Franck Thilliez Adaptation ‘Syndrome E’ Hits Biarritz as Newen Connect Drives Sales

After introducing the project at MipTV earlier this year, distributor Newen Connect is bringing its crime thriller series “Syndrome E” to the Unifrance Rendez-Vous, the international sales event for French shows in Biarritz, South-West France, which runs Sept. 4-8.

“Syndrome E” is the first TV series adapted from the work of international best-selling thriller writer and screenwriter Franck Thilliez. The French author was the fourth most read writer in France in 2020, with more than 7 million books sold in France and translated in more than 20 countries.

“Syndrome E” is the first TV series adapted from international best-selling thriller writer and screenwriter Franck Thilliez. The French author was the fourth most read writer in France in 2020, with more than 7 million books sold in France and translated in more than 20 countries.

“Syndrome E” is the first book of the Sharko and Hennebelle novels, one of Thilliez’s franchises. The adaptation was entrusted to screenwriter Mathieu Missoffe, best known for shows like “Spiral” and “Black Spot.” “Syndrome E” was ordered by French private broadcaster TF1.

The series is an edgy dark thriller where we follow 45-year-old Franck Sharko, a surly, loner cop haunted by the death of his daughter Eugenie, who appears to him in taunting visions. It’s gotten even worse with his latest investigation, a mysterious case of missing children and a disturbing 1960s movie that spurs people who watch it to commit bizarre and dangerous acts.

Detective Lucie Hennebelle is a 35-year-old single mom who joins forces with Sharko after realizing events in her own past could be tied to the case. The two beleaguered inspectors form an electrifying duo as they conduct an investigation that leads them from Morocco to Canada, shedding light on dark and troubling scientific experiments.

As soon as TF1 began to develop the show, Newen Connect spotted its international potential, and acquired the rights to distribute it, Nadia Chevallard, head of international sales at Newen Connect, says.

“’Syndrome E’ was immediately identified as having great potential for a TV series. One of the main reasons is that it is based on a phenomenal literary IP, Franck Thilliez. He’s not just anyone. He is the best-selling French crime writer in France, and a published author in 20 countries around the world.”

She also praises TF1 for the audacity of their choice. “Indeed for TF1 it was a rather innovative commitment, a quite fresh choice amidst the French creations. It’s your usual cop thriller, but also tackles the field of science, experimentation and mental manipulation.”

Newen Connect has a privileged connection with TF1. Being in the same group, its scripted acquisitions team has access to the broadcaster’s production slate, and can be involved in a show upstream.

U.S. studios saw the potential in Thilliez’s work long before their French counterparts. Paramount Pictures and Indian Paintbrush acquired the rights to “Syndrome E” back in 2012. The TV rights were held for almost five years, but once they expired French producer Ezcazal Films (“Criminal Games,” “They Were Ten”) jumped at the opportunity, and “Syndrome E” was finally turned into a TV series.

Despite not having produced their own “Syndrome E,” the U.S is still a key market for the sales department of Newen Connect. Chevallard says: “We have important objectives in the American market, to get more space for French fiction. We know it’s not easy. We’ve made some good deals this year with other series [which have paved the way for this one].”

But the U.S is not the only international market targeted by Newen Connect, which believes “Syndrome E” has the potential to draw broad audience in countries like Germany, Spain, Italy and the U.K..

Chevallard says: “It can seduce a linear free TV channel, it can fit into a pay TV editorial lineup, and it can be consumed perfectly within an SVOD catalog.”

She isn’t able to announce any deals at this point, but adds: “We are negotiating both with a foreign SVOD platform and with a European public channel.”

“Syndrome E” has returning series potential, says Chavallard, who observes how crucial an argument that is in the market.

“Announcing that there will be other seasons is a huge selling point. Nowadays it’s a bummer knowing that we will be having six episodes of a series and that’s it, because the story’s finished.

“It’s hard to get channels or platforms excited about a short-term project, given the amount of marketing investment necessary to obtain visibility for one’s content, and given the profusion of content on the market.

“So it’s an obviously enticing argument to present buyers with, the fact we can go on a long-term franchise and guarantee a new season every year, with Sharko and Lucie going on interacting in another setting, another adventure, another story.”

She adds that another of Thilliez’s novels, “Atomka,” published in 2012, has been picked up for adaptation and the scripts are already being written.

No release date has been announced by TF1, but the show is already on Salto, the SVOD platform jointly owned by TF1, France Télévisions and M6. Newen Connect forecasts it will probably air during Q4 2022 on TF1.