NATASHA – Series Mania celebrates top television in Paris

Series Mania celebrates top television in ParisMany may regard the prospect of going to Paris — that hallowed city of light and love — with the express purpose of watching television as absurd. But Series Mania, whose extended fifth edition took place from April 22 to 30 at the Forum des Images in the city center, may actually be the Cannes of the small screen.Not that it is necessary to defend oneself as a television lover Series Mania is a unique event of unashamed passion for the modern brilliance of television.In the Forum’s plush cinemas, the first two episodes of the current top series around the world are shown — on the big screen is such a treat! — as well as previews and a premiere, as was the case of the terrific new Australian series “The Devil’s Playground,” about the Australian Catholic church in the 1980s. There are panel discussions with the writers, actors and producers and opportunities for questions from the public. This year, there was also an EU-funded co-production forum where selected projects got to pitch their series to TV channels from across Europe.For the public, it is free to attend, but such was the demand to view favorite shows as a collective cinematic event that there were lengthy queues for the likes of “True Detective” (an hour-long wait), “Game of Thrones” and “The Walking Dead” — for an all-night binge of the entire series four till 5 a.m., when you yourself become the walking dead.The new filmmakingIt is now openly discussed that TV series are the new filmmaking. So no more dismissing television as the idiot box, then Top movie directors from Jane Campion to Danny Boyle and Alfonso Cuaron are turning their cinematic eye to the small screen. Campion’s “Top of the Lake,” for instance, which is set in New Zealand, is simply brilliant cinema-meets-television. Movie stars are opting for long-running series and writers are seeing the diversity and creativity in television’s long-form storytelling with all the layers of a good novel.Opening night at Series Mania was a hugely popular sold-old event with the screening of episodes one and two of “True Detective,” starring Oscar-winner Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, which was wonderful to view on a giant screen. The show was undoubtedly the shining star of the festival.Creator Nic Pizzolatto was in attendance and articulately spoke to his rapt audience in a master class the following night about the incredible voyage of how as an associate professor of literature he turned his debut novel “Galveston” into an instant cult series produced by HBO, which is still the gold standard. As Pizzolatto says, “Everyone wants to make a show that is so good it could be on HBO.” A television convert with a born-again zeal for the medium, he has just finished writing season two, which is set in California but yet to be cast.Other US series included the American adaptation of Swedish-Danish crime series “The Bridge” and the brand new series “Ray Donovan,” starring Liev Schreiber, whose job is to do damage control on Hollywood scandals. Highlights from the UK were WWI drama “The Crimson Field,” “Black Mirror,” “Rectify,” “Dates” and Boyle’s “Babylon.”“Southcliffe,” which won the Series’ Jury prize, is an intense and gritty drama about the aftermath of a man’s shooting spree in a coastal town in England. “Woman,” from Japan, about the struggles of a young widowed mother, won the Bloggers’ prize.A fresh batch of French series was also highlighted as well as a comedy marathon. Closing night was “Gomorra” from Italy, which is inspired by Roberto Saviano’s book about the Neapolitan mafia.Other countries with series chosen to be represented in the top 30 at Series Mania included Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Korea and Russia. Everyone remarked on the brilliance of the Scandinavians, who had two riveting crime series, “Eyewitness” and “Mammon,” which reconfirmed why Nordic noir is so good. Also noted was the sudden rise in quality of Israeli television, in particular “Mekimi.”Notably absentUnfortunately, Turkish series were conspicuous in their absence. In several panel discussions, Turkish television was claimed to be on the cusp of international greatness, but it is let down by melodrama and meandering plotlines.During one roundtable discussion on the trend of selling formats and concepts internationally, Ruth McCance, head of fiction at international distributor Eccho Rights, hailed Turkey as a market with untapped potential. She said that Eccho Rights has recently secured deals on the scripted format of “Son” (The End), a 2012 Turkish drama series, thus breaking into new markets for Turkish drama. Interestingly, she says, it was not a huge hit domestically.Produced by Ay YapIm, “The End” has been dubbed the new “Homeland” in the US and is being developed as “Runner” by Fox. On the heels of the US commission comes a deal in Germany, an option in France and a Netflix agreement for Sweden and the UK. Russian World Studios are working on a local version and 35 other countries have bought the format.“The End” tells the story of a couple living in Istanbul. When the airplane the husband is traveling on crashes, the wife is sent into a spiral of grief that abruptly stops when she finds out that he never boarded the plane. Cue a web of lies and intrigue.According to McCance, “Turkish scripts work really well in a wide range of territories because they combine strong plots with deep characters whose emotional lives are drawn in compelling detail.“As for the readymade series, the breakthrough for us came when we realized the pacing is very different in Turkish dramas — everyone asks the same questions several times. The situations are great, the characters are great, but the storytelling is still aimed quite largely at an audience of housewives. It is like whenever you go out of the room you come back and can follow what is going on. So what we did is cut out half an hour from every 90-minute episode and that is what attracted the Swedes and the Americans.”She is currently focusing on selling the formats of several other Turkish series.Regarding this success, why then was there was no Turkish representation among the top-shelf dramas in this year’s Series Mania?“I really wanted Turkish television to be in the festival as the stories and characters are so good,” says Series Mania’s international series aisor Franois-Pier Pelinard-Lambert. However, he adds, the execution lets it down plus the scripts are repetitious and melodramatic.When Turkish series do get sold overseas, he said, each episode must be drastically cut to suit international tastes for sophisticated storytelling. But in the coming years, he believes, when the Turks really up their game as they have done with their cinema, their series will be up there with the Scandinavians and the Israelis as ones to watch.

SOURCE: Todays Zaman

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