LILLE, France – Producers, commissioning editors and creative talents from across La Belle Province took the spotlight at a Series Mania showcase of the best of recent Quebecois scripted offerings. Below are the seven series that drew whoops and appreciative hollers from a room full of international buyers.
Late summer doldrums, young adult love, and the generally placid rhythms of suburban life take on additional heft and resonance for a group of friends all suffering from cystic fibrosis – especially once one’s condition takes a turn for the worst. Far from jerking tears, the offbeat comedy “Thin Air” finds irreverent and life-affirming humor following young adult characters that feel the pangs of mortality more acutely than most. Produced by Urbania and created by acclaimed writer Jean-Christophe Réhel, the bittersweet series offers another plum role to “Mommy” star Antoine Olivier Pilon.
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Produced by Saint Laurent TV and directed by Jean-Francois Rivard and Mathieu Cyr, “Good Morning Chuck (Or the Art of Harm Reduction)” tracks a disgraced talk show host who checks into rehab more for the good press than to actually kick his drug habit. As much a satire of fame and PR narcissism as an earnest ode to the rehab process, the dark comedy turned heads at the Series Mania pitch on the strength of its stark black and white visuals. “For me, [using black and white] is like filming the soul,” said director Jean-Francois Rivard. “It’s that balance between darkness and light.”
“Pearls” creator Erika Soucy described her small town dramedy as a kind of Quebecoise cousin to the Cher/Winona Ryder classic “Mermaids,” promising that this tale of a single mom raising two daughters in a remote, seaside community would shine a loving spotlight on characters and stories all too often overlooked. “I wanted to create a feminist series that puts forward women who have neither the time nor the vocabulary to assert themselves,” Soucy said of her series upon its announcement. “While developing many themes that are important to me, in the end, [the series] asks one question: What does it mean to be a good mother?”
An hour-long scripted farce from Quebec’s reigning comedy champion Isabelle Langlois (whose series “Freefall” claimed top honors at Canada’s Gémeaux Awards four years in a row), “The Candidate” follows working-class single mom drafted into a doomed-to-lose political campaign only to end up the surprise victor. “It’s more of a coming-of-age and fish-out-water story,” said producer Vincent Gagné of Encore Television. “The show is more about finding out who you are, and that is something everyone can relate to.”
Co-created and anchored by Quebecois star Éric Bruneau, the investment banker drama “Before the Crash” won critical and audience acclaim for its first season, with a follow-up coming shortly down the pike. The writer and lead described his high-octane, high-finance series in more intimate terms, promising to take viewers behind the big deals and eye popping numbers to really examine the fractured psyches and fraught relations that push a certain ambitious few to greater and greater extremes, eventually setting them up for a fall.
“What’s local is universal,” said “Mégantic” creator/director Alexis Durand-Brault. Indeed, while the eight-part disaster drama recreates a 2013 rail accident that devastated a small French-Canadian town not far from the Maine border, the ensuing tales of grief and perseverance, of heroism big and small, knows no one language or nationality. “Underneath these explosions were real people and real human stories,” said producer Sophie Lorain. “That’s what the story is all about, and that’s what will reach audiences.”
Written, directed and created by Mara Joly, “Still I Rise” takes a familiar format and gives it an unabashedly Black, queer and feminist spin. Set in a diverse sector of Montreal, the series finds an at-risk teen given a new path forward and lease on life through the martial arts – in this case, as part of young cadre of MMA fighters trained by an-ex champion turned police officer. “There is love, action, families that tear each other apart,” said co-producer Myriam Charles, while also promising “thriller elements and even ethical eroticism.” “Our characters are heroes who exposed all of their flaws,” she added. “That’s what makes them human.”
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