Met during the Series Mania Festival, Déborah Hassoun, the collection director of “Skam France”, takes stock of season 9, dedicated to Maya, and talks about season 10 and the future of the teen series of France tv slash.
AlloCiné: You have been the collection director of Skam France since season 7, broadcast last year on France tv slash. What made you want to join the adventure and succeed Niels Rahou when you were offered it?
Deborah Hassoun : I’ve always been a real fan of teen series. I really like that. I watched Skam before working on it. I started writing about teen series, that’s really what I like. And it’s true that I was very happy when I received this proposal.
It was my agent who told Carole Della Valle, the series’ producer: “If you are looking for a new collection director at some point, Déborah really likes the series”. And that’s when I said to myself “He deserves his 10%” (laughs). So she called me when it happened. And frankly, I didn’t hesitate.
It was a great proposal and a great experience. I could have my teams, discover new authors, because it is often young authors who work on Skam. And that’s what I also like: sharing and transmitting. In fact, I think you have to be a bit stupid to say no to Skam, especially since there is quite exceptional visibility. And also a freedom because, Slash wants us to try new things, even if we take the risk of screwing up. But since it’s a brand, we can afford it.
All the elements are there to say yes in fact. It’s just not very well paid (laughs). Honestly, it’s the only black point, but it’s one of those series that are made like that. And we have this freedom for this reason too. So all in all, it balances out.
The fact that Skam France switched to original seasons from season 5, was that also a motivation for you?
Completely. If it had been adaptation, I don’t know if I would have gone there. In any case, as a general rule, adaptation interests me less. There, really, I could do whatever I wanted. I arrived, they said “maternity”, and I answered “Ok, but denial of pregnancy and Tiff”. And I was told yes. It’s not mass production, of course, because it’s a highway and there are codes and all that. But I still have the impression that my seasons, I really put a lot of myself into it and I encouraged my authors to put a lot of themselves into it too.
As an author, I wasn’t necessarily interested in telling the story of a 16-year-old girl who wanted a child. It was not my goal. But on the other hand, the denial of pregnancy, I immediately thought of it. For me, there was something that had never been told that way. It is always treated as a miscellaneous fact. I don’t know if, on another series, I would have been allowed to treat this theme in the same way.
And frankly, from the moment I said “The teaser is Tiff giving birth”, I had everyone’s support. There was something that was both empathetic and surprising at the same time. And it was a real cinema scene, there was a real strong cinematic aspect. I didn’t have to fight over any of the topics I wanted to cover on the show.
Was it complicated when you arrived to write for characters who, for the most part, had been imagined and introduced in season 6?
No, it’s part of my job as a screenwriter. I work on other series where sometimes I just write dialogue, where the characters already exist. So that wasn’t too difficult. On the other hand, I was happy because little had been said about them, it had only been sketched out. Except for Lola and Maya, on whom we still had a lot of information in season 6.
I was happy because I could bring the vision I had of them. Between season 6 and season 7, the character who changes the most is Lola, precisely because she has come out of her grief, her depression, and also her addiction. He is a more solar character from season 7.
And for the others, it was a logical continuation. It looks like them, but we went further. We went deeper, we looked for who they really were. And then we also have the characters we created, like Bilal and Redouane. And then there are all the secondary characters, like June in season 9. It’s great because you can bring them to life in one season, and that’s okay.
A bit like Anaïs who was very secondary at the start and who will come into her own in season 10 since she will be the heroine of the next episodes?
That’s what I love. For me, that’s the magic of Skam. She had five days of filming for the first season. She was the girlfriend of the plague. Other than that, we didn’t know anything about her. And today, she has her season, we will discover her intimacy at her home, her family.
It’s really the magic of Skam: you suddenly put the focus on a character who was secondary before. We made Anaïs fatter a bit in season 7, in season 8 she wasn’t too present, but in season 9 we chose her scenes so that it would make sense with the sequel. And that’s also why I was happy to be interested in Anaïs.
One of the main themes of Season 9, which ended on Friday, is grief. How did this choice come about?
It started with heartache. A theme that Carole had really wanted to explore for a long time. And I was happy not to do a societal theme. I wanted to explore something else, which is more risky, because we actually have less grip. For example, in the denial of pregnancy, there is the theme of abandonment, there is the social worker, … Steps that allow us to structure the story. There, somewhere, we are a little less on standard stages and it’s super interesting.
And we really wanted to do a season with Ayumi Roux, especially since there was strong expectation around the character of Maya. So this theme there, with this character there, who had stuff buried for so long, I found it quite logical. It made sense. We said to ourselves “We are going to repair the mourning of his parents through this rupture”. It’s not just a simple breakup. But also a rebirth.
