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Thanks to fresh takes on established genres and highlighting local elements, Finnish drama is commanding attention from international buyers. A Series Mania Focus on Finland will teasing more series to come, from “Nordic blue” to horror for kids and a Christmas fairytale crime story. The biggest event dedicated to television series in Europe will take place March 18-25 in Lille, France. Here’s a breakdown on some higher titles:  

“Crash Plan” (Take Two Studios)

(Nordic blue/procedural crime)

Creator: Ralph Christians, Marteinn Thorisson

Producers: Eero Hietala, Ralph Christians, Dirk Schweitzer

8 Episodes x 44 Minutes/ 4 Episodes x 90 Minutes

Take Two Studios production “Crash Plan,” co-produced by Splendid Film, is a “Nordic blue” procedural drama taking place in the Finnish Turku archipelago, where police detective Elisa and emergency helicopter doctor Markus investigate local crime. Elisa recently transferred from patrol police and is eager to prove her skills. Markus has no experience as a detective, but he can “feel” crime in the situations that look completely ordinary. “At Take Two Studios, our slogan is ‘inspired by true events, driven by hope.’ Our series is shot under Nordic blue sky, which in our minds gives it a lot of positivity,” says producer Eero Hietala. “Even though the crimes are serious and dark, the characters and the overall feeling of the series are bright. We feel this is important in today’s society, burdened with a constant barrage of bad news.” The series is currently looking for financing and sales.

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Enemy of the People Courtesy of Fire Monkey

“Enemy of the People” (Fire Monkey)

(drama/thriller)

Creators: Timo Varpio, Roope Lehtinen

Producer: Saara Kankaanpää

8 Episodes x 42 Minutes

Reporter Katja writes a critical article about a soccer star – soon afterwards, he is found dead. Public hostility towards Katja blows up into a systematic hate campaign, but she suspects he was murdered because he was on the verge of revealing that a local cryptocurrency venture is a pyramid scheme. “Our series takes a look at a life in the post-truth world and what it’s like to do investigative reporting when trolls, claims of ‘fake news’ and the targeting of journalists happen every day. There has never been a time when we would need free, trustworthy journalism more than now – and it has never been more difficult to do,” says Lehtinen. The series will be broadcasted by MTV Finland and CMore Nordic, while REinvent handles the sales. Previous Fire Monkey productions include “Californian Commando” (Elisa Viihde) and “Bad Apples” (Elisa Viihde Viaplay/Nelonen).

“Evilside” (Whatevergroup Oy, Handmade Films in Norwegian Woods)

(thriller)

Creator: Aleksi Puranen

Producer: Antti Kaarlela, Einar Loftesnes

6 Episodes x 45 Minutes

Directed by Jussi Hiltunen (“Bordertown”), “Evilside” will be released domestically on Elisa Viihde Viaplay in 2023. Described as a “community thriller” by creator Aleksi Puranen, it focuses on a bullied outcast Johanna who, after the murder of her only friend since childhood, must prove her innocence. “It’s different from the usual Nordic noir because we were very keen to include a teenage character as one of our leads, which obviously feeds into a whole new younger audience. Our characters are a diverse mix and they struggle with the ‘traditional’ values of their community,” he tells Variety. Starring another “Bordertown” alumni, Olivia Ainali, as well as Amira Khalifa, it’s produced by Whatevergroup Oy in collaboration with Handmade Films in Norwegian Woods, with Dutch Features handling the distribution.

“Guts” (Solar Republic)

(drama/thriller)

Creator: Jemina Jokisalo

Producer: Samuli Norhomaa

8 Episodes x 52 Minutes

Eternal underdog cross-country skier Anna gets one more chance to become a world champion. She is willing to do almost anything to win – and to beat her longtime nemesis, skiing sensation Maria. “I called this show the ‘Black Swan’ of skiing,” explains creator and head of drama at Solar Republic Jemina Jokisalo, who has been developing the series for Yle together with producer Samuli Norhomaa. “I wanted to make a series about ‘difficult women’ who are really driven to achieve their goals. They are athletes, so they need to be difficult by default – their job is to be the best in the world. Skiing is huge in Finland, especially now that the Olympics went so well for the female skiers. To other viewers, we may offer something exotic to watch.” 

