Breaking Down the Co-Pro Projects at This Year’s Series Mania Forum

Credit: Amor y Lujo

The industry centerpiece at Series Mania’s Forum, Monday’s Co-Pro Pitching Sessions take on a special relevance this year as the number of admissions have almost doubled – up to 560, near twice the usual number, says Series Mania director Francesco Capurro. Producers have had more time to develop with COVID-19. Projects run a wide gamut. The idea is tat there will be something for everybody attending,” Capurro explains. Ambitions – budgetary, artistic – are often high. There are multiple period thrillers, as projects wrestle with key issues – identity, peace, high-tech, big business, sacrifice, survival – crucial to these convulsive times.

“Amal,” (Eran Riklis, Israel)

Powered by one of the most established talents at the Forum, reputed film director Riklis (“Lemon Tree”). Also one of its most ambitious projects, an epic yet intimate love story between a Palestinian woman and Israeli man, spanning three decades and Columbia U, Hollywood, Ramallah and Gaza through to a potentially world-changing moment in Oslo. Backed by United Topia Riklis Film Projects, the joint venture of Topia Communications, United King Films, Israel’s largest entertainment group, and Eran Riklis Productions.

“Balaton Brigade,” (Gabor Krigler, Balazs Lengyel, Balazs Lovas, Hungary)

Joyrider’s late Cold War spy thriller, set on the shores of Hungary’s Lake Balaton in the summer of ’86, already scored big at the Berlinale Series Market, winning its Co-Pro Series Series Mania Award. Backed by RTL Klub Hungary and produced by Joyrider, Flare Ent. and now Newen, the series will be directed by Berlinale Golden Bear winner Ildiko Enyedi (“On Body and Soul”).”A thriller with big twists set in a fascinating arena, not yet presented in high-end TV drama,” Krigler told Variety at Berlin.

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Balaton Brigade Courtesy of Joyrider

“Cold Haven,” (Filippa Poppe, Joana Andrade, Iceland, Portugal)

A pioneering production structure linking two of the fast-rising players on Europe’s Western-most shores: Lisbon’s SPi, producer of Portugal’s “Gloria,” and Iceland’s Glassriver, whose proliferating development slate features hot tickets such as Baldwin Z’s “Black Sands” and “Polaris.” That singularity of structure fuels a tale of two women. María, a young Portuguese woman emigrates to Iceland to work in its cod fishery industry and live the life she wants. Six months later, her dead body is found in the snow. Detective Inspector Soffia is assigned the case, and soon suspects that her own son, whom she has failed in the past, could be the murderer… Created by Poppe and Andrade.

“Crude,” (Angela Gourley, Oliver Maltman, U.K.)

On the run from the Serbian mob, foul-mouthed Glaswegian gangster flees to Aberdeen, “Scotland’s Dallas,” where, desperate to pay off her debt, she hatches a madcap scheme with an oil baron’s preening wife, and a part-time stripper, to syphon off his crude. “At its heart a boisterous crime caper,” say its makers, revisiting a genre which has been “frustratingly male-focused,” “Crude” is produced by TV doc and docudrama producer Gourley at Amber Eye Films, written by actor (“The Crown”) and scribe Maltman (“The Last Mermaid”) and, if dialogs in a pitch are anything to go by, a potential hoot.

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Oliver Mailman and Angela Gourley Courtesy of Angela Gourley

“Gold Train,” (Tali Barde, Jennifer Egen, Germany)

Swimming in debt, a family moves back to their grandparents’ village near the Polish border, where the father thinks he might be on the trail of a legendary Nazi gold train. A mystery drama produced by Oliver Damian for 27 Films Production in Berlin, in co-operation with Cologne’s Networkmovie, with Barde as head writer and Jennifer Egen as writer; Matthias Luthardt is set to direct. City dwellers in the outlands. The ordeal of a family. A golden light at the end of the tunnel. The darkest chapter in German history. A mysterious fungal infestation,” says Luthardt.” “Gold Train,” he adds, is “a TV-series in which a new beginning in a foreign place turns a family upside down.”

“In 1942” (Hagit Saad, Julie Anna Grignon, France, Israel)

A multi-generational story about survival and its long-term effects, this post-WWII series is backed by Mediwan’s White Lion Films and producer Noor Sadar. Creator-writers Saad and Grignon met at Series Mania two years ago and stand out as a major success story for the festival’s UCG Writers Campus and beneficiaries of the French-Israeli Drama Series Co-Writing Residency.

“La Palma,” (Lars Gudmestad, Harald Rosenløw Eeg, Martin Sundland, Norway)

Featuring a multi-lingual cast of characters, this disaster series unspools on Spain’s Canary Islands where a possible volcanic event turns the would-be paradise into an almost post-apocalyptic free-for-all. Disaster story specialist Jan Eirik Langøen (Amazon’s “Fortitude,” “The Quake”) produces, with Lasse Greve Alsos – a producer on Series Mania player “Furia” – and Martin Sundland (“The Wave”) on board as executive producers for Fantefilm Fiksjon AS. Norway’s NRK, Sweden’s SVT, Denmark’s DR, Iceland’s RUV and Finland’s YLE commissioned.

