At the Gare Maritime in Cannes last week, producers and distributors were busy networking, pitching and making deals for new drama projects as part of the In Development initiative. Organized as a co-production of sorts between MIPTV and the inaugural CANNESERIES festival, In Development attracted some 600 delegates and spotlighted 12 new projects. The two projects selected to receive funding support from In Development partners Federation Entertainment and La Fabrique des Formats were The Sources of Evil produced by Wueste Film (Germany) and Whatever, Linda from The Donaldson Company (Canada).
Alongside the presentations of new concepts, attendees were able to check out sessions on the creative process, including one that featured three of Europe’s leading TV screenwriters: Deutschland 83’s Jörg Winger, 1992’s Ludovica Rampoldi and Nobel’s Mette Bolstad.
Behind the Curtain: Meet the Showrunners!, moderated by Anna Carugati, the group editorial director of World Screen, looked at the evolving position of screenwriters in Europe. Bolstad said that when she started working in TV, it was very director-led. Her new show State of Happiness, however, “is more producer- and writer-led.”
In Italy ten years ago, “the writer was out of the process,” said Rampoldi. “They wrote the script and delivered it, and that was it.” They weren’t on set or involved in casting or editing. “Most of the time, the writer watched this show for the first time when it was aired on television. It was very common that entire scenes were changed by the director or by the broadcast delegate or the actors. Writers know how bad that can be. When you change something in long-form programming, you have to be fully aware of the consequences.”
Winger said that Germany had “the cult of the genius and of the director. It wasn’t just that the writers weren’t in charge, they weren’t allowed to participate. When I started, I was a writing producer, but I had to write secretly, basically hide it from the broadcaster because they thought producing and writing was a conflict of interest.”
Carugati noted that showrunners in the U.S. wear many hats, including writing, editing and overseeing the look of the show. She asked the panelists about the position of the showrunner in Europe. “I’m not a showrunner,” Rampoldi said. “In Italy, there is a bias against the writers. We don’t consider writers as the authors. We give authorship to the directors. The showrunner has the budget and the final cut. In Italy, only directors have the final [cut]. And for the budget, broadcasters don’t trust writers. The only cases where we have a showrunner is when the writer and creator is also the director. I’m thinking about Paolo Sorrentino’s The Young Pope and now The Miracle from writer Niccolò Ammaniti.”
Bolstad said that the Norwegian drama sector doesn’t generally operate with showrunners. “Some people want to do more of it. But most writers now will follow a project from the beginning to the end. That’s a good way to make sure a story is being told as it’s supposed to. When it comes to the production part, it’s important to remember that writers are good at writing and should spend as much time writing as possible and not get overly carried away doing the other stuff. In my case, I prefer to work with a producer.”
Winger said that ultimately, “there’s no magic wand. In Germany, there’s the feeling that if you have a showrunner or a writers’ room you will succeed, but it’s not the formula for success. You have to have a small team of people who are aligned on their vision for the show. That can be the writer and director, the writer and producer. We’ve seen a resurgence in [the role of the] director. There are as many models as there are people!”
Drama was also the focus of the inaugural CANNESERIES festival, with public screenings of new series from across the globe. The event featured a “pink carpet” replete with numerous celebrities, among them Safe’s Michael C. Hall, Killing Eve’s Sandra Oh and The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair’s Patrick Dempsey. The CANNESERIES jury, led by best-selling author and Safe creator Harlan Coben, presented the best series award to Keshet International’s When Heroes Fly (the creator of which, Omri Givon, subsequently inked a deal with Federation Entertainment for a new production). Winners of the other categories were Francesco Montanari for best performance in Italy’s Cacciatore—The Hunter; Ran Danker, Raul Mendez, Aviv Carmi, Omer Ben David and Miguelito Sojuel, who won the special performance prize for Israel’s Miguel; Bolstad for best screenplay with State of Happiness from Norway’s Lykkeland; and State of Happiness’s Ginge for best music.
While completed projects were the subject of CANNESERIES, the MIPDrama Buyers Summit saw six works in progress presented to some 450 buyers on the Sunday before MIPTV’s official opening. The MIPDrama Buyers Coup de Coeur Award went to Sky Vision’s Bullets.
“MIPDrama, In Development and CANNESERIES provided our clients with unparalleled access to great drama at every stage of the production and sales cycle and the thrill of experiencing series in the prestigious setting of the Palais des Festivals Grand Auditorium,” said Jérôme Delhaye, the director of Reed MIDEM’s entertainment division.
There was plenty of deal news across the global drama spectrum. Atresmedia Television’s Lifeline was added to Channel 4’s Walter Presents programming block in the U.K. Canal+ landed the French rights to BBC America’s Killing Eve as well as the final season of ZDF Enterprises’ Bron/Broen (The Bridge). The enduring demand for Scandi drama could be seen throughout the week. MTG Studios unveiled Cold Courage, a Finland-Belgium-Iceland-Ireland co-production. STUDIOCANAL notched up new agreements on the Danish drama Ride Upon the Storm. And all3media international invested in its first Scandinavian drama, Blinded.
In a crowded market, known IP remains an important commodity. As the week kicked off, FremantleMedia International announced it had landed the worldwide distribution rights to The Luminaries, from Working Title Television and Silver Reel TV and based on the best-selling novel. And Tele München Group said it had secured new agreements with a range of distributors for the event series The Name of the Rose, based on Umberto Eco’s worldwide bestseller.
Other deal news included BBC Studios’ McMafia finding a Russian home on free-to-air broadcaster Friday, and Entertainment One licensing The Detail and Designated Survivor to Channel 5 in the U.K.
MIPTV also saw the announcement from the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences that U.S. hit-maker Greg Berlanti will receive the International Emmy Founders Award this year.