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High-End TV Drama Festivals Are Inundating France

Variety logo Variety 4/6/2017 Elsa Keslassy
© Provided by Variety

It was probably inevitable that the explosion of high-end TV drama would result in an explosion of high-end TV drama festivals. Nowhere is this more true than in France, which is host to a staggering number of them: Series Mania, Fipa, Série Series, MipTV, Mipcom, and La Rochelle, plus two new festivals to be launched next year, in Lille and Cannes. But can the country, and the industry, support so many?

The French government raised eyebrows recently when it decided to back the creation of a large-scale international drama fest in Northern France’s Lille, which it wants to become the TV counterpart of the iconic Cannes Film Festival. The announcement came as city officials in Cannes itself said they would create their own rival international drama festival to run alongside MipTV.

Meanwhile, Paris continues to host Series Mania, a thriving festival now in its eighth year. This year’s event, which runs April 13-23, will screen Jim Carrey’s “I’m Dying Up Here,” among others.

Yet the future of Series Mania now looks uncertain. France’s National Film Board, which gave the festival about $800,000, is expected to switch that subsidy over to the new fest in Lille.

“Instead of strengthening an existing festival, we’re chopping off its legs and throwing two rival festivals, Cannes and Lille, into the mix,” said Caroline Benjo, co-founder of Haut et Court TV.

The festival in Lille has the backing of local politicos who, during this election year, wanted to make the splashy announcement of a new international cultural event.

But Ben Donald, exec producer of international drama for BBC Worldwide, said that modeling a TV fest and market on the Cannes Film Festival didn’t make sense. “A film doesn’t have a commissioning broadcaster, so it needs pre-sales to get the first financing, while a TV series is commissioned and has a lead broadcaster or platform. So it’s happening anyway — whether there is a festival or not,” he said.

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