Quentin Lee’s ‘Morning, Paris!’ Series Mania Pitch Melds Comedy, Romance and Asian Ambition (EXCLUSIVE)

Fashion, East-West Asian identities, corporate espionage and romance are on the agenda in “Morning, Paris!,” a new mini-series project being pitched at Series Mania by veteran filmmaker Quentin Lee (“The People I’ve Slept With,” “White Frog”).

“’Morning, Paris!’ is a heartfelt comedy about a young modern BIPOC Canadian woman discovering herself in the most romantic city in the world,” says Lee. “Or put another way, it is a limited television series about an aspiring female fashion designer from Vancouver who ends up in Paris Fashion week with a very unlikely companion because she wants to spy on her boss on whom she has a crush. It’s ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ meets Robert Atman’s ‘Prêt-à-Porter’ with the sensibility of Woody Allen’s ‘Midnight in Paris’.”

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The project was not always so simply defined. It was previously conceived as a feature film that was pitched at the Golden Horse Film Festival a decade ago, and which mainland China powerhouse China Film Group agreed to co-finance and co-produce.

With Robert Wei and Aaron Shershow on board as producers, the film began pre-production in Prague in late 2015 and had incurred nearly $1 million of costs. But, when part of the finance collapsed, the other financiers bailed and preparations came to a halt.

“We had cast the hottest Chinese talents of the time, Michelle Chen Yanxi and Chan Xiao, who were going to marry in real life, as the star-crossed lovers. Unfortunately, the one-third investor dropped out… and because the producers were not able to fill the gap, the production ultimately fell apart. I went back to Hong Kong and fell into depression until my surrogate mom texted me an ultrasound of my unborn son in her stomach in October 2015. By the year’s end, I returned to Los Angeles and waited for my son to be born. He finally came in June of 2016,” Lee told Variety.

Lee has since re-fashioned the script as a series and now sets it as a potential Canada-France co-production involving his Margin Films production company. For the second time, Lee has attached Swan Pham, casting director of multiple Luc Besson films, and costume designer Chattoune. He has added the French line-producer Thomas Buckwalder and cinematographer Valentina Caniglia.

“In North America, ‘Morning, Paris!’ sat on the shelf for almost eight years until 2022, after I’d started dabbling in television and created ‘Comedy Invasion.’ In the last five years, there has been definitely a push toward diversity in terms of content creation in Canada. After selling ‘Comedy InvAsian’ season 1 to Hulu in 2018 I decided to create a diverse Canadian content stand-up series which we pitched around but got no interest in development. I ended up financing it through my production company, made and self-distributed it, and ended up receiving a Canadian Screen Awards 2024 nomination for best comedy special just a few days ago,” says Lee.

“Last year, when the PGA International Group arranged a meeting with Film Paris Region talking about all the new tax rebates for France and Paris, it popped into my mind that ‘Morning, Paris!’ could make a great, cinematic limited series as a Canada-France co-production especially. The two even have a long-standing co-production treaty. The feature script was originally based in Guangzhou and Paris, which I relocated to Vancouver and Paris. The [script for the] half-hour pilot came out very well and when I saw that Telefilm was hosting applications for the Canada-France Series Lab at Series Mania, I immediately applied,” says Lee.

Lee has employed Largo AI, the Swiss firm that offers financial and creative modelling for film and TV projects, to help map out the project’s potential. It shows that as average of 436,000 households will stream the pilot in its first year of streaming release in Canada. A further 1.5 million households will tune in in France and 11.1 million households watch it in the U.S.

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