Aimed at aspiring TV producers, European workshop ACE Series Special is gearing up for its third edition in December.

The fledgling event targets experienced producers who are keen on adding a TV series division to their companies or grow their knowledge on the intricacies of developing and producing drama series for international audiences. It has become ever more relevant as more entertainment companies scramble to meet the insatiable programming needs of established and new streaming giants as well as pay TV and linear broadcasters.

Variety is a media partner in the special slated for Dec. 6-11 in Brussels, with sessions to be held online before and after the event. The applications deadline is July 1 and is open to owners, partners or associates of an independent film/TV company, ACE members or experienced producers and those with TV drama series in development that are apt for co-production.

A partnership with Series Mania has also been established.

According to ACE Series, the topics covered will include:

*Story development within the structural framework of drama-series;

*The creative dynamics of working in a writers-room and the role of director(s), commissioning editors and the producers themselves;

*The financing scheme of series in an international context;

*Discovering the market potential and finding an (international) audience;

*Strategically integrating a series department into an existing (film) production company;

*Budget, financing and production planning of TV series.

As one of its speaker-mentors since its inaugural edition, Marc Lorber, Senior VP, international co-productions and acquisitions at Lionsgate UK, weighs in on his experience and on some of the issues that will be discussed at the event:

Could you mention two large values of attending the ACE Series Special for producers? 

What I like most about the ACE Series is that it’s a group of producers who are running and building their companies from around the world, getting together in a relatively small batch. And it’s the intimacy of the event and the quality of the people there; their desires and attitudes. It’s the collegiality as well. It’s a small atmosphere; It’s fun and friendly. It numbers about 20 producers and executive producers, people who have a desire to either be more adept at television or are moving into television.

As a guest speaker, what did you learn from attending the ACE Series Special yourself?

When you’re at a studio or in a role or career for a while, you make certain assumptions or take some things for granted. So here you’ve got young producers in terms of television experience. But many of them have a great deal of feature film experience in their countries and outside of them. Just to hear their mature questions and their take on things often makes me rethink some of my assumptions.

And there’s nothing better than meeting with people from around the world to hear more intently how they are doing things or interpreting things from their own countries, rightly or wrongly. It’s an atmosphere that is fairly open. No one’s taking videos, no one is recording us per se.

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ACE Series Special Logo Courtesy of ACE Series Special

Could you offer one key tip or observation regarding three topics covered at ACE Series Special, such as story development…. 

In terms of story development, it’s not enough to just say: ‘Well, I’ve got a cop show.’ A lot of people have got cop shows. What makes yours unique? It needs to be universal but different; we don’t want things too far left field, but what differentiates yours from others? I think that’s always the question. 

And series’ financing schemes in an international context?

You have to start with a great story, a great script, a great project. But then the next big hurdle is getting it greenlit and financed. Just the greenlight is not enough. For some projects in smaller countries, just one broadcaster and the local tax credit might get them to 40%-60% of their imagined budget. But how are producers going to get the rest? That’s where working with studios, distributors, financiers, banks, regional and national funds comes into play. It’s that last mile that’s often the toughest.

Of course, you’re talking about one financing pillar: the open market and co-production. The other’s to strike a deal with a platform, which could take 100% of IP and finance 100%… 

I think it’s harder and harder for the single show and single producer without leverage and strength to retain a lot of those IP rights. It’s a balance getting something fully financed. If a company accepts a buyout of long-term equity, in return, it may not control further rights for a remake or a spinoff. If I don’t own the IP, I don’t have collateral to take to a bank, a financier, a studio or a distributor and say: “Invest in my company because I control these rights.” The aim is to get shows fully financed but retain a great deal of your rights as we do here in the U.K.

Another worship topic is how to discover market potential and find an international audience.

I tell producers to be aware as much about what’s happening in the world as what’s happening in their own country and community. All too often, somebody will say to me, ‘I’ve got this show and its X and Y and Z,’ and I go, ‘It’s really interesting, but there’s already two versions of that being pitched or set up in the U.S. and there’s another one in the U.K.’ And I know of one in France or Germany, because I also look at remakes as well. And often times, great minds think alike. Unless you have a really strong piece of underlying IP, a great writer and creator, an amazing lead director and star attached to it and the interest of an anchor broadcast or somewhere, it would be hard to get that piece off the ground.

John Hopewell contributed to this article.