Event Preview: Series Mania

Laurence Herszberg, founder and general director of Series Mania, on what’s in store for the upcoming Festival and Forum.

Another installment of Series Mania is just around the corner, taking place from August 26 to September 2 in Lille and online. The 2021 edition had originally been slated for May and June, but after careful consideration regarding Covid-19 vaccination rollouts, the new dates were unveiled earlier this year and plans were put in place for an even more robust event.

“We firmly believe that moving the dates of Series Mania has allowed us to take this extra time to prepare our live event with updated safety guidelines and restrictions based on the recommendations of the French government, health authorities and city officials from Lille,” says Laurence Herszberg, founder and general director of Series Mania. “Our aim and goal this year is to safely bring together professionals once again while ensuring all social-distancing protocols are respected.”

After more than a year and a half of in-person events being put on hold, international scripted professionals are eager to attend Series Mania, Herszberg says, “to do the essential meetings and scouting that are impossible to do remotely by Zoom. At Series Mania, they can discover high-potential projects in development selected from all over the world; books available for series adaptations; promising talents to watch, with creators and showrunners selected in partnership with the best film and TV schools in Europe; and brand-new shows available for sales or remakes from key territories.”

The program for the 2021 edition has been transformed due to the pandemic and the continued evolution of the TV series industry. Herszberg says it “echoes the upheavals of societies in the midst of reinvention, through a dialogue between personal lives and social struggle. In this transitional year, and while travel is still uncertain, we are taking audiences on an international journey, with confirmed stops in the U.K., Australia, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Israel, along with some brand-new halts in Serbia, Croatia, Turkey, Colombia and Taiwan.”

The Series Mania Festival will feature 50 series, 25 world premieres, 462 screenings from more than 40 territories, guest stars and a slew of events, offering eight days of culture and celebration across Lille, the wider metropolitan area and the Hauts-de-France region as a whole. The International Competition jury will be chaired by screenwriter, director and producer Hagai Levi (BeTipul, The Affair, Our Boys), who will award the Grand Prize for best series, as well as the awards for best actress and best actor. The guests of honor will include Audra McDonald (recipient of Series Mania’s new annual Étoile Award), Fanny Herrero, Delphine Horvilleur, Tania De Montaigne, Édouard Philippe and Olivier Marchal, with more to be announced. The opening series will be the international premiere of Vigil from BBC One, with Suranne Jones, Rose Leslie, Gary Lewis and Paterson Joseph. The closing series will be the French premiere of Chapelwaite from Epix, with Adrien Brody, Emily Hampshire, Jennifer Ens, Sirena Gulamgaus and Ian Ho. New season premieres include Money Heist, Criminal Games—’The 70s, Mytho and Les Engagés: XAOC.

The Series Mania Forum, taking place August 30 to September 1, is complemented by the all-new Creative Bazaar, from August 25 to 29, an incubator with international flavor. The Creative Bazaar will host the DEENTAL Series Workshop, focusing on talents coming from African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, as well as the UGC Writers Campus, an immersive week-long writing workshop gathering 20 emerging TV drama writers from around the world, and the Co-Writing Residency Israel-France, with duos and trios of writers to develop four projects.

The Forum will again host the Co-Pro Pitching Sessions. The Forum overall will benefit from the new digital platform, which will enable viewing of all events, content and conferences (both live and on catch-up), along with the hosting of virtual meetings and access to several specialized directories. They will work independently but also feature shared networking events and masterclasses with special guests, including U.S. scriptwriter and producer Chris Brancato (Narcos, Godfather of Harlem).

The focus of the Forum will be on creativity and writing, but also paradigm shifts in the industry, new economic models and the challenges of ecological transition. Sessions are confirmed with executives from Netflix, Lionsgate, Banijay, Newen, WarnerMedia and ARTE.

The international Lille Dialogues summit, set for August 31, offers an opportunity for discussion and proposals to support the audiovisual industry. The event is organized in partnership with the French Ministry of Culture and the European Commission to contribute to the dialogue between European policymakers and key industry executives. This year, the conversation will center on the theme of the audiovisual industry at the heart of European recovery. “We are honored to receive the European commissioner for internal market, Thierry Breton, to underline the strategic importance of the audiovisual sector for the single market,” Herszberg says. There will be two roundtables to examine perspectives for the industry in Europe: one looking at Europe in the digital era and how to make the digital transition an opportunity for European content, and another on the future for TV, spotlighting linear broadcasters and the transformation of the sector. Speakers include Delphine Ernotte-Cunci (president of the EBU and CEO of France Télévisions), Hanna Stjärne (CEO of SVT), Jan Mojto (CEO of Beta Film), Bruno Patino (CEO of ARTE), Superna Kalle (president of international digital networks for Starz), Olivier Jollet (senior VP and general manager of Pluto TV at ViacomCBS Networks International), as well as Andrea Scrosati (group COO of Fremantle) and Karim Ibourki (vice-chair of European Regulators Group for Audiovisual Media Services).

Keynotes include Nordic Entertainment Group’s Anders Jensen, WarnerMedia’s Priya Dogra and Christina Sulebakk, Banijay’s Stéphane Courbit and Marco Bassetti, M6 Group’s Nicolas de Tavernost, TF1 Group’s Gilles Pélisson and The Walt Disney Company’s Jan Koeppen. Closing the day will be remarks by the French minister of culture, Roselyne Bachelot-Narquin, and the European ministers of culture attending the event, including Bénédicte Linard (Belgium) and Anneli Ott (Estonia).

Series Mania has now expanded its digital platform to a year-round initiative to encourage projects in development, through a lively and interactive networking platform. Registered participants can request one-on-one meetings with series producers and creators on the online platform (seriesmaniadigital.com). There are sections for “My Professional Tools,” “Companies Directory” and “Who’s Who.” Starting August 19, professionals can access “Projects in Development,” featuring a listing of all the projects in development presented during the various Series Mania programs and residencies, and “Talents to Watch,” a directory of talents selected and highlighted by the Forum. During the Festival, access will be available for the “Meeting Area” (sponsored sessions, virtual stands, private tables and online meeting areas); the “Screening Room” (the Festival Official Selection, the Forum Exclusives and sponsored screenings); and for the “Series Mania Forum and Lille Dialogues” (where all the conferences of the three-day event will be broadcast and then available in replay).

“While our digital initiatives cannot take away from the invaluable networking opportunities and meeting exchanges our live event offers, we have learned that our virtual presence and adaptability is important to the growing changes in the world we now live in,” says Herszberg. “A joyous novelty brought by our reflections developed during the current health situation and the temporary inability to travel freely. Our digital platform will meet the needs of the public and industry professionals. It will faithfully reflect the energy of the Festival and its rich program, working both as a complement to the on-site experience and as a mirror of the physical event, to be experienced entirely online.”