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‘Romans in L.A.,’ ‘Dead Meet,’ ‘Alert’ at Series Mania’s Co-Production Forum

Variety logo Variety 3/27/2017 John Hopewell
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Shine Endemol Italy’s “Romans in L.A.,” the “Six Feet Under”-ish “Dead Meet” and whistleblower-themed “Alert” are among 16 TV dramas to be unveiled at pitching sessions at mid-April’s Series Mania’s Co-Production Forum, the Paris-based festival’s centerpiece industry event.

The three projects were chosen out of 312 submissions from throughout Europe. That’s an increase of about 100 entries from last year, an indication of the building reputation of Series Mania and the priority now placed on international co-production by top European TV producers as they seek to offset risk and tap into pan-continental distribution.

The C0-production Forum will for the first time offer a cash grant of €50,000 ($54,000) to a best-project winner and be expanded from three to four days, running April 18-21.

The number of attendees has also risen. More than 500 international TV series executives are expected to be on hand, said Laurence Herszberg, general director of Paris’ audiovisual arts theater Forum des Images and founder of Series Mania.

Though little is known about most projects beyond their titles, they will range widely in market terms, according to Forum organizers.

“We have tried to establish a good balance between edgier projects which may go to pay-TV operators or public broadcasters – maybe four to five belong in this category – and some more high-concept dramas, while also opening up to more mainstream projects,” said Francesco Capurro, the Co-production Forum coordinator.

Endemol Shine Italy’s “Romans in L.A.” is “very high concept,” Capurro said, and is set in a near future where scientists manage to bring back to life the bodies of real Romans who lived during the Roman Empire.

“Dead Meet,” reportedly a dark comedy about a girl who works in a morgue, is set up at London-based Eleventh Hour Films, which has produced scripted series such as “Foyle’s War,” “New Blood” and “Vexed.” At this year’s Forum, “you have projects which dare to take place in very strange environments,” Herszberg said.

Belgian project “The Alert” turns on whistle-blowers. It marks yet another move into TV drama by a Belgian movie production company, in this case Wrong Men, which co-produced Tom Holland feature “Pilgrimage.”

Also to be pitched in Paris is a slice of Russian noir, “The Conductor From St. Petersburg” (aka “Moscow Noir”), which adapts the crime novel of the same title by Sweden’s Paul Leander Engstrom. Unfurling in the get-rich-fast Russia of the early 2000s, the book turns on two Swedish friends – one an attorney, the other an investment banker – who both aim to make a killing from a big deal made by petrol giant RusOil.

Beyond these projects, and the already announced “Freud,” sourced from the Berlinale’s Drama Series Days, producers have kept most of the projects to be presented at the Forum under wraps.

Capurro said that nine more projects, fruit of a new script-writing mentor program with the Torino TV Lab, would also be unveiled at the Forum’s Series Lab. Another initiative, Bestseller to Box Office, will see five literary agents talk up the small-screen adaptation potential of literary properties.

The identity and caliber of producers behind the projects suggest their possibly higher-end budgets and artistic ambitions as well as hint at emerging industry trends.

Founded by Carole Scotta (pictured), Paris-based Haut et Court TV is teaming with Tel Aviv’s Masha Productions and Israel-based Spiro Films to produce the series “Fertile Crescent.” Haut et Court TV is a producer of “The Young Pope,” “The Last Panthers” and the original “The Returned.” Masha is the company behind Stana Katic AXN thriller “Absentia.” Spiro Films is best known as a movie producer (“Afterthought”).

In another Franco-Israeli linkup, TF1’s production-sales house Newen has linked up with Israel’s Keshet Intl. to develop the series “The Steins.”

Last year’s Series Mania also marked the emergence of Belgian noir on the international stage, with the screening of Belgian pubcaster RTBF’s “Public Enemy” and “The Break” and the Lagardère-sold “Beau Sejour.” This year, the Co-Production Forum will reveal two projects from prestigious Dutch film-TV production houses: “David,” a comedy from Lemming Film (“The Lobster”), and “The Faction,” from Submarine, whose “Winnie” won a Sundance Fest world cinema best-directing award in January.

A further Forum project, “Girl on a Wire,” is produced by Studio Lambert, founded by CEO Steven Lambert (pictured, right), and owned by Discovery/Liberty Global’s All3Media. Best known for entertainment formats (“Undercover Boss,” “Gogglebox”), Studio Lambert has been pushing hard into drama since early 2015.

Co-launched by Jaume Roures (pictured, left), Mediapro’s “The Head” is an early original production from one of Southern Europe’s biggest film-TV indie companies, Spain’s Mediapro Group, a producer on “The Young Pope.” Over the last year, Mediapro has made waves by hiring “Homeland” producer and ex-Keshet exec Ran Telem, as well as buying into Daniel Burman’s Burman Office in Argentina.

Nordisk Film Production, producer of TV series “The Team” and Oscar-nominated movie “Land of Mine,” will present a Norwegian project, “Twin.”

Also at the Forum, “Neo Paris” signals a rapid return to Series Mania for French helmer/producer Tonie Marshall’s Tabo Tabo Films, which lead produced Lucie Borleteau’s “Cannabis,” a world premiere at last year’s edition. “M.A.D.” is from Copenhagen Film Commission founder Ulrik Bolt, now a producer at Denmark-based Arena Film. “Milites Christi,” a Crusades drama, is developed at Wild Horses, a TV production company with offices in Paris, Lille and Belgium. “The Last Socialist Artifact” is produced by Zagreb-based Kinorama (“Hush”).

The Co-Production Forum’s jury members are: Francesca Orsi, HBO co-head of drama and the jury president; Thomas Bourguignon, a producer at KWAI; Piv Bernth, head of drama at Danish pubcaster DR; Henrik Pabst, managing director at German production-sales company Red Arrow Intl.; and Pilar Perez Roel, head of acquisitions at DCD Rights.

Series Mania runs April 13-23.

PROJECTS SELECTED FOR THE 2017 SERIES MANIA CO-PRODUCTION FORUM:

“The Alert,” Wrong Men, Belgium

“The Conductor from St Petersburg”/“Moscow Noir,” Black Spark Film & TV, Sweden

“David,” Lemming Film, The Netherlands

“Dead Meet,” Eleventh Hour Films Limited, United Kingdom

“The Faction,” Submarine, The Netherlands

“Fertile Crescent,” Masha Productions/Spiro Films/Haut et Court TV, Israel/France

“Freud,” Bavaria Fernsehproduktion, Germany/Austria

“Girl on a Wire,” Studio Lambert, United Kingdom

“The Head,” Mediapro, Spain

“M.A.D,” Arena Film, Denmark

“Milites Christi,” Wild Horses, France

“Neo Paris,” Tabo Tabo Films, France

“Romans in L.A,” Endemol Shine Italy, Italy

“The Last Socialist Artefact,” Kinorama, Croatia

“The Steins,” Newen/Keshet International, France/Israel

“Twin,” Nordisk Film Production, Norway

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