With the world taking a seemingly dystopian turn due to the Cover-19 pandemic, “My First Family,” a high-concept series project set in an alternate world created by Maya Zaydman (“Our Boys”) and Ori Sivan (“In Treatment”), will likely strike a chord with audiences.
“My First Family,” which is being pitched as part of Series Mania’s virtual co-production forum, unfolds in a contemporary but fictional France where the conservative candidate Valery Giscard d’Estaing was elected in 1981, instead of François Mitterrand.
The country has evolved radically differently from the France that we know today. Following several political and social events, as well as various incidents, the country voted to create in 2002 a Certificate of Parental Aptitude that parents need to get in order to reproduce. Kids whose parents have failed the exam and who have become wards of the nation are paired with prospective parents, either couples or singles, during a two-week session in a remote location where they are being evaluated by a team of professionals.
The show follows Claire, an sharp, sensitive and dedicated woman in her thirties who is leading the evaluation team and finds out she’s unexpectedly pregnant. Although she spends her days testing parental skills, Claire fears she will fail the exam because she has not come to terms with her own childhood trauma.
“The series will dig as deep as we can into parenthood, what it means to be a good parent in our society,” says Zaydman, who was inspired to create the show due to her experience working as a clinical psychologist with children about 15 years ago. “I heard painful stories with parents who were helpless with their children, they weren’t mentally ill but but they didn’t know how to parent and were harming their kids even though they wanted the best for them,” says Zaydman.
Sivan says the timing of a show exploring parental issues was perfect because families are currently on lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. “Parents are quarantined at home with their children right now and in itself that’s a laboratory of parenthood. People have time to think of their parental skills and become more aware of their relationships,” said Sivan, who is currently on lockdown with four of his five children. He added that the fact that “governments were now telling us what we have to do” (due to the sanitary crisis) makes the plot of “My First Family” even more believable.
“My First Family” is being produced by Caroline Benjo at Haut et Court TV (“The Returned,” “The Last Panthers”) in France and Eilon Ratzkovsky and Ossi Nishri at Quiddity in Israel as part of their recently-signed first look deal. The Canadian filmmaker Podz (“Vikings,” “Cardinal”) will direct the show.
Haut et Court TV has a know-how in delivering character-driven stories set in supernatural or uncanny backdrops. The company’s most popular series, “The Returned,” was shot as a realistic drama even though it dealt with people who have died and attempt to reclaim their lives.
“We decided to partner with Podz, one of Canada’s most idiosyncratic TV directors, with one goal in mind : To create the most realistic series set in a France that doesn’t exist, a bit like we did with ‘The Returned,'” says Caroline Benjo, founder of Haut et Court TV. “Who better suited than a French-speaking Quebecois director like Podz who is detached enough from our country, and yet familiar enough with its culture to feel free to create a totally unique setting, an altered present, that will nevertheless look and taste like today’s France,” the producer says.
Throughout the show, multiple conflicts will be explored, not only between “couples who want to become parents and who have to look at their own relationships with one another, but also within the evaluation team who argues about who should pass or fail the test, and of course with Claire who faces a dilemma,” says Sivan.
Zaydman and Sivan both says that although the show would be set in an alternative France, it won’t be made like dystopia and will look as realistic as possible. “Why would you need a license to be a doctor, a psychologist, a teacher or to have a car, and not need one to be a parent and raise children?” Zaydman asks.
Like “In Treatment,” which delved into the role of psychologists and inter-personal relationship, “My First Family” will tackle universal issues that speak to people around the world.
“My experience with ‘In Treatment’ is that when we’re dealing with things that are everywhere and touch every human being, like parenthood or psychological issues, the language or setting (of a show) is not so important,” said Sivan, adding that “In Treatment” has traveled widely and has also been adapted in many different countries but the script remained the same everywhere.
Benjo previously said the company was eager to bring together Israeli and French creatives to develop original stories set in Europe. Haut et Court TV is currently producing two other French-Israeli series, “Possessions” and “No Man’s Land,” selected for Series Mania’s original main competition in Lille.
Haut et Court TV and Quiddity are currently looking for partners to come on board “My First Family” and will then start casting the show.