Are French series ready to take on Hollywood’s giant TV industry? At first glance, it would appear quite risky.
Over the past few months, however, a number of French series such as, Spiral (French: Engrenages), The Returned (French: Les Revenants), Borgia (the Canal+ series with the same name broadcast on Showtime), and Braquo (a French crime drama) have gathered quite a following in America, notably with online providers like Netflix and Hulu. French industry professionals have thus decided to ride this positive wave by creating “Direct to Series”, a two-day marketplace event to promote French series in Los Angeles, which took place at West Hollywood’s Pacific Design Center last week.
“The idea for this event was hatched in L.A.,” explains Adrien Sarre, the French Consulate’s audiovisual attaché in Los Angeles. “Following the successful launch of a number of series that made their way to the American market, I thought it would be ideal to make the most of this tendency by giving American industry professionals a glimpse at today’s French series, based somewhat on London’s TV Series Festival, “Totally Serialized”.”
This initiative is the fruit of a partnership between the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States, the Ile-de-France Film Commission and the Ile-de-France Region. Organizing this event in Hollywood, at the very heart of the film industry, quickly became an obvious choice of venue. “By launching ‘Direct to Series’, we hope to encourage meetings, exchanges and collaborations between American and French writers,” points out Adrien Sarre. “As regards producers, we hope that this event will help develop co-productions or adaptations.”
Breaking Bad creator among distinguished participants
The event is expected to bring together nearly 300 French and American professionals, including the creator of Breaking Bad, Vince Gilligan himself. Three roundtables will be held on topics such as, “Keys to remaking successful foreign series,” “”Using foreign locations to create brand identity for a show,” and “Writing for Television.” Eight innovative series have been selected: police drama Candice Renoir (France 2), serial-killer drama The Tunnel (Canal+ et BBC), supernatural thriller The Returned (Canal+), mini-series Odysseus (Arte), World War II-set drama Un Village Français (France 3), action-thriller No Limit (TF1), modern priesthood exploration Ainsi soient-ils (Arte) and political thriller Les Hommes de l’Ombre (France 2).
“This selection of series presents the widest spectrum of current French series, and showcases their rich diversity.” All genres are in fact represented, “from police drama (Candice Renoir, The Tunnel) and historical drama (Un Village Français), to epics (Odysseus), political thriller (Les Hommes de l’Ombre), supernatural series (The Returned) and even dramas (Ainsi soient-ils, which explores the world of young students at a seminary).
Genres with new creativity and fresh perspectives
According to Adrien Sarre, what American industry professionals like about French series is that they “reinvent the various genres” of the series to which the American public has become accustomed. For instance, “The Returned is a series about zombies, but it takes on a social angle!” It’s “this new creativity and fresh perspective that are at the source of original French series.”
This breakthrough has also been hailed in America by journalist Alessandra Stanley, television critic for the New York Times. Ms. Stanley praises “the stylishly unhurried pace” of these series, which are the “legacy of French cinema in its heyday.” She continues, “they serve up the most common themes – crime, war, sex and the occult – in fresh and unexpected ways,’ which probably explains the successful introduction of French series in America.
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