CANNES — MipTV and the inaugural edition of Canneseries hosted a joint In Development section for promising early-stage projects from around the world, looking to team them with producers and distributors as early as possible. The event was held April 10-11, to a packed crowd of often young producers.
“It’s our opportunity to make things happen between financing and creative people at a very early stage,” said Benoit Louvet, a former key executive at TF1 Group who last year joined the Cannes International Series Festival as managing director. “We had a very tough process of selection from 344 projects from all over the world. It’s the crème de la crème.”
Of those 344 projects, 12 were selected to pitch. In addition to the exposure, they were competing for co-develppment prizes from Federation Entertainment and La Fabrique des Formats, which eventually went to Germany’s “The Sources of Evil” and Canada’s “Whatever, Linda.” Here, fir the record, are details of all 12 projects:
“Whatever, Linda,” Canada
The Donaldson Company is producing this 1978-based tale of financial fraud in NYC. The series was co-created by Hannah Cheesman and Julian De Zotti, who describe it as “’Sex and the City,’ meets the Coen Brothers.” A mix of suspense and comedy, things kick off with series lead Linda Thoroughbred, who Cheesman calls “fiercely intelligent, ambitious and charming,” in a bad financial situation. She decides, with help from three low-level secretaries, to start a Ponzi scheme that will go on to be one of history’s greatest financial scams. “This show is about the universality of getting screwed over,” De Zotti said while pitching at In Development, “and how far you’re willing to go when your back is against the wall.”
“The Sources of Evil,” Germany
This post-Cold War drama takes place in former West Germany in 1993. As the initial hopefulness that came with the downing of the Berlin wall is replaced with melancholy and disillusion, crime increases and the police become overwhelmed. Two detectives are called in when a mutilated body of a woman is found near the former border between East and West Germany, and while the younger officer thinks it’s the work a Neo-Nazi organization, the more experienced partner fears they may be dealing with a serial killer who went unnoticed in the confusion between the neighboring governments. The series was well received at In Development, and split the event’s two prizes.
“Les Miserables,” France
“Les Miserables” has been adapted in 40-plus territories into 35 feature films, 20 mini-series, and a hit musical. But French producers Elephant want to take their buzzed-up In Development adaptation somewhere completely new: the 21st century. Starting in 1999, the series will adapt Hugo’s famous work, updating the narrative while addressing themes both current and timeless with an ensemble cast. Co-creators Jean-Xavier De Lestrade, Marc Herpoux and Sheila O’Connor want to “do what has never been done before with ‘Les Miserables,’” De Lestrade said at In Development, “We want to talk about France today.” It will be the first French-language adaptation in more than two decades.
This Icelandic early-stage In Development project was created and written by “The Deep” scribe Jón Atli Jónasson and Ragnar Jónasson, who currently have a finished bible, and the first season plotted. Based loosely on a real-life detective from the Reykjavik Metropolitan Police, “Violator” is a multi-generational crime drama. In 1988 punk-rocker-turned-cop Jonas employs new profiling methods on a murder case which goes cold. Today, Officer Lara learns she has a lung disease that would be cause for termination if her employers were to find out. She takes a desk job at the recommendation of her doctor and gets attached to a case that ties to Jonas’ thirty years before. “The bookends of this crime case span three decades,” Jónasson said while pitching at In Development, “I wanted to work on an epic scale.”
“Angelica,” U.S., Canada
Well received at its Cannes pitch by writers and creators Eliza Lee and Jen McGowan – one TV exec commented the show felt “heartfelt,” others warmed to its layered characters – the drama offers a multi-POV take on abortion, via a drama set in an idyllic Midwestern town, which becomes a flashpoint for the issue after it becomes the home of the state’s only clinic. The narrative will focus on four distinct women, and their relationship to the clinic. “What we want to do is give voice to as many of those perspectives as we can by portraying all of our characters with respect and three-dimensionality,” McGowan told Variety before pitching at In Development.
“CLASS A,” U.K.
