After years spent establishing a significant beachhead in Paris and becoming an increasingly important stop on the TV series circuit, Series Mania is relocating to Lille, in northern France, starting with next year’s festival.
The decision was announced Thursday at the National Film Board (CNC) in Paris by Xavier Bertrand, the prefect of the Hauts-de-France region, and follows weeks of speculation over what would happen to Series Mania after the French government decided to throw its weight behind starting up a new – and possibly competing – TV drama festival in Lille. Lille lies about 140 miles north of Paris.
The surprise guest of Thursday’s news conference was Laurence Herszberg (pictured), the founder of Series Mania, who announced that she would step down as general director of the Forum des Images in Paris to head Series Mania in Lille. Herszberg is bringing with her Frederic Lavigne, the artistic director of Series Mania, Jeff Bledsoe, the production chief and Francesco Capurro, head of the festival’s co-production forum, who will spearhead Lille’s industry sidebar.
Herszberg said she expected talent, showrunners and directors to turn up in Lille, and revealed that she had already approached Jill Soloway (“I Love Dick”) to be the jury president of the festival’s first edition in Lille. Past guests at Series Mania in Paris, which was founded in 2009, include David Chase (“The Sopranos”), Matthew Weiner (“Mad Men”) and most recently Damon Lindelof (“The Leftovers”). This year’s edition of Series Mania gathered a record 1,600 TV professionals and 50,000 visitors (compared with 5,000 in 2009), underscoring the festival’s growing prestige.
With a budget of 5 million euros ($5.7 million), the Lille event will be backed by the CNC, which will provide 1 million euros; the Hauts-de-France region, where Lille is located; and the city of Lille. By comparison, Series Mania in Paris had a budget in the 3 million euros range, including 800,000 euros from the CNC.
“Lille is a city where we are currently witnessing enormous creativity and strength in business development. Thanks to the funding from the government, as well as the support of the CNC and the Hauts-de-France region, Lille will give Series Mania the opportunity to flourish and take this must-attend event to new levels,” said Herszberg, who added that the Series Mania brand was retained by the Forum des Images, which might decide to maintain some sort of event in Paris.
Bertrand said he was currently in negotiations with the president of the Forum des Images and the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, to obtain the permission to call the new fest Séries Mania Lille Hauts-de-France.
The 2018 festival is scheduled for April 20-28. The three-day industry sidebar will run April 23-25.
The Lille festival will debut just a couple of weeks after the first Cannes International Series Festival, whose inaugural edition is due to run alongside MipTV in early April 2018.
Bertrand told reporters that he had spoken to David Lisnard, the mayor of Cannes, to propose a “collaboration” which could take the shape of a writers’ residence shared between Cannes and Lille. Bertrand said Lisnard was proceeding with the new Cannes series festival because plans were already at an advanced stage, but Bertrand suggested that it would likely be a short-lived initiative.
None of Cannes’ sponsors, including Canal Plus Group, will be exclusive, Bertrand said, adding that the pay-TV group will also be a partner of the festival in Lille.
The decision to establish a new TV festival in Lille was made by a committee appointed by the French government and overseen by former culture minister Audrey Azoulay in a highly politicized climate, in the run-up to the country’s presidential election.
The festival in Lille benefits from the bipartisan backing of two strong political figures: Bertrand, a charismatic and popular right-wing politician known for his battles against the far right in Hauts-de-France, and Martine Aubry, the mayor of Lille and a prominent figure in the Socialist party.
Besides moving from Paris to Lille, Series Mania is also looking to establish foreign outposts. Herszberg is organizing Series Mania Melbourne in Australia on behalf of the Forum des Images, a four-day event starting July 20 backed by the Australian Center for the Moving Image and Film Victoria. Herszberg said she would continue heading the initiative next year with her new Lille-based team.
She said she was in talks with potential partners in Argentina and South Korea, which she described as “two creative hotspots for drama,” to establish sister events there.