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TV Invades the Cannes Film Festival, But Not Everyone Is Pleased

Variety logo Variety 5/21/2017 Stewart Clarke
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Seeing David Lynch and Jane Campion on the Croisette is no surprise. But that the two Palme d’Or winners are in Cannes with TV series is.

The encroachment of television onto the red carpet has been one of the talking points of the festival. For some in the industry, which is already fretting about how to welcome (or not) Netflix to the Cannes party, allowing TV in is a step too far.

“There is a purity to Cannes as a film festival. It’s not a ‘content festival,’” says IM Global boss Stuart Ford. “When TV launches here, it blurs the lines.”

Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” revival and Campion’s “Top of the Lake: China Girl” are both premiering in Cannes, the former with full red-carpet treatment.

The attitude of the festival itself to the inclusion of TV is lukewarm. Artistic director Thierry Fremaux admits he is “not a big fan of series,” but justifies the inclusion of Campion and Lynch as auteurs who are experimenting with “new narrative means.”

“Cinema remains a singular art, and we want to emphasize this while keeping our eyes open on the world that surrounds it,” Fremaux says. “And this world is more and more about TV series and virtual reality.”

Certainly, plenty of the big companies currently in Cannes are active in both film and TV, such as IM Global, Gaumont, StudioCanal, and eOne. “Cannes is still a feature film market, but the reality is TV and film are cross-pollinating like never before,” says eOne president Darren Throop, whose company consolidated its sales teams last month into a single group that handles both film and TV.

Simon Cornwell, co-CEO of The Ink Factory, is one exec who’s talking both TV and film on the Croisette. His company is about to go into production on Jodie Foster movie “Hotel Artemis” and is also prepping TV series “The Spy Who Came In From the Cold.”

“Cannes is a pure film festival, but as a practical matter, a large proportion of people here are from organizations that do both,” Cornwell says.

The Ink Factory premiered “The Night Manager” last year at Berlin’s Drama Series Days, which runs alongside the Berlinale. Launching a TV project off the back of a film festival is becoming more common.

What a festival launch provides that TV market events such as Mipcom do not is major international buzz, global press, and people who actually enjoy screenings. What a TV market provides that the festival does not is buyers. CBS International Studios and BBC Worldwide are selling “Twin Peaks” and “Top of the Lake: China Girl,” respectively, but won’t be doing deals on those shows in Cannes. Their acquisition folks are in Los Angeles for the annual L.A. Screenings.

One company shopping a television project at Cannes is Italy’s Indiana Production, which is planning an English-language TV-series remake of the classic Luchino Visconti film “The Leopard.”

As more filmmakers like the Coen brothers flock to TV, Cannes looks set to host more small-screen shows that are looking for some big-screen buzz. That’s fine by director Todd Haynes, whose “Wonderstruck” is in competition.

“I think it’s more about, What did David Lynch do for the medium of television?” Haynes says. “What is Jane Campion going to bring to a different format for telling stories?”

“Top of the Lake” hails from film and TV production company See-Saw Films, which also has the John Cameron Mitchell movie “How to Talk to Girls at Parties” in Cannes.

“I love the Cannes Film Festival – it’s always pushed boundaries and moved with the times,” says Jamie Laurenson, See-Saw’s head of television and a former BBC Films exec. “There is a lot to be said for embracing the way the audience is engaging with audiovisual works.”

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