Latvia’s Platforma Filma is taking its smash “Swingers” franchise across Europe, with local versions of the film planned for Poland, the Czech Republic/Slovakia, and the Netherlands, Variety has learned exclusively.
Shooting in Poland is set to begin Aug. 16, with the producers targeting a Valentine’s Day 2020 release date. Production for the Czech/Slovak version is expected to begin this fall. Negotiations for the Netherlands are at an advanced stage, with Platforma hoping to release in November 2020.
The original Latvian romcom, directed by Andrejs Ekis, was shot on a small budget during a whirlwind 12-day shoot in 2016. That film would go on to become the second-highest-grossing Latvian film of all time, prompting Platforma’s Kristians Alhimionoks to see the movie’s wider potential. “We understood that we have something here,” he says. “It’s very simple, and people really liked it.”
An Estonian version of the franchise was released in 2017, followed by a Ukrainian “Swingers” last year. Both movies were among the highest-grossing local films in their markets.
While Ekis has directed each of the films, offering continuity across the franchise, each version has paid meticulous attention to the minor details that ensure the films have a distinctly local flavor. “We know that localization is a winner,” says Alhimionoks. “Everything right now is about globalization, if you look from the Hollywood perspective. But actually, people want to see their neighbors.”
The essential spirit of the original “Swingers,” however, along with much of the script, remains intact each time the film travels across borders. “The most interesting thing is that always when we start developing the script for a new market, everyone is saying, ‘Our market is completely different.’ But in the end, the script doesn’t change a lot,” says Alhimionoks. “People like to think that they are unique, but we are in Europe, and actually, we have the same values more or less. You can’t change it drastically. The formula is there, and it works.”
Alhimionoks is in Locarno this year as part of Match Me!, a networking platform bringing together up-and-coming independent producers from nine countries. Platforma is currently developing “Accidental Santa,” a family comedy directed by Aigars Grauba about an escaped prisoner dressed in a Santa costume who gets tangled in a wild web of misunderstandings.
Alhimionoks hopes the film can follow in the footsteps of “Swingers” to become a franchise that travels beyond Latvia. He points to the success of Platforma’s “The Pagan King” as an example of how the small Baltic nation can punch above its weight. The English-language epic was shot with an international cast on a backlot in Latvia and went on to sell to more than 20 territories. “All the big markets bought it,” he says. “A little country like Latvia, we can make something that Americans are watching.”