Finland has responded to a spike in demand for its content with a slew of new series. As revealed by Laura Kuulasmaa, executive director at Audiovisual Producers Finland (APFI), over 30 will be released this year alone, a 20% uptick on 2018.
“Compared to eight, ten years ago, when there were maybe only five scripted series per year, the increase has been huge,” she tells Variety ahead of French TV festival Series Mania’s “Focus on Finland” showcase.
The Film in Finland cash rebate has facilitated international investments and growth of the budgets, she notes.
Matti Paunio, head of production at the Finnish Film Foundation, adds:
“I think the biggest trend overall is the diversification of subjects and points of view. Scripts and series are more courageous, they take on different genres more often than ever. Production is booming, but apart from the quantity, we are also providing quality.”
According to Paunio, about 47% of writers, 40% of producers and 38% of the directors of series that tapped support for development were female.
Horror also continues to enjoy its moment in the sun. “Raspberry Hill,” produced by Söder Films, will focus on scaring much younger viewers, in anthology series “Nordic Horror Masters,” produced by Don Films, different directors get a chance to create their own twisted tales.
“We currently have Roar Uthaug, Tommy Wirkola, Taneli Mustonen and Lars Klevberg interested in directing an episode,” reports producer Aleksi Hyvärinen, also behind “Lake Bodom” and Teresa Palmer starrer “The Twin.”
“It seems there’s more courage in the marketplace to tell quirkier, crazier stories and dive into languages and cultures that have previously been avoided by the bigger players. Streaming platforms are perfect homes for horror.”
Still, crime stories are not going anywhere. Finding new takes on the recognizable format, be it by adding new elements or switching perspectives, seems to be the key.
“When you look at Hercules Poirot and all those old stories, they persist also because people know what they are getting. It’s the same with Nordic Noir, but you can reinvent it,” argues Minna Panjanen, who will follow sci-fi spectacle “Next of Kin” with “The Town of Tails.” Produced by Bufo with Estonia’s Allfilm, it’s a Christmas story featuring ghosts and a murder.
Rabbit Films’ “Summer of Sorrow,” distributed by Keshet International, will take a look at a tragedy looming over a suburban community in the 1980s through children’s eyes.
“It’s a sort of whodunnit, but there’s no detective to guide you,” says creator Jani Volanen, who recently starred in Sundance horror hit “Hatching.”
“I’m a firm believer that the minute you start thinking about what might ‘attract the audience’ or the hypothetical audience somewhere abroad, you start fucking it up.”
“The number of series being produced is big by Finnish standards and I try not to feel overwhelmed by that. It is simply intriguing to have access to big audiences through quality content,” adds Miia Haavisto, now behind “Transport,”, a Series Mania main competition title plumbing food fraud and money laundering.
“We wanted to have a crime story, but instead of corpses and darkness, focus on crimes that happen in daylight. [Creator] Auli Mantila used the term ‘Ordinoir’ to describe her approach, which I like a lot!”
As subscribers get more interested in international content, local elements are no longer viewed as a handicap. “Crash Plan,” from Take Two Studios, will take advantage of its Turku archipelago setting, “Lempi, Her Name Is Love,” produced by Warner Bros ITVP Finland, will show Lapland’s war-torn capital Rovaniemi in the 1940s, while Solar Republic’s “Guts” turns to Finland’s passion for winter sports.
“I called this show the ‘Black Swan’ of skiing! It won’t be as dark, but it’s heading in that direction,” says creator Jemina Jokisalo about her take on two competitive female skiers.
As noted by Paunio, quite a few new series, from “Estonia” to “Mobile 101” about Nokia or “The Invincibles,” set in the banking world of the early 1990s, will also explore recent Finnish history.
“Local stories for a global audience – it sounds like a tagline, but I truly believe it. Also, there are more and more international co-productions, like ‘Next of Kin’ and ‘Dance Brothers,’ co-production between Yle and Netflix. Production companies in Finland are thinking big,” he says.
Finnish budgets, however, still tend to be smaller. “We need international co-producers and funding in order to compete on the international market,” argues “Raspberry Hill” producer Teresa Ekman. Finnish creators and production companies also have to deal with a shortage of talent and crews, partly because of the current boom.
“So many times, when you apply for the money, the wish is that you already have most of the concept or even a pilot ready. There is not a lot of funding for planning or developing a new show unless you are a big company and have a development fund of your own,” adds Panjanen.
“Resources are slim,” Volanen chimes in: “Everything of quality that Finland manages to put out is possible in spite of that, not because of it. More money wouldn’t hurt, but we’re a small country. Knowing that, you can either complain and do nothing, or bite the bullet. And I don’t want to complain.”
“This is the moment. But it’s not something that will come and pass; it’s a new beginning,” says Hanna Vuorinen, head of audiovisual productions promotion at Business Finland.
“Our incentive was born in 2017 and the results are starting to show. The Finnish audiovisual sector has been growing and we are hoping to bring tons of interesting content in the near future. The global market is looking for something unique. The door is open and we are ready to walk through it.”