MIPCOM: 'Borgen' Star Signs on for CanneSeries Role

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Sidse Babett Knudsen

'Westworld' and 'Electric Dreams' star Sidse Babett Knudsen has signed on as patron of the festival.

More pieces of the CanneSeries puzzle are being put in place as plans come together for the new television festival, scheduled to run alongside international market MIPTV next April.

Westworld and Electric Dreams actress Sidse Babett Knudsen has signed on to be the first patron of the festival, bringing a bit of international star power to a role that will see the BAFTA- and Cesar-winning star promoting the festival internationally as it leads up to its first edition.

Knudsen embodies the festival’s global ambition, said artistic director Albin Lewi. “Sidse embodies what series are today,” he said of the actress who became a worldwide name after her turn on Danish drama Borgen. “Any show from anywhere can be a massive global success and bring talent to the spotlight.”

Managing director Benoit Louvet made clear that the focus will be international — not just American or English-language shows — with 10 first-season, live-action comedies or dramas of at least six episodes in competition. They can be aired in their home countries, as long as they haven’t hit small screens in France, the U.S. and U.K.

However major hits like Mad Men won’t be left out — three out-of-competition shows will also have gala evening screenings, and can be returning shows. The gala opening will take place April 7, with the jury introduced and the first official competition screening taking place, and the competition will run until April 11, with the closing ceremony and awards aired live on CanalPlus, similar to the film festival in May.

“We are not the film festival so we will do things differently, because television series are different from films, but we will take advantage of those differences as well,” said Lewi. There will be a red carpet for each screening with talent and jury attending. Those seven people, a combination of actors, directors and critics, will be announced at the beginning of next year.

“We have full access to the grand auditorium stairs, and we imagine doing something that is in line with the series,” said Louvet. “The glamour of the steps is part of Cannes so we will take advantage of them, as well as the magnificent theater.”

“Glamour will be built into the DNA of CanneSeries,” added Lewi.

Grumblings heard from some MIPTV exhibitors over the last few months were dismissed by festival organizers, who said only “three or four” companies will have to move their stands “a couple of meters” to accommodate the new red carpet.

The festival, which has the tough dual task of being both a public event and catering to the industry execs, will stagger its program with some overlap, and badge holders will have “privileged access” to special seating  in the Palais’ Lumiere Theater.

Cannes mayor David Lisnard decided to push ahead with the festival last January even though the French government had eliminated the city as a location for a planned television festival, and set an ambitious one-year time frame to organize the festival that would be open to the public. Despite some skepticism about bringing the public into the Palais that is already full of international exhibitors, Lewi says the unique combination is one of the festival's biggest strengths. 

It’s also a unique opportunity for buyers to see what resonates with the public, adding an additional layer to the business market. “Out of all the things that are important [to a buyer], it’s the way the public sees it,” said Lewi. “It’s also a rare opportunity to see it on a great screen and share the experience with others.”

Competition titles will be screened in the Palais’ grand auditorium April 8- 10, staggering with the work-in-progress MIPDrama Screenings and conference keynote speeches that are traditionally scheduled in that space. Delegates will have priority access and a special entrance for the screenings, while the public will have tickets to fill the 2,300 seats.

The French government eventually awarded its official festival to the northern city of Lille, which then took over Paris' SeriesMania name and effectively killed the capital's eight-year-old fest. The now-dueling festival takes place just 10 days after MIPTV, and CanneSeries will require exclusivity on shows in competition. As far as attracting shows, Lewi said the presence of executives and media will be a plus for attracting submissions.

“Our strength is that we are alongside MIPTV, and the market, the channels from all around the world are there,” he said. 

Louvet added his team is already in negotiations with several high-profile showrunners who will be invited for 5 to 6 master classes that will take place during the week.

The first part of the festival, coined “Addict,” will be for the fans and run current and recent shows in screening rooms across the city from April 4 to 11, with much of it centered around the new TV and film production facilities that are being built in the eastern La Bocca part of town.

CanneSeries and MIPTV are cooperating on the In Development pitch program to fast-track new shows with several industry heavy-hitters on board, including StudioCanal’s managing director Rola Bauer, Sony Pictures Television Networks executive vp Marie Jacobson, Platform One Media CEO Katie O’Connell, and Deutschland 83/86 creator Anna Winger, among others. The CanneSeries Institute, which will host a writers' residence prior to the festival, will offer the winning pilot screenplay a development deal with CanalPlus and a slot in the international pitching forum. 

Submissions will be accepted from mid-November and the competition selection will be announced in mid-March.