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Series Mania Winner ‘Transfer’ Adds To French TV Sci-Fi Build

Variety logo Variety 5/1/2017 Jamie Lang
© Provided by Variety

Ask anyone working in TV and they will say the same thing: For a show to do well internationally it has to first do well locally. In Europe, indigenous programming, regardless of budget or production values, consistently out-performs all but the very highest-rated series coming from across the Atlantic. It stands to reason then that Paris’ Series Mania would have an entire set of awards just for local content. Taking home the 2017 International Jury Award (whose members included Variety’s Henry Chu) for best French-language series and best actor in a French-language series (Arieh Worthalter), “Transfer” represents parts of a notable ramp-up in sci-fi series in France.

The series will launch initially on French-German public network Arte. International distribution is handled by Lagardère Studios Distribution.

A co-production between France’s Panama Productions and Filmagine and the Belgian BE Films, the series fits right into the current trend of international co-productions making their way across the continent.

Creators and writers Claude Scasso and Patrick Benedek continue their working partnership which the two have fostered over the past three years, working together on French drama “Caïn”; four episodes were directed by TV vet Oliver Guignar, two by movie (“The Prodigies”) video game (“Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines”) and TV director Antoine Charreyron.

World premiering at the Berlinale’s 3rd Drama Series Days, “Transfer” bowed its first two episodes to a packed auditorium at the Forum des Images in Paris’ Les Halles mall during Series Mania. The series unspools in a not too distant future in a not too different France that faces questions of mortality raised by the transfer program. The program allows for a human consciousness to be passed from one body to another when the first is nearing its end, if the original’s body has problems which cannot be cured or, in extreme cases, when a murderer wishes their identity to be unknown to those around them. In the series, some transfers are legal, a few not, which are combated by a new militia, the BATI.

After he suffers a swimming accident and falls into a coma, woodworker and family man Florian is illegally transferred into the body of BATI officer Sylvain. Florian must balance his new life as a member of the organization meant to prevent his very existence, try to regain what he can of his old life without making his children accomplices to his illegal transfer and find out who is trying to kill the former owner of the body he now inhabits.

Emmanuelle Boiulhaguet and Frederik Range of Lagardère Studios Distribution fielded questions about the series’ current hype, its creative and ethical directions and long-term aspirations.

The series is set to premier in France and Germany on Arte, are there deals in place to expand that soon?

We are just starting to show the very first episodes, made available in English. We received strong interest in both format and ready made sales.

Outside of the competition, what were your objectives while at Series Mania?

We were at Series Mania, along with Frederik Range, director of acquisitions for different reasons: To be in touch with producers, get updates on their projects, and be able to assist them to promote and sell their shows. We are intervening more and more in the early stage of the process, sometimes at treatment. It is also a moment to get more info on trends and share the questions we may have on our business. Last but not least, It is also an appropriate moment to meet with broadcasters in a more informal way than a MipTV, to get more details on their needs or their programming trends, and sell them some shows.

At this year’s Series Mania French science fiction is well represented. Can you comment on the new trend of French sci-fi programming?

Indeed, a few French broadcasters such as Arte (“Trepalium,” “Transfer”), OCS (“Missions”), Canal Plus (“Section Zero”) have recently started to explore new genres. For them, it’s a very creative way to question our own society and to catch some audiences looking for something different from the mainstream series broadcast on the networks.

Transfer” shows how divided a population can be along moral or political lines. This type of decisiveness seems especially relevant with the current political climate in the world. Can you talk a bit about the possible social relevance of a show like “Transfer”?

This new technology does indeed have strong social and political consequences in the series. “Transfer” raises mainly philosophical questions about the relation between our body and our soul, and about the essence of human identity.

The series is a futuristic twist on the cop show. But it’s also a family drama. Will the family aspect become more important as the series goes on?

“Transfer” is a fast-paced thriller throughout its six episodes. But it is true that family aspects, and more generally human relationships, become more and more dramatic and crucial as the series goes on. People who want to get a transfer into a new body have very different motivations: save their life, escape to the police, get a better life etc. So behind each case there is a social issue, a family drama or a human tragedy.

It is important for series whatever genre they fit into to bring emotions to the viewers. The family aspect could obviously bring that emotion.

Is a Season 2 planned?

The first season isn’t broadcast yet. We hope its success will bring about a second season.

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