now, I’m tending to look on the positive side: there’s high demand and increased choice, which causes dynamism within the industry, from which producers, authors, etc can draw benefit. But it’s true that it’s hard to find your way around this abundance of choice. I think that content will gradually become segmented according to audiences and broadcasters, which will lead to editorial identities becoming more clearly defined.
(Translated from French)
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