Sometimes, life confronts us with all kinds of bad luck and challenges. This is the case in the life of emergency room doctor Béatrice Clément, the main character of the show Au secours de Béatrice. Every week, Béatrice faces many misfortunes and just like the character, her creators had to show serious determination to bring the series to screen - a lesson of perseverance and hope that goes beyond fiction.
Au secours de Béatrice is about an emergency room specialist; a woman full of contradictions, nuances, and ambiguities. Béatrice must deal with a stressful job, an ex-husband who is still hanging around, a young resident who wants to seduce her, a controlling father and a psychologist who pushes her far beyond where she would like to go.
Francine Tougas, Writer (© Sarah Scott)
It took almost two decades for author and scriptwriter Francine Tougas to complete the novel Les mardis de Béatrice, which was the inspiration for the television series. It was after reading this novel about 10 years ago that actor, director and producer Sophie Lorain saw the television potential of this story. Unfortunately, the story rights were not available at that time. About two years later, after a missed opportunity with another producer, Francine Tougas finally turned to Sophie Lorain to ask her to produce the series. Together, they developed an angle to the story that would be compelling on television. Originally, the narrative took place in an enclosed space between a psychologist and her patient. Béatrice, the main character who worked in advertising in the novel, became an emergency room specialist for the television series.
Production company Attraction Images, with whom Sophie had previously worked as a director on the series La Galère, was chosen to bring the project to life with French language network TVA. But the hard work was only just beginning for Ms. Lorain and Ms. Tougas. After the first stage of development, where the team produced a few 30-minute episodes, TVA decided to give up the project. Unshakable, Sophie went knocking at the door of another broadcaster, Radio-Canada. However, after thoroughly revising the project the series was once again not selected for broadcast. Finally, after a combination of circumstances and the right opportunity taken at the right time, TVA’s team took back the project and allowed it a 60-minute time slot. Now Sophie and her team had to rebuild the entire project a third time to make longer episodes with rather tight budgets and even tighter deadlines. In the end, a funding contribution made by the Canada Media Fund (CMF) was essential in bringing Béatrice to the screen.
Sophie Lorain as Béatrice Clément in Au secours de Béatrice (© Attraction Images Inc./Pierre Ceépô)
Throughout this lengthy development process, the producers never thought about giving up on the cinematic style of the series. The show’s visual style was carefully crafted to preserve a production quality that could compete with any high budget series. Like the cinematography, excellent casting truly brings Francine’s work to life. Besides, it is Sophie Lorain herself who plays Béatrice! To be both the producer and main actor of a television series is tremendous work for one person. In addition to giving life to her character, Ms. Lorain constantly ensures that the quality of the production is respected at every level. In the Drama Series category at the 2015 Gemeaux Awards, Sophie won Best Leading Actress and Francine took Best Scriptwriting. Au secours de Béatrice was also bought by international broadcaster TV5, allowing the show to be seen in francophone countries around the world. These accomplishments are a great source of pride for the production team.
Beyond the technical aspects that give the series its unique look, it is the central topic of Au secours de Béatrice that unexpectedly touched the heart of the public. While mental health issues can have a major impact in people's lives, it is still something rarely addressed in fiction television. For the producers as well as the broadcasters, it was a great risk to take - to show an anxious woman dealing with her issues in psychotherapy on television.
Sophie Lorain and the cast of Au secours de Béatrice (© Attraction Images Inc.)
It was not by accident that the professional environment chosen for Béatrice was a hospital. At the development stage of the project, Sophie was intrigued by various newspaper articles stating that physicians could take an average of 10 years before seeking medical advice for a mental health disorder. By choosing to present the main character as a physician with a mental illness who is reluctant to get help, this series addresses a very real situation, which the audience can relate to. And the proof was in its amazing reception. On September 10th, 2014 on TVA, over 1.3 million viewers watched Béatrice for the first time.
Behind the Scenes of Au secours de Béatrice (© Attraction Images Inc./Pierre Ceépô)
For a television series that is anything but traditional to reach such a large audience on a very popular channel is a great success. But it’s the buzz on social media and online content that underlines the extent of the impact of the series. Without realizing it, the creators had opened a dialogue on a difficult topic. In response, they added a series of video resources for dealing with and accepting mental health issues.
Au secours de Béatrice was intended to be a small show, but it was only the beginning of many great things to come. Including the time needed by Francine Tougas to write her novel, and the time required to build the television series with Sophie Lorain, it took over 25 years of work before we saw Béatrice Clément on screen. It took great tenacity and conviction to make this project come true, and this perseverance is reflected in the characters of the series who hold on, despite their difficulties. Now that hope carries on, with the many fans of Au secours de Béatrice.