'Wakefield'. (Photo by Lisa Tomasetti)

There will be a strong Australian contingent at Series Mania in France this year, including Jungle Entertainment’s Wakefield, Aquarius Films’ The Unusual Suspects, Porchlight Films’ Fisk and Lazy Susan Films’ Iggy & Ace.

2020 saw the international TV festival initially forced to cancel outright before moving industry meetings and networking online. This year it returns, after two postponements, as an in-person event in Lille August 26 to September 3, with an accompanying special digital program.

Series Mania Forum, the industry arm of Series Mania, is set for August 30 – September 1.

Dramas Wakefield, commissioned by the ABC, and The Unusual Suspects, by SBS, will each compete in the Panorama section.

ABC-ordered comedy Fisk, written, directed by and starring Kitty Flanagan, will be shown in the comedy strand, while Iggy and Ace, an upcoming short-form drama series for SBS On Demand, will make its world premiere in the web series competitive section.

Two other Australian shows are also expected to be announced shortly for the Series Mania Exclusive section, where accredited members of the industry have priority access to a detailed and curated selection of new shows.

“The diverse Australian line-up showcased this year at Series Mania is once again proof of the extraordinary creativity of the local writers, producers, commissioners and series makers. All the shows lining up this year are unique, original and on par with the best the world of fiction has to offer today,” says Francois-Pier Pelinard-Lambert, Series Mania International artistic advisor.

Created and showrun by Kristen Dunphy, the Blue Mountains-set Wakefield explores the fine line between sanity and madness through the perspectives of staff and patients at a psychiatric facility.

British actor Rudi Dharmalingham leads the cast as Nik, a gifted nurse, who is the sanest person in what is a pretty crazy place. But when a song gets stuck in his head, a dark secret from his past begins to intrude into his present. The ensemble cast also includes Mandy McElhinney, Geraldine Hakewill, Harriet Dyer, Ryan Corr, Sam Simmons and Felicity Ward.

Sam Meikle is a showrunner with Dunphy, and both wrote alongside Joan Sauers and Cathy Strickland. Series producers are Shay Spencer and Ally Henville, and directors Jocelyn Moorhouse and Kim Mordaunt.

Dunphy tells IF she is thrilled by Wakefield’s selection, and is excited to see it entertain audiences on an international stage.

“We hope the show will continue to raise awareness about mental health, which could not be more relevant than it is right now in the middle of this worldwide pandemic.”

Heist caper The Unusual Suspects follows the events leading up to and fallout after the theft of a $16 million necklace from a self-made Filipino businesswoman’s home, the result of which exposes cracks in Eastern Sydney’s sparkling façade. Aina Dumlao, Miranda Otto and Michelle Vergara Moore headline the cast.

Angie Fielder and Polly Staniford produce with Vonne Patiag as associate producer, with scripts penned by creator Jessica Redenbach, Roger Monk and Patiag, with Margarett Cortez as script consultant. Directors are Natalie Bailey and Melvin Montalban.

Flanagan’s Fisk sees her play a corporate contract lawyer forced to take a job at a shabby suburban law firm specialising in wills and probate. Producer Vincent Sheehan co-created the series with the comedian, with Tom Peterson co-directing and Penny Flanagan co-writing.

Iggy & Ace stems from SBS and Screen Australia’s Digital Originals initiative, written by AB Morrison, produced by Hannah Ngo and Melissa Kelly, and directed by Monica Zannetti and Morrison.

It follows two young, gay alcoholics who live, work and play together, inseparable by design. But when Ace decides to get sober, a rift develops between the two friends as Iggy balks at the idea of recovery. 

Overall, more than 70 series will be shown at the Series Mania 2021 from across the world, selected from more than 450 entires.

ACMI in Melbourne and the Series Mania team in France are also working together on an upcoming edition of Series Mania Melbourne. The Victorian event was created in 2017.

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