Finland has a reputation as a curious country filled with lakes, saunas and forests as well as the home of Santa Claus. Now it is hoping to be known for its ambitious television series with a swathe of big-budget dramas interesting international buyers and will be front and center at Mipcom in Cannes to demonstrate this.
Scandinavia has long been known for producing cutting edge scripted series such as Danish hits The Killing and The Bridge, Norway’s Lilyhammer and Skam and Sweden’s Wallander and Humans. However, despite many considering Finland a member of this gang, it is not actually part of Scandinavia, but rather part of the Nordic bloc with more in common with Iceland.
Finnish local producers are hoping that high-profile projects including a local Sherlock Holmes original, Sky-backed crime drama Bullets, sci-fi epic The White Wall and climate change thriller Sands of Sarasvati can replicate the success of its neighbors and travel the globe.
Alan Sim, executive producer at SVOD platform Elisa Viihde, said Finnish drama feels different to series from other Nordic markets. “There have been some massive hits coming out of Denmark and Trapped, which came out of Iceland. Can Finland be the new Iceland? We’re hoping that we have a big splash that comes out of Finland and people say ‘this is cool, what’s this?’ It is different.”
Elisa Viihde’s two big bets are Bullets and Arctic Circle (pictured, above).
Bullets (left) is a female-fronted, twist-laden thriller and political drama. Starring Krista Kosonen (Blade Runner 2049) as an Intelligence Agency officer who must work out why presumed dead ex-terrorist Madina Taburova, played by Sibel Kekilli (Game of Thrones) turns up in Helsinki. The show is being sold internationally by Sky Vision.
Meanwhile, Arctic Circle is a ten-part crime drama starring Iina Kuustonen (Off The Map) and War Horse’s Maximilian Brückner that centers around a weaponized sexual virus that threatens a remote arctic town. Inspector Nina Kautsalo, played by Kuustonen and virologist Thomas Lorenz, played by Brückner, must hunt down the killer spreading the virus and uncover the conspiracy behind its cure. The show, which is produced by Yellow Film & TV and Germany’s Bavaria Television, will launch in December with Lagardère Studios Distribution handling international sales at Mipcom.
The SVOD platform is also hoping to attract international attention with a couple of early-stage projects.
Perfect Commando, which is currently in development, is a ten-part comedy that follows a young, spoiled hipster from California who thought he was going on a five-star holiday with his girlfriend and ends up training to be a commando. Produced by Fire Monkey, the series could be Finland’s answer to Swedish Dicks, the American/Swedish series that starred Keanu Reeves. The company is also working with a British production company and a high-profile UK writer on a six-part psychological thriller that it hopes to put into production in March 2019.
“Finnish doesn’t relate to the other Nordic languages; the language is completely different so we’re finding we’re getting the money from elsewhere,” added Sim.
Public broadcaster YLE is also doubling down on drama – literally. Creative director Ville Vilen said that the broadcaster has doubled its scripted budget and is putting an increased amount of money into writing. This comes after its crime drama Deadwind, which follows a widowed female detective, was picked up globally by Netflix earlier this year.
The company’s most ambitious series is eight-part sci-fi drama The White Wall. The series is about a mysterious white wall found deep underground at the mining site of the world’s largest nuclear waste depository and is produced by Finland’s Fire Monkey and Sweden’s Nice for YLE and Sweden’s SVT. It was co-created by Angry Birds writer Mikko Pöllä and A Man’s Job’s Aleksi Salmenperä and is being distributed by DRG.
YLE also has a number of projects that span the globe; Invisible Heroes is a Finnish/Chilean co-production that focuses on Tapani Brotherus, an officer for the Finnish Embassy in Chile during the Pinochet coup in 1973. The six-part series is produced by Finland’s Kaiho Republic and Chile’s Parox for YLE and Chilevision TV and is set for a 2019 launch. The Peacemaker, meanwhile, is a ten-part drama in development that centers around a team of peacemakers who are sent to resolve international conflicts. Produced by MRP Matila Rohr Productions, it follows Finnish Foreign Secretary Ann-Mari Koistinen, who after being forced to resign because of an arms-related leak, heads to Turkey to help the conflict between the Kurds and the Turks.
Vilen said that the scope of its drama slate has widened out. “We have just begun,” he said. “We’re moving forward from that Nordic noir label.”
Elsewhere, MTV3 is developing Hard Diplomacy, from Fire Monkey, a ten-part series featuring a rogue U.S. ambassador and a shady Finnish engineering genius, whose plan to make a fortune with an illegal data collection stalls when a bomb goes off during the U.S. president’s visit to Helsinki, while Germany’s Nadcon Film, run by The Bridge producer Peter Nadermann, is co-producing The Emperor following the rise and fall of most powerful and colorful narcotics cop in Finland with local producer Vertigo and France’s Federation Entertainment, which is responsible for Netflix’s Marseille and Amazon’s The Collection.
In addition, MTG-owned SVOD platform Viaplay is to launch on Cold Courage, from British writer David Joss Buckley (Hinterland), in 2019. The eight-part series, which is based on the bestselling books by Pekka Hiltunen, follows two young Finnish women in London, bound together by clandestine operation The Studio. It is directed by Wallander director Agneta Fagerström-Olsson and co-produced by A Private View (Belgium), Vico Films (Ireland) and Sagafilm Nordic (Iceland).
Finally, two of Finland’s greatest international hopes are in their early stages. Sherlock North is based on Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1903 short story The Adventures of the Empty House, which sees the British detective travel to the Nordic region after faking his own death at the Reichenbach Falls. Using the fake identity of Sigerson and on the run from Professor Moriarty, Sherlock Holmes finds himself solving crimes in northern Finland. Juha Wuolijoki, who runs Helsinki and U.S. based Snapper Films, is producing and he tells Deadline that he is working it up as a 10-part series with the co-operation of the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate. “We are very excited that there is a huge interest for Sherlock North and overall Nordic crime drama in the international market place, especially if the projects come with the IP,” he said.
Similarly on a culture-clash tip is Sands of Sarasvati, which follows a team aiming to halt a single climate change event that is about the change the world and is set between Finland and India. Produced by Finland’s Luminoir and Iceland’s Sagafilm for Viaplay, it is being financed by the Finnish Film Foundation and Northern Ireland Screen. Markku Flink and Pauli Pentti, who run Luminoir tell Deadline that it will be looking for distribution partners at Mipcom. “There is a great interest among international distribution companies but we haven’t made up our minds yet. We call it Finnish Noir eco-thriller– like Scandi Noir but with more dark humour and wider vistas – for an international audience.” Based on Risto Isomäki’s bestseller The Sands of Sarasvati, the six-part series is being written by Northern Irish writer Brendan Foley (Shelldon). “As a Northern Irish writer, it has been fascinating working with the Finns and Finnish source material on several ongoing projects. This is definitely not just more ‘Scandi Noir’. The emerging Finnish Nordic Noir, alongside its thriller core, has more dark humour and uses wild, wide landscapes to great effect,” Foley added.
Finland’s Film Commission will be hosting Finnish Weird: TV Drama and Cocktail in Cannes at the Palais des Festivals on October 16 at 5:30pm.