Bijan Tehrani: Please tell us about the history of Monte Carlo Festival
David Tomatis: This year will see the 47th edition of the Monte Carlo Television Festival, which makes it one of the oldest television festivals in the world. It was probably one of the first TV festival events ever. Originally, it was created in 1961 by Prince Rainier III of Monaco who wished to recognize television as an exceptional means of bringing cultures together and enhancing their respective knowledge. Since then and under the guidance of the president of the TV Festival, H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco, the Festival has evolved throughout the years to become one of the main TV events on the international calendar
Bijan: How and when did you involve with the festival?
David: Well, personally, I was brought in to the Festival in 1999. I have been in charge of the festival since that date. I’m in fact a Monaco native and I’ve always been living here. The TV Festival is one of the six events that Monaco Mediax, the parent organization, has the responsibility of organizing and developing. All these events such as the Festival, Sportel, Imagina are the property of the principality of Monaco.
Bijan: What are the different categories in Monte Carlo competitions?
David: We have two main categories as it has always been the case – these are Fiction and News. Fiction has a number of subcategories with TV Films, Mini-Series, and TV Series. As for the News competition, there are three categories as well and those are Documentaries, Best TV-News item, and Best 24H News program exclusively reserved for the all news channels which is a very unique competition within the festival.
Bijan: Have international TV productions a strong presence at Monte Carlo Television Festival? Are there any international TV directors and producers attending the festival?
David: I think that this is one of the specifics of our festival and what makes it, in some aspects, unique. Our competition is an international competition and we have programs from all over the world that are being submitted. We have a very tough pre-selection process. If you take all the different categories together, there are 108 programs coming from 25 countries. It represents all the continents. We have North America with the US and Canada and a large representation of Eastern and Western European countries but also programs from Japan, China, and South Korea, so definitely a big diversity from all around the world. Very few TV Festivals are able to gather such a wide international selection.
Today all the studios from the US attend the Festival because they use the Monte Carlo TV Festival as a showcase for their programs for the European and Scandinavian countries; especially the new shows that they have sold to those territories. So we do attract a participation of talent from these shows. Producers and directors are also very present especially from all of the programs in competition. If you look at the selection of TV films, miniseries, or even TV shows, we’ll probably have—I wouldn’t say for every single program, but from most of them—either the director and/or the producer. The Festival has become an international gathering for professionals coming from all the creative sectors of the television industry.
Bijan: What are the events of the festival?
David: The main activities of the festival are the competition with the Golden Nymph Awards Ceremony, the public screenings as we open the event to the public. Each evening we invite the public to premiere screenings of Mini-Series, pilots of TV series and also to screen the selection of the TV movies in competition. The third part is the press activities which I would say make our Festival so attractive to all of the studios and all of the European production companies and networks. A significant number of journalists—more than 300 from all around the world and mainly the European and Scandinavian territories—cover the Festival which provides tremendous visibility to all these programs.
Bijan: Please tell us about Monte Carlo TV Festival jury members.
David: There are four separate juries; each jury has its own category and its screenings. Otherwise it would be very difficult for one single jury to screen all the programs. If you take, for instance, the News category, we have juries composed of top editors or high executives within the news department. For the TV movies and Mini-Series juries, it’s a mixture and a balance between professionals coming from various parts of the world and with very different backgrounds –directing, production, talent, scripwriting. For example, this year the president of the TV Movies category will be an award-winning English director, Jack Gold and the Mini-Series will headed by a top executive, MorganWandell, Senior Vice President, Dram Development of ABC Studios . In TV Films category other jury members include the Austrian actress Marianne Sägebrecht or Hiroshi Kataoka, Senior Director of Drama Product Division, NHK.
Bijan: Is there any attention to Documentary TV productions at the festival?
David: The documentary category is one of our main components. The News programs are submitted to very specific rules having to be related to an event that has occurred in the world during the last 11 months. So it’s very factual and very precise. All of the news organizations and all of the networks participate in our competition because they also feel like it’s a great opportunity for them to see what the other networks and production companies in other parts of the world are doing. The festival draws a large picture of international production and what is the best of television. They can get it all in one week.
Bijan: Please tell us about your plans for the future of the Monte Carlo Festival
David: I do believe that as of today the Festival has become a major television event for the industry. Our goal is build a strong brand with the Golden Nymphs, awards recognized as representing the best in television production. In the television industry, which is different from Cinema where you have a few top film-festivals such as the Cannes Film Festival, the Berlinale or Venice, the Television industry is very different. Take the Emmys, for example, which provide worldwide recognition to US programming only. On the other side with the Monte Carlo and the Golden Nymph, it’s an international competition. So today, in the Television industry, there really isn’t a major event with international recognition in terms of awards. We are always trying to get the best programs in competition and professionals from around the world to participate and attend. We are hoping that in a few years a Golden Nymph in Monte Carlo will represent the best quality programming for the television industry.