“Liberty’s,” (Joëy Faré, Cédric Le Gallo, France)

A WWII-set Parisian cabaret drama with Almodovar regular Rossy de Palma (“Parallel Lives”) attached to star, set in the quaint neighborhood of Montmartre in 1942 in occupied Paris.

Created and to be helmed by Le Gallo, co-director of Cannes 2019 Directors’ Fortnight title “The Shiny Shrimps,” and produced by Joëy Faré for Mediawan-owned Scarlett Production, a series which questions the role of artists during the occupation and captures the discrepancy between the cabaret glamor and the horror of war, says Faré.

“Moresnet,” (Jef Hoogmartens, Frank Van Passel, Jonas Van Geel, Belgium)

Ben returns to hometown Moresnet, to discover a lugubrious prophecy, written by his mentally ill younger brother 24 years before in his diary: That he and childhood friends will die in a fortnight. A mind-bending thriller mixing questions of irreversible destiny and neuro-tech engineering created and written by actor-scribe Hoogmartens (“Amateurs”). Van Passel and Van Geel will direct and Bert Hamelinck and Helena Vlogaert produce for Caviar Film and TV, part of Caviar Content, winner of two Academy Awards for “Sound of Metal.”

“Mozart/Mozart” (Andreas Gutzeit, Swantje Oppermann, Germany)

The latest big German-language IP from Germany’s Story House Productions, now in post on “Sisi” forRTL Group and Beta Film. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had an elderly sister,  María Anna, another pianist wunderkind as a child. Everybody knows Wolfgang’s mental health declined towards the end of his life. What if Maria Anna had to step in, impersonating him – under those colorful wigs and crazy costumes, nobody can tell the difference – to keep the family business alive, even weaving her own compositions into performances. much to Wolfgang’s consternation? A “fun, loud, colorful rock ‘n roll piece on Mozart, music’s first superstar,” says Gutzeit, with young German screenwriter A N’Gone Thiam joining the writing team.

“Noble Cause” (Christian Wehrlin, Pascal Glatz, John Murphy, Ireland, Switzerland)

Another period drama, “Noble Cause” unspools amidst the massively corrupt post-Gulf War Oil-For-Food program designed to allow Iraq to trade oil for necessary supplies. The series is produced by Mary Callery and Larry Bass for ShinAwiL, Peter Reichenbach for C-Films and Jean-Marc Frohle for Point Prod.

“Picadero” (Almudena Monzú, Mauricio Leiva-Cock, Spain, Colombia)

An erotic, playful spirited noir of unabashed sexuality tracking Barcelona female private dick Llanos as she embeds in an aristocratic family by bedding the Count’s young alpha male nephew. Created by Monzú, co-written with Mauricio Leiva-Cock, surely the most successful of Latin Americas global platform series writers, and produced by Barcelona’s Amor y Lujo and Colombia’s Fidelio Films. “Elite” producer Zeta Studios has just boarded as a co-producer as Isabel Coixet is attached to direct. A powerful package.

“Prison Boy” (Jason R. Goode, Canada)

A fish-out-of-water crime thriller, “Prison Boy” follows young Sam, the only child in Canadian history born and raised in a women’s prison. When his mother dies of cancer, Sam moves in with his aunt and commits himself to uncovering the true story of how his mother ended up in prison. Dylan Jenkinson and R. Goode produce for Hope of Glory Pictures and Jenkinson/Goode Productions, producers of the 2015 adventure-thriller feature “Numb.”

“The Rabbi” (Eytan Fox, Israel)

From celebrated filmmaker Eytan Fox, one of Israel’s leading directors whose work has featured at Berlin (“The Bubble”) Tribeca (“Yossi & Jagger,” “Yossi”), “The Rabbi” is inspired by true events, turning on a disgraced Rabbi who used his lofty position of power to initiate gay romances with college-aged students he is meant to be teaching. Paris-based media group Mediawan recently picked up international sales rights.

“Red Rainbow,” (Matt Jones, Russia, U.S.)

From Alexander Rodnyansky at AR Content/Non-Stop Productions, producer of high-level Cannes hits such as “Leviathan” and “Loveless,” this Soviet-era drama turns on a group of gay East German communists who are accidentally invited to visit the USSR. “It speaks volumes about our time that the story of 1970s era East German homosexual communists running around causing havoc and changing hearts in the institutionally homophobic Soviet Union, all due to a lost-in-translation blunder, can be pitched as relevant and timely,” says Jones.

“We Were Legends,” (Mounir Benali and Abdel Raouf Dafri, France)

Co-produced by Birth and San Siro Films, “Legends” is the true story of 11 professional soccer players who gave up their careers at elite French clubs to use their sport to promote Algerian independence. “The story of these players and their natural leader Rachid Mekhloufi should be told on the screen,” says Mounir Benali, who co-wrote with celebrated scribe Abdel Raouf Dafri (“A Prophet”).