“Scrappy,” said co-creator-writer Charley Packham, referring rightly to the tale of 16-year-old Kurtis’ rise from bullied high-school loner to online bitcoin drug-lord in a attempt to gain respect and acceptance from his peers. Certainly, from visuals on display, there are no exquisite visuals as Kurtis narrates his roller-coaster rise into a web-cam, dealing on the deep web from his parents’ house bedroom, while snorting coke. “Class A” speaks directly to the core 16-24 audience in language they understand, Packham and fellow writer-director Oliver Deacon said at In Development. “British youth culture in all its glory,” added Packham. “Class A’s” creators would welcome working with a more experienced production company, she said. A half-hour format, “Class A” could be cast as a “Skam,” one exec suggested.
“The Machinery,” Sweden
Produced by Anagram Sverige, with Viaplay now on board as the Nordic SVOD platform, “The Machinery” proved a high-octane Hitchcock scenario as an ex-con, now married with a lovely wife and daughter, wakes up on a ferry between Sweden and Norway with a gun, a stash of cash, and no idea how he got there, having been framed as the perpetrator of a violent robbery. He can chose to hand himself in or go on the run, hoping to prove his innocence to the police and his distrusting wife. A more mainstream cousin to Nordic Noir, created by Hackan Lindhe, “‘The Machinery’ takes Nordic Noir to the next level where an everyday person is the center of the crime story. It’s not whodunnit. Rather, it explores what happens to me or you, if we are pushed to the edge,” director Richard Holm said at In Development.
Creator and writer Joseph Kay describes his early-stage project as “a darkly comic TV drama set in the near future… which tells the serialized story of a marriage.” The partners in question, Cassie and Butch, work together at a cryogenics lab on the verge of a major breakthrough. But all that changes when some of the facility’s previously dead patients begin to reanimate. It seems as though Kay is standing on solid ground when he says that this is “a whole new kind of medical drama.”
“Dead Head,” New Zealand
Produced by Screentime NZ, this South Pacific “Dead Head” is a ghostly series created by long-time TV producer Philly de Lacey and even longer-time TV scribe John Banas, who will also handle writing for the series. In it, famed fictional psychic Toni Shasta is exposed as a fraud in front of the whole world, and quickly falls from her professional zenith. At her lowest point, an angry detractor throws an urn and hits her in the head. The resulting trauma gives the medium actual contact to the world of the dead, and a shot at redemption, both professionally and privately. The format allows for multiple narrative arcs, as Toni will be able to communicate with any number of deceased spirits.
In what was the day’s most light-hearted and humorous pitch, creator, writer and comedian Joanne Lau talked up her muppet-filled comedy “Selfies.” “I was pitching a series at the BBC,” Lau told the audience at In Development, “and the producer said: ‘Your pitch is great, but your inner stream of consciousness is fascinating. Write a show about that!’” And that’s what her early-stage project is about. It turns on two best friends and roommates, constantly followed by felt muppet versions of themselves which represent a physical manifestation of their inner monologues that only they can see. A 20-something coming of age series, “Selfies” focuses on the lessons learned by the two leads, and promotes a message of self-acceptance.
“Strange Fishing Sundays,” Spain
Produced by Basque company Laniakea Capital out of Northern Spain, “Strange Fishing Sundays” is a low-fi multi-universe fantasy drama from writer-creator Javier Félix Echániz Petralanda. A quantum physics professor named Alejo is frustrated when his attempts to create a working time machine fall flat. However, in the midst of his failure, Alejo realizes the machine is able to project the soul of a traveler into the body of another possible version of themselves. Under the guise of a weekend fishing trip, Alejo hides away with his machine and spends a day living the lives of his alternate selves, but with potential dire consequences.
The Hamburg Series Lab’s Albatross Award winner for best European drama series in development, “GR5” is a tensed genre-blender – a horror-tinged, psychological road movie and murder mystery – turning on four late-twenties friends – two women, two men – who hike the 2,000 km GR5 way from the North Sea towards the Riviera. They’re doing so to looking for a clue to the fate of their girlfriend who disappeared without trace on the same trail five years before. The missing girl’s father also joins the group. Presented by Zodiak Belgium’s head of drama Serge Bierset, rucksack on back, about 60% of financing is in place. Flemish broadcaster VTR boarded last week, Bierset said at his presentation. The GR5 route – through Luxembourg and France – would seem an obvious first roadmap for completion financing for the eight-part series.