TV at Cannes: Inevitable, Perhaps, but Not Everyone Is Pleased

Seeing David Lynch and Jane Campion on the Croisette is no surprise. But that the two Palme d’Or winners are in Cannes with TV series is.

The encroachment of television onto the red carpet has been one of the talking points of the festival. For some in the industry, which is already fretting about how to welcome (or not) Netflix to the Cannes party, allowing TV in is a step too far.

“There is a purity to Cannes as a film festival. It’s not a ‘content festival,’” says IM Global boss Stuart Ford. “When TV launches here, it blurs the lines.”

Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” revival and Campion’s “Top of the Lake: China Girl” are both premiering in Cannes, the former with full red-carpet treatment.

The attitude of the festival itself to the inclusion of TV is lukewarm. Artistic director Thierry Fremaux admits he is “not a big fan of series,” but justifies the inclusion of Campion and Lynch as auteurs who are experimenting with “new narrative means.”

“Cinema remains a singular art, and we want to emphasize this while keeping our eyes open on the world that surrounds it,” Fremaux says. “And this world is more and more about TV series and virtual reality.”

Certainly, plenty of the big companies currently in Cannes are active in both film and TV, such as IM Global, Gaumont, StudioCanal, and eOne. “Cannes is still a feature film market, but the reality is TV and film are cross-pollinating like never before,” says eOne president Darren Throop, whose company consolidated its sales teams last month into a single group that handles both film and TV.

Simon Cornwell, co-CEO of The Ink Factory, is one exec who’s talking both TV and film on the Croisette. His company is about to go into production on Jodie Foster movie “Hotel Artemis” and is also prepping TV series “The Spy Who Came In From the Cold.”

“Cannes is a pure film festival, but as a practical matter, a large proportion of people here are from organizations that do both,” Cornwell says.

The Ink Factory premiered “The Night Manager” last year at Berlin’s Drama Series Days, which runs alongside the Berlinale. Launching a TV project off the back of a film festival is becoming more common.

What a festival launch provides that TV market events such as Mipcom do not is major international buzz, global press, and people who actually enjoy screenings. What a TV market provides that the festival does not is buyers. CBS International Studios and BBC Worldwide are selling “Twin Peaks” and “Top of the Lake: China Girl,” respectively, but won’t be doing deals on those shows in Cannes. Their acquisition folks are in Los Angeles for the annual L.A. Screenings.

One company shopping a television project at Cannes is Italy’s Indiana Production, which is planning an English-language TV-series remake of the classic Luchino Visconti film “The Leopard.”

As more filmmakers like the Coen brothers flock to TV, Cannes looks set to host more small-screen shows that are looking for some big-screen buzz. That’s fine by director Todd Haynes, whose “Wonderstruck” is in competition.

“I think it’s more about, What did David Lynch do for the medium of television?” Haynes says. “What is Jane Campion going to bring to a different format for telling stories?”

“Top of the Lake” hails from film and TV production company See-Saw Films, which also has the John Cameron Mitchell movie “How to Talk to Girls at Parties” in Cannes.

“I love the Cannes Film Festival – it’s always pushed boundaries and moved with the times,” says Jamie Laurenson, See-Saw’s head of television and a former BBC Films exec. “There is a lot to be said for embracing the way the audience is engaging with audiovisual works.”

Popular on Variety

More Biz

  • Led Zeppelin Stairway to Heaven

    Department of Justice Backs Led Zeppelin in ‘Stairway to Heaven’ Copyright Case

    The U.S. Department of Justice has weighed in on the next big music copyright case on the horizon following the Katy Perry “Dark Horse” decision, and taken Led Zeppelin’s side in the long-running copyright dispute that pits the writers of the group’s anthem “Stairway to Heaven” against the publishers of the earlier song “Taurus” by [...]

  • Harvey Weinstein

    Harvey Weinstein Prosecutors Make Last-Minute Move to Bolster Case

    The Manhattan D.A.’s office is making a last-minute bid to strengthen its case against Harvey Weinstein, who is set to be tried next month on charges of rape and sexual assault. Prosecutors notified the court on Tuesday that they will seek a new indictment. The D.A.’s office wants jurors to hear from Annabella Sciorra, the [...]

  • Jeffrey Epstein

    Jeffrey Epstein's Autopsy Rules That He Died by Suicide

    Jeffrey Epstein’s death earlier this month has been ruled a suicide by hanging. The New York Times reported on Friday that the city’s medical examiner has officially made the ruling six days after Epstein was found dead in his jail cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan. According to the Times, which cites a [...]

  • America Ferrera Eva Longoria

    America Ferrera, Eva Longoria and More Sign Letter to Latinx Community: 'We Will Not Be Broken'

    America Ferrera, Eva Longoria and more have signed a letter published in several media outlets on Friday standing in solidarity with the Latinx community. In response to the heightened tension surrounding President Trump’s immigration agenda, the El Paso shooting that targeted Latinx people and the ICE raids in Mississippi, the letter addresses the language used [...]

  • Research Firm Screen Engine/ASI Acquires TicktBox

    Screen Engine/ASI Acquires TicktBox, an Entertainment Marketing and Ticketing Startup

    Screen Engine/ASI, a market research firm that specializes in focus-group testing of movies and TV pilots, has acquired ticktBox, which operates a digital marketing and ticketing platform used by movie distributors, exhibitors, and TV networks. Terms of the deal, which closed Aug. 9, weren’t disclosed. With ticktBox, SE/ASI will have one of the largest databases of [...]


    Eric Reid, Jemele Hill – and Colin Kaepernick? - Take Jay-Z to Task Over NFL Partnership

    When news of the presumably lucrative entertainment and social-justice deal between Jay-Z’s Roc Nation and the NFL leaked on Tuesday, initially there was a surprising lack of public reaction or outcry. But after a press conference where Jay and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell officially announced the deal at Roc Nation’s New York offices yesterday — [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content