Maya realizes that she has solid foundations that she no longer believed in. And I love this scene with Lola in episode 9. When Lola says to him “We are your family”. Because in fact, in truth, she needs to hear it, because she no longer has a family. It’s like when she says to Max at the end “When my grandmother is gone, there will be nothing left of my world before”, and he answers her “There will be you”. There is something in the order of repair, and that’s what I wanted to talk about with her.
Was it important for the season to end on an appeasement between Lola and Maya?
Sure. And not just because it’s Skam. It’s quite simply what we wanted to say between them: that is to say that there is love, but it is no longer the same love. Because they are young, love changes over time. And in this form of appeasement, there is also the idea of reunion with the clan, with the Mif.
Is that in the idea of this break, there was also the desire to break a little this impression that all the love stories in Skam are perfect and lasting, which is not very realistic when one speaks of 17 or 18 year olds?
Yes, there was a bit of that too. It’s funny because we’ve been criticized a lot that there are a lot of couples in Skam. There, we broke one and we are also blamed for it (laughs). There was a whole controversy over the fact that it’s a lesbian couple. But I tell myself that today, precisely, couples of girls can experience things, stories at that age, which was not necessarily the case before, because they had to hide, because We were more into forbidden love.
Today, I believe in this world where there are couples of 16-year-old girls who are really in love, who have real stories, who are “outed” and live it well. And so, that also means living through youthful ruptures. Whereas before, this was not necessarily the case. There were no such youthful loves. And I’m glad it exists today. And to see the evolution of society. And that means all of that, of course.
I understand this desire for positive representation, and it is very important. But, for me, the couple is not always synonymous with happiness. And that’s something we wanted to convey in season 9. Which is to say, I think that affection is constitutive of happiness. But the couple, not necessarily. And also, to be happy as a couple, you must first be happy yourself. It’s a bit trivial, but in truth, these are things you learn when you’re young.
Writing for Ayumi Roux, who is a wonderful actress, was it a joy?
Completely. Ayumi pierces the screen, it’s awesome. Because we know how much she pierces the screen, we are not afraid of moments of silence and internalized moments, which are part of her character. We say to ourselves, “Well, it’s going to be fine, because there will be this aura around her”. While there are characters for whom we could be more afraid of silence.
What can you say about season 10 centered on Anaïs?
I have no right to say anything, but you can’t imagine how much I would like to be able to talk about it because we love this season.
Will it be released in the coming weeks?
She’s not coming in 8 months, that’s for sure. She’s coming (laughs).
Many fans thought season 10 would be all about Redouane. Why did you decide to go in another direction?
I admit that I like the female characters, it plays a lot in this decision. And then we started with two seasons of girls, on seasons 1 and 2, so I didn’t mind ending on two seasons of girls, as far as I’m concerned anyway.
And to also find the girlfriend thing, which we had a little less with Maya because she is very much on Lola and it is a very mixed group. So we wanted to come back to that, with girls’ conversations. But, beyond that, Zoé Garcia is really a wonderful actress. We really wanted to make her play. And as we had a theme that imposed itself on her, it was done like that. But we love the character of Redouane. We don’t leave Redouane in a corner (laughs).
It is assumed that season 10 will mark the end of high school for Lola, Tiff, and the others. Will this be the end of the adventure for you as collection director and screenwriter?
Yes, this is the end of this generation. And it’s actually the end for me too. The end of Skam, I don’t know. I’m not involved in those kinds of conversations about the future of the show. But for me, yes, it’s the end. I did several seasons, I’m happy.
Was it an easy decision to make?
Yes No problem. It’s still quite a heavy pace to write two seasons in eight months with eight authors. This is the principle of collection directors, we have a lot of work. But I needed to move on. Even though I still write about teenagers. But I’m also a director on the side, I wanted to make a second short film. Lots of things that are not possible when you take on the collection management of a series because it really takes up all your time.
Precisely, can you tell us a word about your upcoming projects?
I’m working on a series that will soon be released on Netflix, where I’m a screenwriter. The designer is Charlotte Sanson. It’s called Les 7 vies de Léa. Season 1 is coming out soon. It’s awesome, I love this series. There is Khalil Ben Gharbia (Bilal) in it, he has one of the main roles. We are starting to work on season 2, even if we are not sure if there will be a sequel. It always happens like that in France.
I also have personal projects that I develop on the side. And every year I do dialogue for I promise you on TF1. I am currently working on the dialogues for an episode of season 3.