AlloCiné met Damien Couvreur, director of French original series at Netflix. The opportunity for this cinephile and serial enthusiast to take stock of past years and to announce the very enticing program of 2021.
AlloCiné: In 2021, it will be 5 years since Netflix France launched into original creation, first with Marseille and then many others. There have been successes and failures too. What is your assessment of all these proposals, which often explored the genre of Marianne à Mortel via Vampires and Osmosis?
Damien Couvreur: When we started developing original French series, Netflix had just landed and our audience was quite young. We had the freedom to explore genres that are not usually produced in France, such as horror or science fiction. It was a challenge, especially since the industry does not have the same expertise as in comedy or action, for example.
Today, our creative approach is evolving with more mainstream and unifying series while retaining what makes the strength of our series: a solid narrative, a search for originality and careful production. We launched Lupine last Friday, and this series produced by Gaumont and directed for Louis Leterrier with Omar Sy embodies a new creative chapter for our French series. And I can already confirm to you that it is a great success, the series placing itself at the top of the top 10 in dozens of countries across Europe and the world. It is even the first French creation to reach first place in our Top 10 in the United States. Cock-a-doodle Doo !
AlloCine: Comedy, whether with Plan Coeur or with Family Business, seems to you more successful than the genre in the end …
Damien Couvreur: It should be noted that 2020 was a very special year. What emerges from the viewing trends of the French is a strong need to laugh! But actually Family Business thus appears in the Top 3 of the most watched comedies last year in France. Comedy remains important to us, that’s why Family Business and Heart Plan come back in 2021. But we haven’t given up on exploring and mixing stories and genres!
The output of Lupine illustrates a new chapter in our creative approach that also reflects the evolution of our audience and the diversity of their tastes.
You have also decided to offer Plan Coeur one last season, when we had the impression that the second was coming full circle. Was it the reception of the special confinement episode that motivated this decision?
It’s a decision that we had made with Noémie Saglio and the whole team of the series for a long time. But as the start of this last season was delayed by the Covid, we took the opportunity to offer our members a special confinement episode which was the opportunity to tell how, like all of us, the characters of the series lived. this very special period.
With La Révolution quite recently, for the first time a French series seemed to succeed in massively interest beyond our borders. What lesson do you take from it and is a season 2 already ordered?
The revolution has indeed attracted many members beyond the Hexagon. For us, this is proof that France, its history and its heritage, can interest an international audience. However, we are not going to renew the series for a second season, because although it aroused curiosity, the public did not like it.
These first 5 years mark the end of a cycle. Lupin’s arrival in January with Omar Sy seems to mark the start of another. Is that the type of mainstream entertainment you want to go to now?
Lupine is indeed a good example of the content that we want to be able to offer to our members. It is an accessible and popular series, carried by incredible talents and very important production resources. It is inspired by an emblematic figure of French literature without seeking to copy the formula of previous adaptations, and allows us to offer a very current rereading of the figure of the gentleman burglar. It’s a great meeting between French heritage and great contemporary French talents, starting of course with Omar Sy!
Do you plan to increase the volume of original productions and possibly the budgets too, as Netflix seems to have decided to bet even more on local productions in the years to come.
In fact, we will continue to strengthen our investments in France, following on from the opening of our Paris offices last year, with the desire to work hand in hand with the French creative community. This year, we will be offering around ten series including 5 new original series. A variety assumed: from Lupine to Robbers, including our first “Christmas special” or the expected return of series such as Mortel, Family Business or Plan Coeur… Even if volume is not at the heart of our concerns, this testifies to a real acceleration since our installation in Paris a year ago.
The series Disparu à Jamais, adapted from Harlan Coben, which will arrive later this year, could almost look like a series that we could see on TF1 or on France 2. What will differentiate it, so, and who do you think really makes it a Netflix series?
As when we are inspired by Maurice Leblanc or the French Revolution, we will adapt Harlan Coben’s novel with a very distinct angle and artistic choices carried by Vincent Poymiro and David Elkaïm in writing and Juan Carlos Medina in directing .
Adaptations of novels are part of Netflix’s DNA. Recently, we adapted Romain Gary’s novel to the screen with La vie devant soi, but many series are also inspired by novels: Le jeu de la dame, 13 reasons why, YOU, The Witcher, Umbrella Academy, Les Désastreuses Adventures of the orphans Baudelaire, Captive etc.
The adaptation of Gone for good is part of a partnership with Harlan Coben aimed at developing 14 of his novels into series or films.
On the platform side in France, until now there was only Netflix which offered original French series. Amazon, and soon Disney + and Apple TV + will get started. Do you already feel a form of competition, even war, on the projects in development?
To begin with, I would say that it is above all an opportunity for French designers and the entire industry. More projects is also stimulating for the whole ecosystem and it creates a space to bring out new talents in front of and behind the camera. This is also why we have established partnerships with Fémis, Gobelins, CEEA or the Kourtajmé school.
More generally, competition pushes us to offer varied and quality content to meet the expectations of our members, but also to constantly innovate, particularly in the user experience by offering new features to our members.
In addition to Lupine and Robbers, you will soon be presenting the new series by Fanny Herrero, the creator of Dix pour Cent, entitled Funny, around the world of Parisian stand-up. What can you say about it at this point?
It’s still a little early to talk about it, but I can tell you that Fanny and her whole team are in the process of writing the first season, which will start filming in the spring.
There seems to be an appetite for French films abroad, since 4 French films exclusive to Netflix, for example managed to rank in the top of the year 2020 in the United States. As for the original films, you have been rather shy so far. Do you plan to take it up a notch? Which direction do you want to take?
It is a more recent activity than the creation of original series. But we have announced several projects during the year 2020: BIGBUG, the next film by Jean-Pierre Jeunet which entered filming last September; O2, the new film by French director Alexandre Aja with the cast of Mélanie Laurent, Mathieu Amalric and Malik Zidi; The Last Mercenary, an action comedy directed by David Charhon which brings together talents such as Jean-Claude Van Damme and Alban Ivanov; and 8 Street of Humanity directed by Dany Boon who returns to confinement by combining comedy and drama through the lives of 7 families who share the same building.
In addition, the craze for French action films is more and more pronounced – we think in particular of the success of Bronx and Lost Ball in 2020. We are delighted that these films find such an echo in the whole world and that ‘ is a great pride to be able to support both new talents like Guillaume Pierret and confirmed filmmaker like Olivier Marchal.
Finally, is there a recent series that you envy your competition, that you would have loved to offer on Netflix?
I took advantage of the Christmas break to immerse myself in season 2 of The Mandalorian which I found brilliant. I find it particularly exciting that the serial format allows the Star Wars franchise to reinvent itself and meet a new audience.
In collaboration with Jean-Maxime Renault.