Cannes Details Plans for New Series Festival

CANNES, FRANCE - view of the beach-H 2016
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

The city will host a weeklong festival with a budget of about $4.3 million.

Cannes is prepping to roll out the red carpet next April, adding another splashy event to the city’s schedule with the International Series Festival set for 2018.

Mayor David Lisnard quietly announced the plans back in January, and expanded on his vision Monday during a press conference alongside former culture minister and current festival president Fleur Pellerin, former TF1 head and current festival general director Benoit Louvet, MIPTV conference organizer Reed Midem CEO Paul Zilk and CanalPlus CEO Maxime Saada.

The festival will run for a week in April, bookmarking the five days of MIPTV, and will launch next year.

To be known as Cannes Series, the event will have a competition section with an “official selection” of ten unseen series by a creative director to be named at a later date. Series can be half- or one-hour in length and will be considered from all genres. Web series will also be considered. The creative director will be independent of the organization, similar to Thierry Fremaux's role at the film festival.

Current film festival president Pierre Lescure is also supporting the new series fest and will "guarantee an independent selection," Lisnard said, though he did not detail what Lescure's involvement is.

The grand jury will consist of at least five jury members from what the committee hopes will be “personalities known in the industry.”

There also will be a large public-facing initiative, with over 100 events geared towards the public. “We want it to be a prestigious and artistic event, but also open widely to the public,” said Pellerin.

Audiences will also vote for a public award, as well as have access to master classes and other lectures. Like the film festival, screenings will take over city theaters for projections during the week.

What will differ from the film festival in perhaps the most important way, at least for Lisnard, is that it will incorporate the development of his long-gestating project of a university dedicated to cinema, a startup incubator, a city studio and facility devoted to postproduction and a hotel devoted to writers in residence and the incubator’s entrepreneurs. The city broke ground on that project in January.

He sees that project feeding into the television festival, with students, entrepreneurs and writers-in-residence able to pitch TV or digital projects in the co-production forum that will continue to run as part of MIPTV.

Animation projects will not be considered initially, but it is hoped the festival will be able to include them at a later time.

Lisnard said the budget for the fest will hover around the €4 million ($4.3 million) mark, but declined to say where the financing will come from. CanalPlus has already signed on as a partner, and Lisnard said he is in additional talks with its parent company Vivendi for additional projects or sponsorships surrounding the event.

“We need to remember that the [MIPTV] market is integrated, and that is a benefit of being involved with Reed Midem,” said Lisnard. “So like Cannes [the film festival], we will have professionals exchanging and meeting and that part of the budget is taken into account.”

He said he is in talks with several other private companies for funding and sponsorship, adding, “Let’s say, we are not worried about €4 million.”

Added Pellerin: “We believe we have the mix to make it successful. We will adapt like a startup.”

Lisnard’s announcement comes just days after the federal government announced it will launch a competing festival in the northern city of Lille, so any official funds will be sent there. That festival is also set to launch next year, but Lisnard is clearly drawing attention to the well-known location of Cannes over smaller Lille, which sits between London and Brussels.

Both Cannes and Lille were in competition for the federal funds, alongside Bordeaux, Nice and Paris' Series Mania. Lisnard said he decided to move ahead with his initiative when Lille and Paris were announced as finalists.

Lisnard said that the plans for an international series festival were part of his campaign pledge and he would go forward with it regardless of the federal government’s decision, noting he has regional and departmental backing as well as global name recognition.

“We have an international aura around this event,” he said. “Cannes is a known brand.”

Lisnard noted that the city, which is basically built for festivals and conventions, has the infrastructure, exhibition space and theaters as well as hotel capacity to host a major international event already in place.

“We have the know-how in Cannes,” he added.

Saada said the CanalPlus partnership would be exclusive and structured on the deal it has with the film festival, covering the opening and closing ceremonies, and thus it is abandoning its historical partnership with Paris’ Series Mania festival after the next event later this month.

The launch of Cannes Series leaves Series Mania in the lurch, just as that event has grown and attracted A-list talent.

Lisnard said new information and initiatives will be announced leading up to the inaugural event next April.