“Lempi, Her Name is Love” (Warner Bros ITVP Finland)

(psychological thriller)

Creator: Miira Karhula, Seija-Liisa Eskola

Executive Producer: Seija-Liisa Eskola

6 Episodes x 45 Minutes

In 1942, Lapland’s capital Rovaniemi aka “Little Berlin” is partying like there’s no tomorrow. At the center of it all are two twin sisters, Lempi and Sisko, who have just turned 18. They are the adored “influencers” of their day, enjoying expensive clothes, passionate dances and secret affairs. “For me, the most interesting aspect is that this is not a story about war. This is a story about what happens when you are young in a world full of destruction, yet still dealing with the feelings brought on by love, lust and sex,” explains Seija-Liisa Eskola, executive producer at Warner Bros ITVP Finland, who co-created the show with Miira Karhula. Based on Minna Rytisalo’s award-winning book, its references range from “Babylon Berlin” to “Bridgerton.” “[At Warner], we don’t put all our eggs in one basket, so to speak – we are interested in developing all kinds of genres.”

“Nordic Horror Masters” (Don Films, 74 Entertainment, Le Boxeur)

(horror)

Producers: Aleksi Hyvärinen, Kjetil Omberg, Jorgen Storm Rosenberg, Joris van Wijk

6 Episodes x 52 Minutes

The team behind “Lake Bodom” and Teresa Palmer-led “The Twin” presents a new horror anthology seeing six different directors telling different stories, with the likes of Roar Uthaug, Tommy Wirkola, Taneli Mustonen and Lars Klevberg interested in directing an episode. “Their films created the global phenomenon known as Nordic horror. Now, each of them will take their best shot at warping your mind, bringing you the most haunting horror tales they could have ever imagined,” promise its makers. “Taneli Mustonen and I have often joked how growing up through the dark Northern winters, subzero temperatures and isolation has given us a unique flavor to the way we approach storytelling,” says producer Aleksi Hyvärinen. “This is what ‘Nordic Horror Masters’ is all about: it’s an ambitious horror anthology which gathers a quirky bunch of the biggest Nordic horror directors.”

“Raspberry Hill” (Söder Films, Danskskalle)

(thriller/horror)

Creator: Eva Frantz, Martin Jern, Emil Stark, Teresa Ekman

Producer: Teresa Ekman, Martin Jern and Emil Stark (Danskskalle)

3 Episodes x 30 Minutes

Based on the Runeberg Prize-winning book by Eva Frantz, translated into multiple languages, this three-part horror series for children (aged 10-12) is a co-production between Söder Films and Danskskalle. Its protagonist, 12-year-old Stina, suffers from lung disease in the slums of Helsinki in the early 1920s. Her luck seems to change when she is sent to a sanatorium on an island, but a mysterious lady warns her about it. She is not safe at Raspberry Hill. “There are studies claiming that’s how children learn to process their own fears: by reading a scary book or hearing a scary story,” says Teresa Ekman of Söder Films. “We talked a lot about ‘the fine line’ because we don’t want to traumatize kids, obviously. There are some dark themes, but it’s not going to be gory.” With Nordisk Film & TV Fond on board, the series will be shot in Swedish and is currently looking for partners outside of the Nordic countries.

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Summer of Sorrow. Courtesy of Rabbit Films

“Summer of Sorrow” (Rabbit Films)

(thriller)

Creator: Jani Volanen

Producers: Tiina-Mari Pitkänen, Jenni Ripatti, Martti Tervo

10 Episodes x 45 Minutes

Fresh off starring in Sundance horror “Hatching,” Volanen explores the peaceful suburbs of Helsinki in the 1980s. In the Rabbit Films’ production, it’s hot, and there’s a new boy in town. As he gets to know other neighborhood children, a painful secret comes out – another child has gone missing just before his arrival. Disappointed by the inaction of the police, the adults form a vigilante force, while their children have to navigate through the lies. “The adults don’t want their children to know what is going on. Everything relies on speculation, overheard conversations, eavesdropping and gossiping, and since our story is about kids, that puts the viewer in the exact same situation,” says Volanen. “It’s not a conventional thriller. Our protagonists focus on their friends and frenemies or some upsetting family issues, while something much more sinister is bubbling under.”

