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International Financing ‘Salvation’ for Danish Producer

A poster producer for Danish cinema, Sisse Graum Jorgensen, who with helmer Thomas Vinterberg received the prestigious European Union Prix Media Sunday in Cannes for their film project, “The Commune,” is broadening her canvas with “The Salvation,” an 1870-set Western inspired by the Nordic sagas.

Jorgensen (“A Royal Affair,” “The Hunt”) is one of the top producers at Zentropa, a Danish outfit co-founded by Lars Von Trier.

The Trust Nordisk-repped “Salvation,” which Jorgensen describes as an epic tale of revenge, lost love and greed, stars Mads Mikkelsen as a settler who avenges his family’s murder and unleashes the fury of a notorious gang leader.

Helmed by Kristian Levring and penned by Anders Thomas Jensen, the pic’s international cast also includes Eva Green and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. The pic, now shooting in South Africa, will be in English and Danish.

Since “Salvation” has a higher-bracket budget of €10.5 million ($13.5 million), Jorgensen structured the film as an international co-production with Forward Films in the U.K. and Spier Films in South Africa.

“Denmark is a small country so we often need to co-produce with two or three countries,” Jorgensen said.

The pic lensed in South Africa, which boasts sweeping landscapes, top-notch crews and tax incentives, per Jorgensen.

That necessity to look for funding outside Denmark is indeed a great incentive to tell stories that appeal international audiences.

“Part of my job is to make sure that even when we make a local film that is shot in the Danish language it works domestically and in international markets,” Jorgensen said. “I’m constantly looking at how distributors in other countries work with my films to market.”

And although “Salvation” is for the most part in English, Jorgensen said she is still a firm believer in the crossover potential of films in Danish.

Exhibit A: “Hunt” and “Royal Affair” sold worldwide, she pointed out.

Vinterberg concurred, “Every time I dig deeper into the Danish soil, the smaller we make a film, the more universal it becomes.”

Vinterberg’s followup to Hunt, the 1970s-set “Commune” centers on life inside a small community of academics in Denmark. Although the film is not an autobiography, Vinterberg said he grew up in such a community and as a result the film will be inspired by his memories.

Over the years Jorgensen has developed long-term relationships with such Danish helmers as Vinterberg, Susanne Bier (“Love Is All You Need”) and Nikolai Arcel (“A Royal Affair”). And while all three are constantly being courted by Hollywood, Jorgensen is confident there’s room for local, personal films that can cross borders.

“I’m not the kind of producer who buys book rights and I feel very privileged to be working with Directors who have a strong ideas, develop their own stories and make their own signature films,” Jorgensen said.

Although Vinterberg said his next movie after “Commune” will be a Hollywood studio-financed English-language film, he’s still very much committed to making films in Denmark.

“The older I get the more interesting it is for me to make my own films, that no one else wants could have made,” said the helmer following the Media prize ceremony.

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