Television is staking more ground in Cannes, and Harlan Coben thinks it’s about time. The author and creator behind Netflix’s upcoming “Safe” returns to the Croisette this weekend to head up the jury at Canneseries, a new TV festival competition taking place along side the annual MipTV market.
“Now that we’re in the golden age of television, I think it’s long overdue,” Coben told IndieWire. “I think everyone now is chomping at the bit for it. I’m really excited. I’m looking forward to walking around the convention hall, and looking at all the variety of TV that’s around, and the new perspectives. South Korea, Mexico, Israel — I really look forward to seeing what they’re doing with storytelling, because it’s just going to be different.”
Coben, as president of the jury, will be joined on the panel by actress Paula Beer (Germany), screenwriter and director Audrey Fouché (France), actress Melisa Sözen (Turkey), composer Cristobal Tapia de Veer (Chile/Canada) and actor Michael K. Williams (USA).
Ten series, including BBC America’s “Killing Eve,” will be vying next week for the first-ever festival’s Best Music, Best Screenplay, Special Performance Prize, Best Performance and Best Series trophies. It’s an eclectic mix of international series, with entrants from Belgium, Germany, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Norway, South Korea, and Spain.
“Ten or 15 years ago, you never heard of any international shows,” Coben noted. “Maybe a British show you’d buy and remake in America. But you would never have this thing where all of these countries are producing really great quality stuff. Really intriguing, different perspectives, and perhaps getting out of a more set studio system.”
Coben pointed out that he has long worked on international projects, including “No Second Chance” and “Just One Look,” both for France’s TF1. (He was also behind the French film “Tell No One”). “Safe,” which premieres later this year on Netflix, is a co-production with French broadcaster C8 (where it will run in that country) and features a global cast.
“I loved the idea of doing something internationally,” he said. “We film in England, we have Michael C. Hall, a major American star who’s playing British, I’m an American writer working with a British team of writers, we have Audrey Fleurot, who’s one of the biggest stars in France. We have Amanda Abbington, who people probably know from ‘Sherlock.’ One of our directors was Australian. So it’s a real international group. I like that feel, it makes things stronger.”
“Safe” stars Hall as Tom, a widower who’s raising his two daughters in a gated community. But then his eldest daughter disappears, and he discovers dark secrets about the people around him. The show has been chosen to be screened out of competition at the festival as the closing series.
“France is one of my biggest countries in terms of book sales,” Coben said. “I thought [Canneseries] was a cool opportunity to get to know more about international TV and so it all fell into place. It wasn’t a hard yes. You have to watch two TV shows a day for five days in Cannes. OK! Sign me up.”
Other shows in competition include the Mexico entry “Aquí En La Tierra,” co-created by Gael García Bernal. Danish actress Sidse Babett Knudsen (“Borgen”) will serve as patron for the inaugural Canneseries event.
Canneseries will run from April 4 to 11 in the city of Cannes, concurrent to the Mip TV market and just over a month before the Cannes Film Festival takes place. The official competition set to take place at the Auditorium Lumiére in the Palais des Festivals.
The competition’s 10 world premiere series were selected from a pool of international submissions. Eligible series had to be in their first season (not returning), and not yet have aired — in the case of U.S., U.K. and France contenders. Shows from other territories may have already premiered, but within a short timeframe. Pilots were only allowed if a show has been picked up and produced for multiple episodes. The screenings must last between one hour minimum to two hours maximum — which means half-hour shows must be able to showcase at least two episodes.
For shows that don’t meet all of these requirements, there were also three slots for out-of-competition screenings. And on the final day, a Canneseries Digital component will allow short form projects to compete in their own field.
IndieWire’s sister publication Variety has also signed on to award the inaugural Variety Icon Award at Canneseries for outstanding achievement in acting to actress Michelle Dockery (“Good Behavior,” “Downton Abbey”).
The award will be presented to Dockery on April 7 during the Competition Opening Ceremony, which also kicks off with a screening of “The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair.”