I had two weeks to kill before heading to my second reason for being in Europe: the Series Mania Market in the North of France. With all the travel complications that Covid was providing, I decided not to country-hop between Santorini, Greece and Lille, France. I needed to park somewhere safe that would give me the solitude necessary to write and prepare for the grueling pressure a pitching festival can put you through. But where?
Luckily my good friend, Bettiena offered me her photography studio to live in for two weeks near in central Amsterdam. It was a terrific idea. I had many fond memories of this warm, welcoming city from my touring dance days and it did not disappoint. I put myself into a lockdown next to the calming essence the canals provide, and drilled into the writing process.
The smart Dutch government was giving out free 10-minute Covid antigen self-tests. This meant that when I wanted to get together with friends for dinner in their homes, we were all able to test negative before arriving and could relax and simply enjoy ourselves. The weather was beautiful, so we sat outside simply taking each other in after almost two years of forced isolation. Fabulous!! Despite wifi problems and several overnight tech support calls (which ended up costing me – check your plan before travel!), I got a lot of work done and could now concentrate on the trip to Lille and Series Mania. This was the last of the Telefilm Canada RDV pitching events that I was part of and I was eager to get there and meet my fellow team members.
One reason I chose Amsterdam was that it is close enough for a train ride via Brussels and I wouldn’t have to jump on yet another plane. I had very fond memories of European train rides. But…no pleasant memories this time. I wasn’t expecting to be squashed in like a sardine, no one to ask for help when the door in Brussels wouldn’t open and I missed the stop, only to find I had been sent to the wrong station in the first place.
Three trains later, and finally on the right train to Lille, France, I found myself in the chilly northern town, only to find that my google maps app didn’t work properly (I wasn’t alone it turned out), and I wandered in circles for an hour trying to find my hotel which was ten minutes from the station. And my phone didn’t work when I tried to call the hotel. All of which to say, give yourself LOTS of time when you’re going places in another country. I was glad I did, and was finally able to settle into the cute and efficient Hotel Chagnot where I had lovely outdoor breakfasts on their terrace before taking the daily plunge into many meetings at Series Mania (they don’t call it Mania for nothing ;)).
Series Mania was the usual three-day jaunt and hustle where Broadcasters and producers anxious to show their wares come together to meet, discuss, and hopefully form mutually beneficial relationships for future broadcast possibilities. This time was different though. As one of the first in-person markets after over a year and a half of lockdown, the thrill and excitement of being physically together was in the air from the moment we arrived. Lines were long the first day because security teams were enforcing proof of vaccine upon entry as well as market credentials. As 2,000 people had come from far and wide, every type of vaccination proof had to be strenuously investigated and, as everywhere, enforcers were grappling with policy changes everywhere. Series Mania provided on site rapid testing which was excellent at providing a sense of security for entering the event.
The Palais is huge and people felt free to go mask-free and intermingle in all of the large meeting spaces. I wasn’t comfortable with that so kept my mask on when I was indoors but was excited to discover an outdoor terrace next to the business lounge on the 11th floor where I happily held almost all of my meetings over the three-day period. The weather is changeable in Lille and some of our meetings were held with a bit of shivering and me making jokes about being Canadian and tough. It all worked out and when I went to get yet another PCR test at the end of the event, I happily tested negative before my trip south to the Loire Valley and then on to Paris to catch my plane home.
I kept one of my Dutch rapid-test kits with me so was happy to return and be able to test negative and be able to attend family events shortly after arrival.
All in all – there was a lot to learn, the necessity to stay alert and continuously pivot as various challenges kept turning up, but persistence and flexibility reigned supreme and I’m so thrilled that I took a chance and had one of the most exhilarating, productive, and exhausting months of my career. As always, determination and smart thinking are the only way to fly in our whacky and always amazing business I feel privileged to be a part of.
Would I do it again? You bet! In fact, I just booked my flight for MIPCOM coming up in Cannes in three weeks…Guess I’m just a sucker for this kind of punishment 🙂
PS Followup: I DID go back for MIPCOM. It was a wonderful, Riviera, sun-soaked trip during which I had wonderful meetings and even made Variety Magzine: https://variety.com/2021/tv/spotlight/canada-mipcom-1235082403/
Was the whole two-month schlep back and forth to and inside Europe worth it with all the excess stress due to Covid? Even though I’ve had more sticks up my nose than I could count and ended up spending an overnight in the chilly Copenhagen airport (best airport to sleep in :)), it WAS absolutely worth it. The world isn’t quite ‘normal’ yet, but learning to travel safely with all the restrictions was as close to my normal as I could make it on these trips. Not for everyone for sure, but for an intrepid traveler, I say Go for it!!