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Series Mania: ‘Augustus,’ ‘Trauma,’ ‘Beehive’ Among Projects At Series Lab

Variety logo Variety 4/19/2017 Emilio Mayorga
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Marco van Geffen and Philip Delmaar’s “Augustus,” “Trauma,” from Marcin Kubawski, Milosz Sakowski and Maciej Kubcicki, and Domante Urmonaite and Martynas Mendelis “The Beehive” are some of the nine projects to be pitched in front of a TV industry players at Paris-based Series Mania, the largest co-production hub for TV series in Europe running April 13-23.

SeriesLab projects will be presented on April 20, an initiative launched by Series Mania Co-production Forum and the Torino Film Lab –a training development program founded 10 years ago– aiming to back the key aspect of series production in Europe: Development, especially screenwriting. SeriesLab is supported by the European Union’s Creative Europe, a program that backs the arts, including film and TV.

Produced by Lemming Film in the Netherlands, “Augustus” is a political thriller developing the untold story of the U.N. organization, following Stephan Ponte, a former army doctor who decides to join the U.N. mine clearance program. An action man, Ponte examined by the U.N.’s ethics department, because he might have crossed a red line in the past. He will have to decide whether to lie to save the U.N. or tell the truth to save his soul,” the log-line runs.

Urmonaite and Mendelis portray in sci-fi thriller “The Beehive” a dystopian universe where a corporation employs gifted agents who can occupy their client’s body for up to eight hours to perform any demanded service from a visit to a dentist to giving a political speech. After discovering shady affairs at the Beehive, agent Jonas will try to beat the system from inside.

“Trauma” will deliver a “story about lost teenagers in the age of easy access to everything, where every choice can be crucial and every decision can determine who they will become,” its authors say. “A thriller, we want to tell a modern coming-of-age story of the millennial generation,” they added. Events kick off when two seemingly unrelated teenagers appear after having gone missing for one year. Poland’s Telemark is set to produce series.

The nine selected projects were unveiled, though not in detail, last December. After an intensive four-month course, the participants will have drawn up a treatment of a pilot and a mini-bible that will be offered to TV professionals at the Series Mania event.

“European authors seem to be very much more attracted by thrillers and thriller-mystery formats than any other genre,” SeriesLab head of studies and scriptwriter Nicola Lusardy told Variety.

Ludardy went on: “Second, there is a tendency towards totally serialized stories rather than any other format or pattern; finally, the creative process encourages them to develop the drama as a mini-series rather than a sustained serial.”

SeriesLab participants are now exploring new aesthetic landscapes, something that was impossible to conceive in European television until a few years ago, according to Lusardi, who added: “ You can perceive the influence of movies they were brought up on; in fact many people still conceive series like a kind of long long movie, and try to copy trends in recent international successes.”

“A.K.A. Marcus” is a 10-hour crime drama following a soldier on a Middle-East mission who accidentally shoots a kid and is cursed by a local shaman. The soldier is murdered and with his last breath, the shaman’s magic takes effect with his spirit flowing into Sabir, a school teacher of Arab origin, who has come to the rescue.

“The transformation of a Belgian soldier into an Arab family man allows us to explore cultural prejudice, telling an exciting story and showing the social environment of a Muslim character in today’s Western society,” the writers Sarah Denoo and Bas Adriaensen explain. Based out of Belgium, Philippe De Schepper’s Jonnydepony is backing “Markus.”

Bucking the thriller trend, and a romance with supernatural elements, “Back in the Day,” written by Italy’s Guido Silei, turns on a young couple living in the outskirts of Rome who’s relationship has hit a rough patch. After Marcello decides to put an end to their life together, he mysteriously disappears, wake up in post-WWII Rome.

Melding mystery and the supernatural, though in a thriller format, “Carpathian Beast,” created by Mira Fornay and Katarína Uhrová, centers on Petra who returns to her teaching job after maternity leave. She doesn’t believe that a mythical beast is linked to a series of crimes taking place in her hometown of Kysuce, the region in north-west Slovakia, near the Czech-Polish border. Slovakia’s Mirafox backs the project.

Also boasting supernatural elements, Tone Andersen and Mamdooh Afdile will present“Of a Different Nature.” A dramatic psycho-thriller produced by Norway’s Klar Film, and enrolling other genres such as sci-fi,” the series centers on a scientist obsessed with finding a cure to his Tourette syndrome. Suddenly, his symptoms cease when he enters an abandoned mine in his hometown, to which he has returned for his mother’s funeral.

From France, Sandrine Joly offers “Olympics.” A political drama about a once famous biathlon world champion whose career has been cut short by an accident, the ex-athlete agrees to become the face of an Olympic candidacy – so as to bring down his estranged and corrupt father.

“Sweet Blood” weighs in at SeriesLab as a horror drama turning on a vampire-ish tribe living in the Caucasus Mountains, which loses its capacity to procreate.

For Lusardi, the “prodigious” opportunities now offering by the demand for European authors and producers to create “big serial storytelling” signifies “a moment of great value for the economy, politics and culture.”

“We might not be fully prepared and should reinforce all the processes capable of helping authors and the industry to come and grow together,” he added. That means “scouting, training, development.”

Tutors for this inaugural SeriesLab are scriptwriters Vincent Poymiro, Stefano Sardo and Anita Voorham, story editor Gino Ventriglia and producer Elion Ratzkovsky.

The SeriesLab Projects:

“A.K.A. Marcus,” (Sarah Denoo, Bas Adriaensen, Phillippe De Schepper, Belgium)

“Augustus ,” ( Marco van Geffen, Fleur Winters and Philip Delmaar, The Netherlands)

“Back in the Day,” (Guido Silei, Italy)

“Carpathian Beast,” (Katarína Uhrová, Mira Fornay, Slovakia)

“Of a Different Nature,” (Tone Andersen, Mamdooh Afdile, Norway)

“Olympics,” (Sandrine Joly, France)

“Sweet Blood,” (Elza Kephart and Patricia Gomez Zlatar, Canada)

“The Beehive” (Domante Urmonaite, Martynas Mendelis, Lithuania)

“Trauma,” (Marcin Kubawski, Milosz Sakowski and Maciej Kubcicki, Poland).

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