Rolling off the Netflix original show “Young Wallander,” Yellow Bird U.K. is set to produce its second drama, “The Secret Woman,” a series adaptation of the Danish book of the same name written by Anna Ekberg.
Leading British screenwriter Adrian Hodges, whose credits include “My Week With Marilyn,” “The Musketeers,” “The Go-Between” and “Labyrinth,” has come on board to adapt the novel.
Launched a year ago, Yellow Bird U.K. is the Britain-based arm of the Banijay-owned thriving Scandinavian banner Yellow Bird Sweden which is behind such hits as “Wallander,” “Occupied,” “Millennium” and “Hidden.”
Berna Levin, the CCO of Yellow Bird UK, described “The Secret Woman” as a “luscious female-led murder mystery.” The novel centers on Louise Andersen, a forty-something woman who lives in a secluded village on the Danish island of Bornholm with Joachim, who is 10 years older than her. Their routinal life is disrupted by the arrival of Edmund, who is convinced that Louise is in fact Helene, his wife who mysteriously disappeared three years prior.
Levin said she first read the manuscript for the book when she was working at Yellow Bird Sweden and quickly thought that it could be turned into a great U.K. show rather than a Scandinavian one. That said, “the idea with “The Secret Woman” is to combine the best of both worlds by having a U.K. writer, Hodges, and hopefully get a Scandinavian helmer to direct it,” said Levin, adding that the “company’s goal is to make shows for U.K. audiences but strive to have some Scandinavian twist and flavour in the mix.” The action of the series will be transposed to the U.K.
“‘The Secret Woman’ will boast a strong female protagonist, a psychological dimension, a cinematic feel. This is what we love and what we do well at Yellow Bird,” pointed out Levin.
“The Secret Woman” will soon go into production and Levin said she thinks either BBC or ITV could be a great home for the series in the U.K. Banijay International will represent the series in international markets.
Yellow Bird U.K. is also developing a series based on the New York Times bestselling author Liza Marklund’s books centering on Annika Bengtzon, a female crime reporter and mother of two. The novels, which belong to the Scandinavian noir literary tradition, explore a wide range of topics, from political scandals to women’s issues. As with “The Secret Woman,” the untitled series based on Marklund’s books will be penned by a British writer and be set in the U.K.
Levin said Yellow Bird U.K. intends on producing two to three shows per year, tapping into the U.K. talent pool, including creators, directors and actors.
Yellow Bird also recently expanded its footprint in the U.S., where it joined forces with another Banijay subsidiary, Bunim/Murray Productions, to launch Yellow Bird U.S. The six-month old U.S. banner is headed by Marianne Gray, who previously spearheaded the production of “Headhunters” and “Occupied,” among other shows, at Yellow Bird Sweden.
Gray said Yellow Bird U.S. was “conceived as a sister company to Bunim/Murray, which is a big player in unscripted market and have an interest in going in scripted.”
The executive said the U.S. banner had started out “developing a good slate of projects, some of which are Yellow Bird formats and international IP’s.” Gray said she was looking to set up U.S. writers on IP’s they have have acquired. Gray also said she welcomed the idea of bringing high-profile Scandinavian helmers, some of whom have already been working in Hollywood.
“In the U.S., the scripted market is very crowded so we absolutely need to differentiate yourselves. We have a well-respected brand in the drama area and that gives us a competitive edge,” said Gray.
Johannes Jensen, Yellow Bird’s managing director, said the company was currently producing eight projects with a variety of Nordic and international clients, for both SVOD services and networks. These include “Sanctuary,” a psychological thriller based on Marie Hermansson’s novel “The Devil’s Sanctuary,” and starring Josefin Asplund (“Vikings”) and Matthew Modine. Repped by Studiocanal, the Alps-set show is produced by Yellow Bird Sweden with Italy’s Fabula executive producing and Germany’s Tele München Gruppe providing production services. The series was commissioned by CMore/TV4.
Going forward, Jensen said Yellow Bird had the ambition to develop series based on original ideas rather than only based on books.
“We’ll continue to do shows based on books but creators are increasingly interested in original ideas and we have already started to explore new grounds, in terms of genre, for instance supernatural drama (like ‘Hidden’), political thriller series (such as ‘Occupied’), or psychological thriller (like ‘Sanctuary’),” said Jensen. He added that “Yellow Bird will always have a Nordic footprint because it’s crucial to maintain the DNA of your brand.”