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Berlinale: Baltasar Kormakur Sets Volcanic Drama ‘Katla’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Baltasar Kormakur, the maker of “Everest” and “Trapped,” is prepping “Katla,” a supernatural thriller drama series centering on the famous volcano of the same name in southern Iceland.

The dystopian series is set in Reykjavik, in a near future where Katla has been erupting for two years, causing damage, health hazards, alarming mutations and strange events. A large-scale crisis breaks out and brings together scientists from abroad who converge on the Icelandic capital.

Studiocanal, Beta Cinema and Cinemax are already circling “Katla,” sources say.

The series will shoot in English and Icelandic. Kormakur said he is seeking an international cast to play scientists and foreigners in Reykjavik, his hometown.

“Iceland provides a compelling backdrop for a series like ‘Katla,’ because it’s a country which only has 300,000 inhabitants and draws over 2 million tourists each year. So a natural disaster of that scope would have a massive impact,” he said at the Berlin Film Festival.

The series is based on a real threat. Increased earthquake activity has been detected around Katla since the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010, ash from which closed European skies to air traffic for days, causing huge travel and commercial disruptions. Icelandic President Ólafur Grímsson warned then that “the time for Katla to erupt is coming close.”

The series will likely shoot at Kormakur’s upcoming film studio, which will be part of a 40,000-square-meter media center located in Reykjavik.

Kormakur created “Katla” and will direct at least the pilot, as well as produce via his Icelandic banner RVK Studios. Kormakur said he was interested in replicating the same model that he used on “Trapped,” which enlisted up-and-coming directors, from Iceland and beyond, to work on the show.

The next film Kormakur is directing is “Adrift,” a true story of survival at sea starring Shailene Woodley. The film is being repped by STX Entertainment.

A rare example of a European director who has had two back-to-back No. 1 movies at the U.S. box office – “Contraband” and “2 Guns” – Kormakur has what could be termed a “halfway” style: His films are mid-budget, and sometimes midway between Europe and the U.S. in their auteur-ish play on thriller or crime tropes. That can be attractive to companies looking to finance upscale TV dramas.

RVK Studios’ recent production credits include “The Oath,” which Kormakur directed and starred in. The movie turned out to be the top-grossing movie in Iceland last year. His 2015 movie “Everest” made over $200 million worldwide and topped Iceland’s box office in 2015.

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