K7 Media

K7 Media

Series Mania Wrap: Top takeaways from the 2023 edition

Last week, K7 were in Lille once again for a particularly busy edition of the Series Mania Forum. Read on for our key takeaways from the event.

Formats were the talk of the town

As formats continue to be a bigger and bigger piece of the scripted puzzle, remakes were a hot topic at the festival. Nippon TV’s maternal instincts drama Mother continues to be one of the biggest scripted format successes ever – with previous adaptations being joined by newly launched versions in China, Thailand, France and Spain in the last three years alone. In an insightful session focusing on the latter iteration, Nippon’s Yuki Akehi was joined by Galdo Media founder Eduardo Galdo to discuss the format’s universality and family themes, which have helped it to become a story which has managed to cross borders like few others.

Fittingly there was also a lot of talk about the success of French scripted formats. Call My Agent! continues its unstoppable march around the world, with Mediawan announcing in its session new versions in Senegal and the Spanish-speaking Americas – with Eva Longoria to take producing and directing duties on the latter. The French-founded powerhouse is also progressing with its George Clooney-directed US take on spy drama The Bureau. Meanwhile, another format rapidly clocking up remakes – Newen Connect’s HPI – premiered its third season at the festival.

The pull of established IP…

Stats touted in Tuesday’s opening session hosted by the European Audiovisual Observatory showed that in 2021/22, a staggering 42% of new US TV launches were based on existing intellectual property. The rest of the world wasn’t too far behind either, with 28% being IP-based.

From Book to Screen pitching sessions, to panels looking at the increasing crossover from the worlds of podcasts and video games (see more below), the appetite for adaptable media was certainly reflected on the ground at the festival.

To focus for now on more ‘traditional’ IP – novels and films – blockbuster adaptations in focus included Amazon and Dark producer W&B’s take on Wolfgang Hohlbein’s 40m-selling book series The Gryphon. Prime German Originals head Philip Pratt called the project “the biggest German fantasy project since The NeverEnding Story.” Launching alongside a podcast and a set of new short stories from the author (via Amazon publishing), the streamer is doubling down on the world building, franchise power that’s proving so important to the big budget high concept epics being released in increasing number.

From an iconic German story to an iconic (albeit much older) French one, Mediawan touted their high profile animated ‘reinvention’ of The Three Musketeers, to be broadcast by partners ZDF, RAI and France Télévisions. Sky Studios meanwhile announced Eddie Redmayne as a fittingly big name star for its new adaptation of the iconic The Day of the Jackal.

…and the rise of video game-to-series adaptations 

Following the massive success of HBO’s The Last of Us, the session exploring ‘Why Gaming IP is Finally Taking Off in Film/TV?’ piqued our – and many other attendees’ – interest. While video game-to-TV adaptation is no new phenomenon, the last year (2021-2022) saw game-to-screen adaptations grow by 47% with 14 series and 8 movies being produced. However, the rising quantity is not the whole story, with quality certainly also on the rise.

But what makes for a successful transition from gaming to watching? Remaining true to original material (to appease gamers and embrace what made the game great) but truly elevating the story – expanding where there’s room to expand, and employing top talent, both behind and in front of the camera. With Fallout, Disco Elysium and God of War coming up on Prime Video and a reimagining of Tomb Raider coming to Netflix, these high concept adaptations are a favourite of the big budget global streamer. We’ll be sure to keep a weather eye on whether the renewed interest in game IP to series is indeed a lasting trend.

Capturing YA audiences: The short attention span myth

A stand out panel which predictably had a packed theatre listening intently and furiously scribbling notes was ‘Engaging with the Young Adults’. If there’s anyone in the TV industry who knows how to do just that, it’s Euphoria creator Ron Lesham, who, citing recent youth bingeing sensations like Wednesday, highlighted the fierce loyalty of younger viewers: “Everyone’s been told young people have eight-second attention spans, that’s not really true – if you can grab them in that eight seconds, you’ll have them for hours.”

In terms of how to authentically capture the lives of Gen Z-ers in the writing process, Lisa Ambjörn, creator of Netflix’s Young Royals, told the audience to get creative. During the writing of the Swedish smash hit – set at a fictional elite boarding school – Ambjörn ‘infiltrated’ high class social media groups on TikTok and Instagram to get a true feel for Sweden’s wealthiest youngsters.

