LILLE France — Bigger and better. That was the goal for this year’s edition of the Series Mania Co-Pro Pitching Sessions, the first since the festival moved from Paris to Lille. A prize of $50,000 ($61,500) was on the line for the winning series, awarded to the American-created, Swedish-made dramedy “We Got This!” the last project to pitch on the day.
“I decided to build a story about a misunderstood creature,” American series creator Schiaffino Musarra said during his pitch, one of the lightest of the day: “An ignorant and impulsive American. He is heavy, bearded and quite handsome.”
It’s worth pointing out that Musarra plays the lead character in the series.
“Interestingly, I had been pitching this as an idea on a piece of paper for about five years. Nobody wanted to do it,” he explained of the series inauspicious beginnings.
“Comedy is notoriously difficult to prove on a piece of paper,” he went on. “So I wrote a short script, called in favors to some of the most talented actors in Sweden, hired a rock-star crew, borrowed the best gear I could get my hands on, and I shot a trailer that made it look like the series was already done.
He added: “Suddenly, it went from a project that nobody wanted to do, to one that nearly everyone wanted to do.”
Musarra said that decision was the main reason that he found himself on stage in Lille, pitching to a room of industry executives and competing for the cash prize.
In it, an American immigrant living in Sweden finds himself in trouble with the Swedish tax authority. At his low point, the wayward protagonist learns of a half a million Swedish crown reward for anyone who can solve the 30-year-old mystery of the assassination of Olof Palme, the country’s former prime minister.
As to the day-long event, if bigger and better was the goal, it’s safe to say that the Series Mania team hit their mark. The Auditorium Europtop inside the Lille Grand Palais was crowded with professionals checking out this year’s crop of 16 potential projects, selected from 370 initial submissions.
Narrowing that field down was described by Series Mania general director Laurence Herszberg as, “a hell of a lot of work. It was really difficult. A lot of projects were interesting, and we wanted to keep a balance between region in the world, topics etc.”
She pointed out four major trends that the selection committee recognized in the body of submissions: Period dramas, science fiction, crime-spy thrillers, and what she described as “a tremendous use of drones,” before begging the assembled creatives to curtail their use of the technology.
Gaumont deputy CEO Christophe Riandée acted as this year’s jury president. He briefly addressed the audience before the pitches kicked off, introducing his fellow jurors: Apple Tree Productions CEO Piv Bernth, Netflix executive Damien Couvreur, Atresmedia director of content Nacho Manubens, and Sky head of drama Anne Mensah.