Over the last five years, presented by industry icons such as Guillermo del Toro, Ron Perlman and Vincenzo Natali, the Sitges Pitchbox has been built up by its organizers, Filmarket Hub and the Sitges Festival, into the industry centerpiece of Sitges itself, a pilgrimage destination for fantastic film creators and fans worldwide.
A movie project showcase, the Sitges Pitchbox Online 2020 will for the first time also feature genre series drawn from Europe, as the Sitges Pitchbox expands from nine to a total of 14 titles.
The inclusion of series at the Sitges Pitchbox looks near inevitable. Long gone are the days when just sports and Hollywood movie blockbusters ruled the pay TV premium content space in Europe.
“Many of the trends that we are seeing now, if you follow the path back to the gestation, you get to Netflix somehow,” says Guy Bisson, at Ampere Analysis.
It was Netflix that established that select non-English language series could command large audiences outside their country of origin. “Initially younger fairly wealthy and well-connected individuals became the core of the streaming market,” Bisson argues, with two of Netflix’s most iconic early international hits being Brazil’s futuristic “3%” and Germany’s time looping mind-bender “Dark.”
“At the time of its international lift-off, the younger audiences of Netflix had come from a world of fandom and fanbases and hung a flag on a particular genre as part of their personality. That could be sci-fi or fantasy or another specific genre,” says Bisson.
That association between young viewers and genre has left its mark. Netflix is now moving ever more towards becoming a general entertainment service whose titles cut across the demographic divide.
For Europe’s broadcast networks and established pay-TV services and newer VOD services, genre series have come to be seen as a way to win, retain or attempt to win back younger viewers. That’s a key industry rallying cry.
“It’s really a very crucial point [for broadcasters] to find out that they haven’t lost young audiences on television, that really with the right show and the right way of production, it’s possible to bring them back,” Beta Film’s Moritz Kruedener remarked at the Berlin Series Market, announcing Beta Film’s drive into the acquisition and co-financing of four YA European scripted series, including “Cryptid,” from Sweden’s Dramacorp, a high-school gore fest airing on Viaplay and sold to Prosieben AVOD service Joyn.
Spain’s biggest title at the Venice Festival, which kicks off next Wednesday, is Alex de la Iglesia’s HBO Europe horror series “30 Coins,” billed as a mix of terror, paranormal phenomena and conspiracy in rural Spain.
“My mission is for public service channels and the European networks to understand that they should not focus only on series for their own, mostly very old, audiences but that they should be quite a bit braver,” says Peter Nadermann, co-producer of iconic Nordic Noir titles “The Killing” and “The Bridge” as well as the supernaturally-tinged Spanish film series “The Invisible Guardian,” who will take part in Sitges Pitchbox and is actively looking for genre series.
Genre series, whether sci-fi or broad fantasy, also allow creators to react to the ever-larger creative ambition of high-end scripted.
“The novelty and the trend is that people are no longer afraid to write ambitious [TV series] projects, great science fiction propositions and broad world building, because they know that today they can be sold and large projects are being sought after,” says Bernardo Gómez, Filmarket Hub co-founder, citing “Our Own” and “Sinkholes,” large sci-fi and fantasy drama projects respectively, as two highlights of Filmarket Hub’s UK Pitchbox in June.
For series not made directly for global platforms, that ambition looks set to consolidate even further international co-production as the other major production option for high-end fiction, whether genre or other series types.
“Younger people have access to fiction all the time so the demand for higher [quality] content is higher,” Nadermann argues.
He adds: “You cannot do a Dogma film for them. That is another argument for a co-production because you need to have a better production budget so you have to do a co-production. Germany alone cannot do this, Spain alone cannot do this.”
The Sitges Pitchbox series strand runs Oct. 8-9. Its showcase for genre features takes place over Oct. 15-16.
The Filmarket Hub platform and Sitges Film Festival confirmed Sitges Pitchbox jury members on Tuesday. The jury for international feature films consists of Javier Fernández, Blood Window director; Mònica Garcia, general director, Fundació Sitges Festival Internacional de Cinema de Catalunya; and Jongsuk Thomas Nam, Naff managing director at the Bucheon Intl. Fantastic Film Festival (BIFAN).
For European scripted series, the jury will be made up of Carolina Bang, producer, co-founder of Pokeepsie Films and actress; Susana Herreras, head of series development at Movistar Plus; and Katrin Pors, a producer and partner at Denmark’s Snowglobe.