5 Reasons to Justify a Trip (and Expense Report) to the Monte Carlo Television Festival
From discovering new talent (one word: Cumberbatch) to a new landscape of international dealmaking, the 55-year-old event is evolving beyond its frivolity.
This story first appeared in the June 12 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Monaco, the European center for glitz and glam, is an indulgence. The same used to be said about the Monte Carlo Television Festival (only a 30-minute drive or seven-minute helicopter ride from the Nice airport), which this year celebrates its 55th anniversary. The oldest and one of the most prestigious events dedicated to the small screen, the festival has been seen as an extravagance. It's where networks took their stars to stoke international hype for their new shows and where foreign talent went to get rare international recognition, in the form of the fest's Golden Nymph awards. But under new festival CEO Laurent Puons, the former head of events management company Monaco Mediax who was appointed last year, the confab may be evolving into a legitimate business expense. Here's what it has to offer.
1. You can scout talent.
The Monte Carlo juries have been ahead of the curve on emerging European talent. Benedict Cumberbatch won best actor at the festival for his television movie Hawking back in 2004, a half-decade before he starred in Sherlock. Chiwetel Ejiofor won in 2007 for the miniseries Tsunami: The Aftermath, six years before the Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave. The festival has a keen eye for writers, too, honoring such scribes as Andrew Davies (House of Cards) and Paul Abbott (Shameless) well before Hollywood ever heard their names.
2. You can give your show a glittery launch.
Unlike many television festivals, Monte Carlo is proudly populist — highlighting American shows with huge local Euro fan bases. The European press swarm Monte Carlo, guaranteeing acres of coverage. "The American studios trust us as a place to showcase their new series to the public and the European media," says Puons. The VIP list for this year's festival — which includes Empire's Taraji P. Henson, Sam Heughan of Outlander, Patricia Arquette of CSI: Cyber and Aaron Stanford and Amanda Schull of Syfy's 12 Monkeys — prove the gathering's rising profile.
3. You can find your next co-production partner.
This year's Golden Nymph nominees illustrate how international television has upped its game, with such programs as BBC/Starz production The Missing starring James Nesbitt, the Australian drama Secrets and Lies (already remade for ABC) and the Italian mafia thriller Gomorrah all nominated for the festival's highest honor. Monte Carlo is where the producers of those shows gather to schmooze. "Some of the most exciting drama is coming out of Europe these days," says Jens Richter, CEO of FremantleMedia International, who will be attending Monte Carlo's inaugural Content & Multiscreen Experience this year. "The producers of these shows can attract the best talent, and they know [whom] to team up with."
4. You can party with the royals.
Prince Albert II, Monaco's constitutional monarch, is the festival's honorary president and often makes appearances on both the red carpet and the festival party scene. Select invited guests at this year's television festival even will get a palace audience — as well as cocktails — with his highness and wife Princess Charlene. So if you make the cut, you literally will get the royal treatment.
5. You can meet your new commissioning editor.
European television is commissioning English-language series like never before — for example, such shows as Spotless from France's Canal Plus, TV4's Welcome to Sweden and Lillyhammer on Norway's NRK. The men and women greenlighting the next U.S.-European sitcom are the same people across from you at Monte Carlo Bay. "It's the ideal hub for which to meet many of the leading broadcasters and producers," says Christophe Riandee, vice CEO of France's Gaumont. Adds Puons: "We have the very highest level of the European industry here. It's networking like you can't find anywhere else."
Party Like a 1-Percenter
Casino de Monte Carlo
Place du Casino
No trip to Monte Carlo is complete without a visit to the world’s most famous, and famously photogenic, casino. Get your James Bond on and hit the card tables or the roulette wheel ($10 to $40 minimum bet depending on the game) or just soak up the 19th century posher-than-thou elegance. If you’re planning some serious gambling, bring cash or have your bank advance payment to the casino’s sales office. Credit cards are not accepted.
Market Place d’Armes, Avenue du Port
Off-the-boat seafood, fresh bread and bushels of Mediterranean veggies make this covered market a must. Grab a top-notch pizza for less than $10 or indulge in a French pastry before your next screening.
Sporting Club, 26 Avenue Princess Grace
A cliche that lives up (or is that down?) to its reputation, Jimmy’z is Monaco’s most exclusive, most glamorous and most outrageous club. It’s huge, with bars and dance floors inside and out, and is the place to meet — or gawk at — models, celebrities and the uber-rich, provided you can afford it. Drinks start at $30 to $40 a pop, and the cheapest bottle of champagne goes for $400.
16 rue Basse
A culinary jewel amid the tourist traps in Monaco’s historic quarter, this tiny (18-seat) restaurant run by husband-and-wife team Henri and Fabienne Geraci (he cooks, she serves) elegantly fuses Mediterranean and Asian cuisine. Prince Albert II is a regular. With main dishes from $15 to $30, it also is an affordable alternative to Monaco’s budget-busting eateries.