Nice Drama, Twelve Town Pitch ‘With One Eye Open’ at Series Mania

The series promises a fresh look at Sweden and its often tumultuous relationship with Russia

Series Mania
Photographer: Laurent Ghesquiere

LILLE, France — Sweden’s Nice Drama and the U.K.’s Twelve Town, formerly Pinewood Television, have purchased the rights to Martin Österdahl’s bestselling Max Anger novels, and optioned them as a high-end multi-season drama series, which the companies presented at the Series Mania Co-Pro Pitching Sessions in Lille.

Executive producers Stefan Baron of Nice Drama and Christian Wikander of Twelve Town were at the Series Mania Forum on behalf of the series, looking to secure European partners to aid in making “With One Eye Open” a high-end series, intended for the international market.

A development deal has already been signed with Swedish pubcaster SVT for two scripts, written by TV veterans Lars Lundström (“Real Humans”) and Anders Sparring (“Farang”), and an outline based on th3 first of Österdahl’s books, “Ask No Mercy,” with shooting planned for spring 2019.

The series, adapted from the first of Österdahl’s two – soon to be three – novels will follow Max Anger, a former attack diver for the Swedish Navy. Having fallen in love with Pashie, a Russian-Swedish researcher, he works with her on the 1996 Boris Yeltsin campaign in the tempestuous days leading up to the election.

In the course of her work, Pashie learns that Max’s personal history is completely invented, but before she can confront him, she is kidnapped when her work uncovers a neo-Stalinist plot.

The series will feature WWII-era flashbacks which will help explain Max’s family history, and leave hostages to fortune which surface in 1996.

“All the books Martin has written have Russia at the heart of the storytelling,” Baron told Variety in the lead-up to Series Mania.

“Why tell this story now?” Wikander and Baron asked during their pitch. “We all know about fake news and disinformation, and one fact is that a lot of this started in St Petersburg in the early ‘90s. We see a big movement from globalization to nationalism.”

“When we read the novel we based the story on, we were so excited,” they recalled. “It is a new perspective on Sweden, and the relationship with Russia.”

According to the partners, Österdahl’s books leave the door open for future seasons, with book two focusing on the 2000 Kursk submariner disaster, when Russian president Putin refused aid for a group of his sailors trapped at the bottom of the Barents sea.

Baron and Wikander were withholding about a possible arc for Season 3, set in 2001, however; the third Max Anger book is set to release this fall.

One of Scandinavia’s most important TV production houses, Sweden’s Nice Drama, part of the MTG Group, has successfully delivered high-calibre movies and TV series for the domestic and international markets, ranging from the movie blockbuster “The 100-Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared” and its sequel “The 101-Year-Old Man Who Skipped Out on the Bill and Disappeared” – both co-produced with FLX – and the TV shows “Thicker than Water” and “Midnight Sun.”

Produced by Nice Drama and Lagardère’s Atlantique, Swedish public broadcaster SVT and French pay TV giant Canal Plus, “Midnight Sun” proved one of Vivendi’s biggest series in 2016 as it aims to create a Europe-based alternative to U.S. scripted content.

U.K.-based, Twelve Town focuses on development, production and financing of drama series. Recent productions include “The Child in Time,” based on the Ian McEwan novel and starring Benedict Cumberbatch, for BBC1, and “Conspiracy of Silence,” for Scandinavia’s Viaplay.