“The Invincibles” (Moskito Television)

(political drama/thriller)

Creator: Matti Kinnunen, Mikko Reitala, Mari Kinnunen

Producer: Mari Kinnunen

8 Episodes x 44 Minutes

Produced by Moskito Television, and co-produced by Aurora Studios, this 8-part political drama-thriller is set to premiere in 2023. Elisa Viihde Viaplay is its main broadcaster, while Fremantle handles international sales and distribution. Inspired by real events and set in the early 1990s, it sees a young economist (Amanda Pilke) getting a job at the Bank Inspectorate. She wants to sink the greedy central savings bank SKOP, but as she gets to know its CEO (Pekka Strang, also seen in “Mister 8”), she starts to identify with the small bank’s fight against unscrupulous commercial banks. “While the world portrayed here is hard, even cold – and, in the end, tragic – there’s a lot of human warmth,” says producer Mari Kinnunen. “At its core, there are such themes as danger of growing social inequality, contradiction between idealism and self-interest, and the importance of fighting against dishonesty, corruption and unethical behavior.”

“The Town of Tails” (Bufo, Allfilm)

(fantasy/mystery)

Creator: Minna Panjanen

Producers: Mark Lwoff, Misha Jaari, Tiina-Mari Pitkänen, Ivo Felt

4 Episodes x 50 Minutes

Minna Panjanen follows “Next of Kin,” set in the near future and co-created with Valeria Richter, with a Christmas fairytale crime story – once again produced by Helsinki-based company Bufo. Inspired by such classics as “A Christmas Carol” and 1937 Cary Grant starrer “Topper,” she will focus on a literary professor who gets tangled in a murder investigation with a woman no one else can see. “It’s also a love story between a human and a ghost,” says Panjanen. “When I start working, instead of thinking about a specific genre I am just fangirling over the characters. Here, my protagonists are very smart and funny. We are not going for the horror – we are going for the beautiful Christmas spirit.” The series will be co-produced by Estonia’s Allfilm, continuing its collaboration with Bufo after the dystopian drama “Memory of Water.”

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Transport Credit - MAARTEN DE BOUW

“Transport” (Tekele, Jonnydepony)

(crime drama)

Creator: Auli Mantila

Producer: Miia Haavisto, Tia Talli

8 Episodes x 50 Minutes

A unique take on food fraud and money laundering, “Transport” sees Tekele join forces with Belgium’s Jonnydepony. In a story developed by Auli Mantila, a journalist is determined to trace a microchip found in baby food in Helsinki, an upright bank manager falls prey to a criminal organization, a family is losing it after their father goes missing, and an insurance investigator insists on finding out what really has happened to this border control veterinarian. “We want the story to resonate with viewers through our characters,” argues Miia Haavisto, who produces with Tia Talli. “The difficult choices they make are specific yet universal. We all have families, pushy bosses, ex-partners and we all need the money. Furthermore, we are all bound to make mistakes.” World sales by REinvent Studios. Chosen for Series Mania’s main International Competition.

“Valhalla Project” (Snapper Films)

(drama/mystery/sci-fi)

Creator: Jari Olavi Rantala

Producers: Juha Wuolijoki, Laura Salonen

6 Episodes x 45 Minutes

A climate scientist is lured into a quest to find a path into a parallel universe researched by her father, who disappeared in Lapland over 30 years ago as a part of the last science project of the Soviet Union. “While incorporating sci-fi elements, this series focuses on unravelling the mysteries of the past. It has two storylines, 33 years apart, and it combines the Soviet ‘scientific utopia’ with a contemporary fight against climate crisis,” says director and producer Juha Wuolijoki of Snapper Films, a Helsinki and Los Angeles-based production, financing and distribution company, also developing “Sherlock North” in collaboration with the Conan Doyle Estate Limited. “Finland shares a border with Russia and over the decades, there have been many encounters – not all of them pleasant. We are trying to draw from that as well as from our Northern locations.” Broadcaster: Elisa Viihde.

“Zone B” (Aamu Film Company)

(drama)

Creators: Juho Kuosmanen, Khadar Ahmed, Siiri Halko, Omar Abdi

Producers: Jussi Rantamäki, Emilia Haukka

8 Episodes x 10 Minutes

Co-directed by “Compartment No. 6” helmer Juho Kuosmanen, Siiri Halko and Khadar Ahmed (also behind “The Gravedigger’s Wife”), Yle’s “Zone B” takes a look at a group of friends navigating through two group members’ ambitions of shooting a music video in order to get into a big music competition in Eastern Helsinki. Shot in Finnish, Arabic and Somali, the short-form series was shown at the Red Sea Film Festival and premiered in Finland in Feb. 2022. “It was done in collaboration with a group of multicultural youngsters gathered from East Helsinki,” says Aamu Film Company producer Jussi Rantamäki. “It became clear early on that these kids were fed up with being always presented via integration problems, racism, crime or poverty. They wanted to make a series where they have fun and enjoy their lives with their friends, and that’s what we did.”