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Monte Carlo TV Festival: Pugilist-Turned-Programmer Lends Fest New Punch

Laurent Puons aims for a must-attend event for TV execs and new-media creators

Laurent Puons Monte Carlo Film Festival
puons: Philip Ducap; Festival: COURTESY OF MONTE CARLO TV FESTIVAL

The Monte Carlo Television Festival isn’t quite as old as the medium itself, but 2016 represents the fest’s 56th edition.

A man that age might be slowing down. Yet under the leadership of Laurent Puons, an energetic, plugged-in Monaco native and former professional boxer, the fest is showing no signs of aging.

Although he’s fairly new to the TV world, Puons has conquered many challenges during his four years in charge.

One successful shift: He’s revamped the festival’s image by giving the competition a greater edge and relevance. As part of that strategy, Puons decided to have a single jury rather than three for the fiction selections — drama, TV movie and miniseries. “Having a single jury for fiction allowed us to ramp up the level of guests,” Puons says. “This year as jury president we have Jason Priestley, who is not just an actor but also a great producer; and last year we had Ron Perlman.”

Another change that Puons has implemented is the inclusion of shows in their first seasons. “We wanted to avoid always showcasing the same series because the idea is to highlight new talent and series,” he says. This year’s lineup includes ITV Studios’ “Cradle to Grave” from the U.K., “Plan B” from Israel’s Keshet Intl., and Abi Morgan’s BBC drama “River” with Stellan Skarsgard.

Puons says the Monte Carlo festival is becoming a launchpad for quality European and international series. That’s an accomplishment, considering the fest runs just two months after MIP, another television confab set on the French Riviera.

American fare also remains key to the festival and Puons says the relationship with studios has never been smoother.
Last year, the fest hosted the international premiere of Fox’s “Empire” and this edition will feature the French premiere of Dick Wolf’s “Chicago Med.”

The second edition of the professional sidebar, another Puons’ brainchild, features a lineup of new-media experts. “New media, trends in storytelling and virtual reality are among the themes we’ll discuss this time around,” says Puons, who tapped TV pro Joanna Merchie to put together the program.  Speakers include Lorenzo Benedetti, topper of Canal Plus’ digital creation and president of YouTube Channels’ group Studio Bagel; and Alison Norrington, CEO of Storycentral.

What: Monte Carlo Television Festival
When: June 12-16
Where: Monte Carlo, Monaco
Web: tvfestival.com