×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Bullets’ Creator on Writing for VOD and Subverting Nordic Noir

“Bullets,” a Finnish, German and Belgian co-production from creator-producer Minna Virtanen and Antti Pesonen, held its market premiere screening on Monday at Berlin’s Drama Series Days, the TV component of the European Film Market.

In the series, ex-terrorist Madina Taburova, presumed to be dead, emerges in Helsinki looking for political asylum. Intelligence agent Mari Saari adapts a false identity and attempts to befriend Madina, as a means of keeping tabs on the once-dangerous woman. Krista Kosonen (“Blade Runner 2049”) and Sibel Kekilli (“Game of Thrones”) play the two main characters.

Virtanen and Pesonen spent five years co-writing and developing “Bullets.” The series is produced by Finland’s Vertigo Production, and co-produced by Germany’s Nadcon Film and Belgium’s Lunanime/ Lumière, and thanks to support from the Finnish tax incentive system, the show’s entire €5 million ($5.65 million) was in place before shooting began. TV show newcomer Pete Riski directed the series’ 10 episodes.

In Finland the series is available on the VOD platform Elisa Viihde as an Elisa Viihde original series. Sky Vision handles world sales.

Although the series touches on similar trends and topics as its Nordic noir cousins, the team behind “Bullets” put great effort into producing something novel to the small screen. Virtanen discussed those efforts, as well as the challenges of writing a character-driven series and the freedom of writing for a digital platform rather than a standard linear broadcaster.

Can you talk a bit about the series’ development?

Antti Pesonen and I worked on development for nearly five years, and the story evolved along the way. The idea of a lone female cop who has to change her identity and solve crimes was always there. Along the way the character of Madina came to us and the story took shape around those two strong women. The main thing in this series is that we let ourselves be guided by mood and emotion, not plot. Our series is not about solving crime, but uncovering the personalities of these women.

In a sense, your two leads end up pitted against one another, but are actually quite similar? Would you agree?

It is interesting that Mari Saari and Madina are not so dissimilar. Mari in a sense is a blank slate. Her job is to live through fake identities, but between jobs, she doesn’t really have a home to go to. She is a lone wolf. I don’t think we’ve seen many female characters like her. Our series is not about solving crime but solving the personalities of these women. What they are going through now and why. In the series nothing is as it seems, it is like peeling the onion – always a new layer will appear, the new twist for the story will unfold.

In that respect, Krista and Sibel’s performances were key? What did they bring to the production?

We let mood and emotion guide the casting as well as the series’ narrative. We needed actors with great screen presence, who could convey a variety of emotions in a very subtle way. That is why we felt that Krista would make the perfect Mari Saari. She has an amazing presence on screen and gets under the skin of her characters. We found Sibel Kekilli through our German partners. We saw her showreel and felt she was amazing. She’s sensitive, fragile, with an inner force as well. She was perfect for the part our villain.

You’ve said before that you worked hard to subvert some of the typical tropes of Nordic Noir. How you did that?

It was our intention from the very beginning to break away from Nordic Noir. We took two huge risks here. The series is not a procedural in the traditional sense. We let ourselves be guided by mood and emotions, not plot. The second and bigger risk was to describe the terrorist as a human being, not only a villain. Madina’s motivations are not political or religious. She’s motivated by her loss and she tries to make sense of the universe.

When did other producers, broadcasters and sales get involved?

In Finland Elisa Viihde came on board to be the commissioning broadcaster. They have a first window, and the series is an Elisa Viihde Original. After that we looked for the second window partner in Finland, and MTV3/CMore game on board. At the same time I was negotiating with Nadcon Film (Peter Nadermann, Thomas Disch) and Lumière (Jan de Clearcq), and they came on board after Elisa confirmed. Once we had strong versions of episodes 1-3 we started to approach the world sales agents. That is when Sky Vision came on board.

Can you talk a bit about Elisa Viihde, and what was it like producing for VOD?

Elisa Viihde has become a big SVOD player in Finland. They are acquiring more and more Elisa Viihde Original content every year. From the producer´s point of view Elisa is more than welcome in the Finnish broadcasting markets, as Elisa is very brave and bold in what they are able to commission. It is harder for traditional broadcasters to acquire edgy content as they have to please their established audience base. So, for series which are trying to create something new, Elisa has been a great option. Elisa came on board at the development stage, and they have commented the script writing.

More TV

  • Name Of The Rose

    Germany's Tele München Group Sold to Investment Firm KKR

    Global investment firm KKR has acquired Tele München Group, one of Germany’s largest television businesses. The surprise deal was announced Thursday. New York-based global investor KKR has holdings in multiple sectors, including infrastructure, energy and real estate. Tele München Group, or TMG, is active in both production and distribution; its projects include the highly anticipated [...]

  • UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report: Women, Minorities

    Hollywood Diversity Gains in TV but Falls Short in Movies

    Minorities and women have registered gains in several key areas of television but women continue to lag in movies, according to a report issued Thursday by the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA. “My basic take is that TV is improving more for minorities and women than film,” said Dr. Darnell [...]

  • 60 Minutes" reporter Lara Logan takes

    Lara Logan Says She's Been 'Targeted' for Her Claims of Liberal Media Bias

    Former CBS News foreign correspondent Lara Logan appeared on “Hannity” Wednesday evening to expand on her recent remarks characterizing the media as “mostly liberal.” “It’s obvious, right, because you get targeted,” she said, explaining her earlier comments that she was committing “professional suicide” by criticizing the media. “It’s the same group of people, they’re already [...]

  • Jussie Smollett

    'Empire' Producers Consider Suspending Jussie Smollett (EXCLUSIVE)

    Fox is considering removing Jussie Smollett from production on “Empire.” Sources close to the production told Variety that producers are weighing whether to suspend the actor after he was charged Wednesday in Chicago with filing a false police report. A spokesperson for 20th Century Fox Television, which produces the series, declined to comment. Smollett’s status on [...]

  • Game of Thrones Final Season: Best

    The Best 'Game of Thrones' Merch to Get You Ready for the New Season

    We’re just weeks away from the premiere of the final season of “Game of Thrones,” and whether you’re a die-hard fan, on the hunt for a novelty gift, or a serious collector hoping to nab some memorabilia before the series signs off for good, we’ve found 10 pieces of merch that pay tribute to one [...]

  • Ryan KadroPaleyLive NY: The News Is

    Ryan Kadro Will Join Quibi to Oversee News Programming (EXCLUSIVE)

    Ryan Kadro left CBS News several weeks ago, but he isn’t leaving the news business. Kadro, the former executive producer of “CBS This Morning” is set to join Quibi, the company led by Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman that is devoted to short-form  content. Kadro is expected to oversee news programming for the subscription-based service, [...]

  • Jussie Smollett

    Jussie Smollett Charged With Filing False Police Report

    “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett has been charged with filing a false police report, the Chicago police said Wednesday. “Detectives will make contact with his legal team to negotiate a reasonable surrender for his arrest,” police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said on Twitter. Smollett is due to appear in court for a bond hearing at 1:30 p.m. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content