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CONTENT QUEBEC ON DEMAND
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Quebecor Content

Programming Profile

Four new dramas from Quebecor Content

16-04-2021

Quebecor Content’s Christine Maestracci says the company has come through the pandemic with plenty in development, is gearing up for more international sales and has four new dramas on its Content Quebec On Demand playlist.

 

Despite the many challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, Quebecor Content has managed to benefit from a moment in time when demand for programming has never been stronger and foreign-language shows are gaining more attention.

 

The Montreal-based company’s VP of acquisitions and international distribution, Christine Maestracci, notes that while business is not “full steam ahead in the world,” Quebecor Content is nevertheless in a good position.

 

“Because of the measures that were taken by the authorities here, we were able to resume production quite quickly and safely, so we’re pretty much where we want to be,” the exec says.

 

Christine Maestracci
Christine Maestracci,
Quebecor Content

“The reality is people have never wanted or sought out so much content and, from an international distribution level, the pandemic has certainly created some new opportunities in business. Most of our fiction series have been placed around the world.”

 

Speaking of fiction, Maestracci points out that drama series are most in demand among buyers, and that while light-hearted content was more desired by viewers at the start of the pandemic, this has now shifted to thriller-type programmes or dramas.

 

“Everybody would recognise there’s certainly a need for escapism, but what we’re seeing is that consumers are seeking content that is more edgy. At the beginning of the pandemic, people were looking for things that were heart-warming or heartfelt. But more and more we’re seeing a return to thrillers and psychological thrillers,” she says.

 
It may come as no surprise then that Quebecor Content –which develops and creates content for French-language Canadian broadcaster TVA Group and SVoD service Club Illico and is part of parent company Quebecor Media – has chosen to feature dramas in its playlist, which comprises four series.

 

In the meantime, the company has been busy putting in place the technical infrastructure that will allow sales reps from its Global Distribution, Global Entertainment and Armoza Formats divisions to meet with prospective buyers and present them with new and returning titles in a virtual environment.

 
The first is Runaway (10×60’), a story “inspired by modern events” about a young girl from a good suburban home whose life spirals out of control when she falls for a manipulative and abusive man who lures her into what promises to be a highly toxic lifestyle.

 

Runaway
Runaway

Maestracci says the initial broadcast of Runaway in Canada “had such impact and struck such a chord locally that it created a conversation with social impact.”

 

“Everybody became aware and took notice of that issue, which is very real and is not solely limited to certain parts of society. When we did that story, we wanted it to have resonance locally, but we also knew it was something that would travel well abroad because it represents a reality for young girls who are trapped by love,” she says, adding that the series is under option in various countries around the world and is currently being remade by TF1 in France.

 

The second drama in Quebecor Content’s playlist is Son of Mine, a 6×30’ series about an 18-year-old man whose life is shattered by the sudden onset of schizophrenia, and the impact it has on both him and his family.

 

“The writers wanted to bring that issue to life because 20 years ago when people had a mental illness it was difficult for them to function well in society. Nowadays, people with mental health issues can be properly medicated, which provides a lot of hope. So it may sound like a sad story, but it’s not,” Maestracci says.

 

Son of Mine
Son of Mine

“It’s very well written and shines a light into a mother’s love for her son and how she’s going to help him out and overcome the obstacles and prejudice you have to fight against when mental illness strikes your family,” she says. She adds that Son of Mine “did superbly well” on Quebecor’s SVoD platform Club Illico and main network TVA and has been optioned in certain territories for remakes.

 

The third series in Quebecor Content’s playlist is Alert Squad, a 22×44’ spin-off to 2019 crime drama Amber Alert, which is about the kidnapping of a young autistic boy. The spin-off centres on a missing persons unit as it investigates people who go missing.

 

According to Maestracci, Alert Squad, which is currently airing in Canada, is one of the number one new drama series in the country in terms of market shares and ratings.

 

Alert Squad
Alert Squad

The fourth and final show in Quebecor Content’s playlist is The Sketch Artist (10×45’), which follows an artist working for the police who is able to ‘read’ people and catch details that others do not through her sketches. In addition to working on police investigations, she secretly sketches the face she imagines her son – who went missing five years before when he was a baby – would have today, in the hope of one day finding him.

 

The Sketch Artist is featuring as the opening screening for C21’s Content Quebec On Demand.

 

As well as strong demand for content, another silver lining to emerge from the pandemic, according to Maestracci, is that lockdowns and suspension of filming have allowed producers to develop new ideas, some of which are now going into production.

 
“As most territories have seen, a lot of people have taken the time to develop, so we have some new shows that will be coming out soon or that are being written and developed as we speak or in pre-production,” the exec says.

 

In light of this, Maestracci is keen to highlight four new dramas that are either nearing the end of production or will be going into production very soon. Two of these – Audrey est Revenue and Autant en Emporte les Framboises – are featuring in Content Quebec On Demand’s Hot Properties session.

 

The Sketch Artist
The Sketch Artist

Audrey est Revenue (Audrey is Back) is a 10×22’ comedy drama about a 17-year-old girl who is discovered unconscious on a dirt road and wakes up from a coma 16 years later. In addition to learning how to eat, walk and talk again she must face the fact she is now living in 2020 and that everything around her has changed, including her family members and close friends.

 

“It’s meant to be fun and heartwarming but at the same time taps into certain coming-of-age issues,” Maestracci says of the series, which is slated to premiere on Club Illico this fall.

 

Autant en Emporte les Framboises (Last Summers of the Raspberries), meanwhile, is a 10×60’ comedy drama about an overwhelmed young widow who escapes loneliness through an unlikely bond with migrant workers.

 

“The series is one to keep an eye on as the talent attached, director’s vision and writing are exceptional. It’s about love, friendship and family, offering a unique proposition and universal themes that resonate everywhere. It’s a little gem,” Maestracci says.

 

The final two upcoming dramas the exec wants to highlight are Piégés (Trapped) and Chaos.

 

Piégés (6×60’) centres on five people of different ages and backgrounds and who do not know each other, who one day wake up in a cell with no idea how they got there. Quickly they realise they are being watched and that they are the pawns in a game intended to break them psychologically.

 

“Piégés is a very high-impact psychological thriller. It was filmed completely within Covid measures because everything is shot separately. It’s a very interesting story about survival and human drama,” Maestracci says.

 

Finally, Chaos (10×60’) is in preproduction and slated to launch this fall. It is about 10 teenagers who become the victims of a terrorist attack when they attend a music concert. The tragedy costs some of them their lives and leaves others injured. Everyone’s lives will be changed forever.

 

“Chaos is much akin to what happened at the Bataclan [in Paris] or Manchester Arena [in the UK],” says Maestracci, referring to the terrorist bombings that happened in those music venues in 2015 and 2017 respectively. “It’s really an ode to surviving. How do you pick up the pieces of your life after such a big event has hit you?”