Traditionally known for its glitzy backdrop, red carpets and press junkets, the seaside Monte Carlo TV Film Festival,created 55 ago by the principality of Monaco’s Prince Rainier III, is benefiting from the rising popularity of TV drama, luring more and more film talent and filmmakers, notably from Europe, where local TV industries are flourishing.
Since taking the helm two years ago, CEO Laurent Puons, a Monaco native and former pro boxer, says he has been working hard to reposition the festival as a relevant industry event, emphasizing the importance of the international competition, bringing in high-profile industry figures and scoring prestigious series’ world premieres.
Although it’s scheduled just two months after MIP TV, the festival has managed to host world premieres of shows like “Crossing Lines” and “CSI: Cyber” and will this year showcase the European premiere of “Aquarius” as well as the French premieres of “Empire” (set to kick off the fest) and “Texas Rising.” Some of the cast for each show is expected to attend.
“We have the advantage of being very audience-friendly and much more (business to consumer) than events like MIP TV or Mipcom, which is what U.S. studios are interested in,” says Puons. “They’re looking to create some anticipation and word-of-mouth.”
Beyond the glam factor, Puons has placed more emphasis on the competition, developing the selection process with the creation of independent selection committees that examine shows from around the world. The result: a greater presence of foreign series.
This year, competitors vying for the Golden Nymphs reflect the growing representation of European shows. Netflix’s “House of Cards,” the only U.S. skein in the drama section, is up against “Gomorrah,” from Italy; “The Seaside Hotel,” from Denmark; “Love Child,” with Jonathan Lapaglia, from Australia; as well as “Happy Valley,” with Sarah Lancashire, from the U.K; and “The Fall,” with Gillian Anderson, also from the U.K.
In comedy series, three out of six skeins are Scandinavian productions, including season three of “Lilyhammer” (pictured above) and Greg Poehler’s “Welcome to Sweden.”
Monte Carlo will also pay homage to “Spiral” and “Profilage,” the highest-rated cop shows on French TV, screening them with the casts in attendance.
Juries for all four Golden Nymphs also help raise the festival’s profile. “We’ve made a point of attracting high-profile and popular jury members and guests such as Donald Sutherland, Jerry Bruckheimer (recipient of a career tribute), or Rosanna Arquette,” said Puons. This year’s jury presidents include Ron Perlman (for TV miniseries), Patrick Duffy (for TV series), Eric Close (TV films) and Bianca Jagger (news programs).
Bruckheimer has become an unofficial ambassador for the event. “The festival is superbly organized and executed, and has in recent years taken a central place on the festival circuit,” he says, adding that he and his wife Linda got to spend time with Prince Albert and Princess Charlene.
This year’s fest, celebrating its 55th edition, will welcome such stars as Patricia Arquette, Poppy Montgomery and Stepfanie Kramer.
The fest is also launching an industry sidebar.
“Since we’re scheduled after Cannes and Mip TV, it was challenging to define what kind of business content we wanted to showcase, and make sure we got top players on board for another trip (to the Riviera),” Puons says.
Hosted in partnership with the PGA and Variety, the new panels will discuss shifting viewing habits, the OTT revolution and big data, as well as the impact of digital services like Netflix and Amazon on content distribution and production.
TV execs set to attend include Gaumont’s vice CEO Christophe Riandee, who will deliver a keynote; FremantleMedia Intl.’s CEO Jens Richter; Lorenzo Benedetti, founder of Canal Plus-owned Bagel Studio; John Huncke of AMC Networks; Laetitia Reycate from Newen Distribution; Eric Sherer from France Television; Jody Smith from Channel 4; and Producer Guild of America’s John Heinsen, Chris Thomes and Vance van Petten.