The Series Mania Forum examines the transition from feature film to series
– Producers Ed Guiney, Léontine Petit and Michael Polle share their thoughts on the transition from the 7th art to the world of series
A moment during the discussion
Big changes are afoot, and almost every film production company is gearing up, if not already on board, to jump on the World Series bandwagon that is hurtling at breakneck speed. But is it really so easy to go from producing feature films to series? Three experienced producers – Ireland’s Ed Guiney (Item Pictures), The Netherlands Leontine Petit (lemming movie) and Germany Michel Pollé (Creative Pool X Filme) – shared their thoughts on this subject during a debate organized within the Mania Series Forum in partnership with ACE producers and AVANT-GARDE.
Ed Guiney: “The whole sector is seeing the boundaries between the worlds of cinema and series become blurred. If we take normal people for example, lenny Abrahamson and I first considered Sally Rooneylike a potential movie, but the structure of the book and the time period covered by the story was clearly better suited for a series. There was a lot of competition when it came time to acquire the rights, but the BBC was 100% on board and we were able to assure Sally Rooney that her project would go through with it. If it were a film, it would no doubt have been well received at major festivals, but it would have been much less profitable financially. Overall, I think the quality of the filmmakers, and better control of the artistic quality thanks to producers used to working in the cinema, can make a real difference for the series, a world where the directors were often seen as mere technicians, which really shocked me. The rise of series is a real opportunity to create a brilliant niche and to express oneself fully there, because the experimental film market has shrunk. Obviously, creating a series involves a much longer creative process, with a lot of material and more teamwork, and the filmmakers probably have to control their instincts to some degree. But there’s more than one way to do things, as I’m currently discovering while writing the series. The gallows pole by Shane Meadows [read our news], and I realize that broadcasters also expect more from producers. One of the complications we’re seeing right now is the incredibly high turnover of buyers, because developing a work while still having various funding options available to you is very important, in my opinion. There is also enormous competition to find talent, attract and retain the best producers capable of evolving in the world of series.”
Leontine Petit: “When it came to Heirs of the nightwe said to ourselves: why not make a fantastic series out of it and offer these teenagers who like to watch game of thrones some quality? We started with a writers room, but it’s not such an easy thing to do in Europe because we’re not used to working that way, so the results were mixed. We adapted the same approach that we use for the films, keeping a lot of freedom. We just worked on a different schedule, at a different speed. But it was an adaptation of a book, which undoubtedly facilitated the conquest of partners.
I think it’s also important not to develop too many projects, to stick to a reasonable number and to have a clear idea of your objectives: are you aiming for volume? A niche market? The mainstream and mainstream approaches don’t work for all projects. And there’s also nothing wrong with directors learning from writers (who used to be underrated and are now stars) on how to put together a show or an episode. The important thing is to remain flexible on the initial idea, so that you can adjust things once you have agreed on a common vision. So even if it’s a luxury, it’s better to develop your project as well as possible before trying to negotiate with partners. And even within the production company itself, you have to be more structured, especially on a legal level, without losing creativity along the way.”
Michel Pollé“We have always insisted on the importance of sticking to a local idea and shooting in German, as we did with Babylon Berlin and as we do now with house of promises. It is also crucial to find the right partners in order to better protect your project. It sometimes works when you go from a two-page pitch to shooting your project eight months later, as often happens with streamers, but the time you spend developing the project and its ultimate quality are intimately linked. It’s the same with writers’ rooms: they don’t work for all directors. What matters is finding the right combination. What is also essential is to learn to structure the process, to sometimes make mistakes but to analyze them well afterwards. What usually happens at X Filme is that our creatives come to us with their ideas and together we think about what would work best, a film or a series. Because the two worlds have come very close and we are in a real period of transition. The important thing is creative passion and even though everyone is talking about intellectual property, I think there is room for a lot of other things.”
(Translated from French)