Sened Dhab, VP digital scripted at France Télévisions, continued on a similar note: “Be interested in what you’re talking about. Put yourself at the same level. And don’t listen to what your kids are telling you about their lives – they’re lying to you!”

The Winners: Iran’s first entry wins big as thrillers reign

Iranian series The Actor took home the Grand Prize in the International Competition. The 26 x 52’ suspense drama, following two struggling actors running a derelict theatre in Tehran, was the first Iranian series to be selected in the competition. Norwegian thriller The Fortress – following a near future self-sufficient society plagued by a devastating epidemic, trapped by the walls built to protect them – nabbed Best Screenplay. Best Actor went to Michael Sheen for his starring turn in emotive UK family drama Best Interests, while Best Actress went to Margot Bancilhon for French thriller Haven of Grace.

The International Panorama main prize went to Swedish TV crime thriller Blackwater with Best Actress going to Rotem Sela and Gal Malka for Israeli surrogacy drama A Body That Works. Best actor went to Eran Naim for German-Israeli drama Innermost. Check out the full list of competition winners here.

Elsewhere, The Best Project Award (a €50,000 prize) went to 6 x 30’ Ukrainian drama Unspoken, a war thriller exploring the current atrocities in Ukraine through the eyes of one man’s mission to save his family. Produced Dmytro Sukhanov, Toy Cinema, 2Brave Productions and Match&Spark.

Period dramas remain prominent across the continent

Behind crime, by far the most internationally saleable flavour of scripted from Europe is now period drama. Accordingly Series Mania was awash with high-profile series delving back in time in various locales around the continent.

A series which caused a good deal of buzz both at the Berlinale and last week in Lille too, was German/Swiss co-production Davos. The slick series is set largely in neutral Switzerland during World War I. To win back her daughter, a young nurse is recruited as a spy to infiltrate a picturesque spa town which hides links to the German Secret Service.

The Spanish showcase meanwhile highlighted the mid 20th century-set Los pacientes del doctor García, which will come soon to RTVE and Netflix.

Sky Studios’ Meghan Lyvers re-asserted tentpole event period series (usually with huge name talent attached) as one of their ‘key pillars’ – with upcoming series including 17th royal drama Mary And George, which will star Julianne Moore. Following the big success of Sky’s Das Boot meanwhile, the company is continuing to focus on WWII, currently casting for a landmark adaptation of The Tattooist of Auschwitz, as well as readying M. Son of the Century – about Mussolini’s rise to power.

Other more recently-set series getting their international premieres in Lille included Nolly – set in the cutthroat showbiz scene of 1960s London, and La Ruta – taking viewers back to Valencia’s rave scene in the 1980s.

Be more Glocal! Standing out in an over-saturated market

Returning to the European Audiovisual Observatory session, figures showed a staggering 739 scripted series of 13 episodes or less aired in 2021, compared to just 422 in 2016. In this era of massive volume of choice for viewers, how can we produce series which stand out from the pack?

For TF1, the strategy to build a standout scripted slate which isn’t obscured too much by the global streamers, is to double down on programming which is distinctly French. ‘We have to differentiate ourselves,’ CEO Rodolphe Belmer said, ‘The editorial line is to promote French popular culture.’  This strategy will include producing series based on the lives of local ‘hero’ figures.

This same line of thought was echoed in Sky Studios’ panel exploring ‘EU Content with Global Ambitions’. With refugee drama Orizzonte in the works, alongside the aforementioned titles, the aim is to find the balance between maintaining that local European flavour, whilst speaking to a global audience.

Beta Film MD Moritz von Kruedener meanwhile made a renewed call for European broadcasters to band together, pool resources and reduce risk in order to produce series with enough financial thrust to really make an impact: “In Germany and other nations you now have to combine two local partners. In a way we all have to become a bit more Scandinavian.”

Richard O’Meara

Richard graduated from the University of Manchester with a degree in History in 2013, and also has a post-graduate diploma in Journalism.

Richard is responsible for ensuring all of K7’s wider output offers as much insight as possible. Richard also heads up the scripted team at K7 Media, overseeing all bespoke, weekly, and monthly scripted output. He also edits the World Drama, Latin America, UK Comedy and Drama, and North American scripted reports, as well as the Scriptlist showreel. Additionally, Richard travels to markets and meets with clients.

Outside of work, Richard likes travelling, checking out live music, and keeping active– he currently enjoys cycling and indoor climbing.