Series Mania to Move From Paris to Lille

The Leftovers - Episode 27 (season 3, episode 7) -Justin Theroux-tan jacket- - Publicity-H 2017
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The estabished TV festival will move north as Cannes plans its own TV festival just a week earlier.

In the latest shake-up of the TV series festival landscape in France, Paris' well-regarded Series Mania will move to Lille in April 2018.

Founder and director Laurence Herszberg, who grew the festival to a international event over eight years, will leave her post in Paris to take over the direction of the Lille festival.

Herszberg announced her resignation and new position at a press conference at the National Cinema Center’s (CNC) Paris headquarters Thursday, alongside Lille’s regional governor Xavier Bertrand. She’ll be taking her team along: Series Mania artistic director Frederic Lavigne, co-production Forum director Francesco Capurro and head of production Jeff Bledsoe will oversee the new festival.

Series Mania was Herzberg’s vision and she has been key in attracting big U.S. talent on the jury and for master classes, as well as luring the world premieres of such big gets as HBO’s Vinyl, with Bobby Cannavale presenting, and The Leftovers, with Damon Lindelof and Justin Theroux presenting, at Paris’ Grand Rex theater. The Sopranos creator David Chase, Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan, Julianna Margulies and Cuba Gooding Jr. also have been recent guests of the fest. 

“At one point you just have to decide where you have the most influence,” Herszberg told The Hollywood Reporter on her decision to move the festival. She cited the $5.7 million (5 million euro) budget, with $4 million (3.5 million euro) from the regional government and $1.13 (1 million euro) from the federal government through the CNC, as key. “It’s a budget that I didn’t have for Series Mania. Being in a smaller city will allow us to develop much more in the city itself, and I can build what I had in mind for Series Mania.”

That includes new Project and Talent Market that will sit inside the established Co-Production Forum, which Herszberg envisions as a “unique place for creators, screenwriters, financiers to meet — a real incubator for series development,” she said. They’ll keep the Forum’s 50,000 euro pitching prize.

While the festival direction will still be mostly run out of Paris, it will hire a local team for other organization, Herszberg said, joking that the high-speed TGV train “runs frequently and well” between the two cities.

That seems to be a main selling point for the new festival, as the team said they look to establish Lille as a European festival as it sits at the crossroads of the Eurostar between London and Brussels and one can quickly get to Germany and Scandinavia by train as well.

But the team also made it clear that this will be a public-facing festival and a major cultural initiative for the city, with screenings and lectures open to all as well as a concert program at night.

The new festival will be called Series Mania Lille and Hauts-de-France, but with Paris effectively dead it will assume the moniker’s mantle. The brand will continue to expand internationally with Series Mania events in Melbourne, Australia, later this month and an event in Argentina beginning next year.

The decision to move Series Mania to Lille follows a year of competition between French cities and festivals. The federal government put out a call to hopeful host cities last year, with Paris and Lille becoming the two finalists.  

But Cannes had also put in its own bid, and Mayor David Lisnard decided to go ahead without government backing. The southern city is preparing to launch the Cannes Series festival built around the MIPTV market, which will run in the middle of the festival dates.

Lisnard has former culture minister Fleur Pellerin on his team, as well as the partnership of CanalPlus, which is also the main sponsor of the film festival.

Herszberg remains confident that Lille can attract top Hollywood talent.

“Cannes is a market — and a very important and strong one — but in my opinion you don’t develop a festival from a market, you have to start from a festival itself and then try to spread out and to the direction of the business and professionals,” she said.

“We’re not exactly starting from scratch. I’m going there with the core team and we will start developing the assets of Series Mania. We have eight years of experience, we have the network of business [people] and talent. I have their cell phone numbers,” she joked.

Though on opposite ends of the country, the two festivals are scheduled just a few days apart and will try to cooperate, especially with initiatives focusing on screenwriting and talent development, she added. Cannes is developing its own film and television school and launching its screenwriting program next year.

Series Mania will run April 20-28 in Lille. Cannes Series will run April 6-13, 2018.