As the industry starts paying closer attention to Finnish films and talent – following the Cannes success of Juho Kuosmanen’s “Compartment No. 6” and Zaida Bergroth’s crowd-pleasing “Tove” – Finnish TV drama is next in line, argued the participants of the Berlinale Series Market Focus on Finland drama showcase. Kuosmanen premiered short-form series “Zone B,” which he co-created, at the Red Sea International Film Festival in December.
“We have seen a rise in Finnish stories, because as content creators and writers, we got to be a little bit braver,” said Minna Panjanen, now behind “Next of Kin”. “The truth is, everyone needs content right now. It’s almost a mathematical impossibility to say what would be the next big thing – we all saw it with ‘Squid Game’. But we need to be braver in order to stand out.”
In “Next of Kin”, set in the near future – the series is produced by Bufo for Elisa Viihde – a young woman discovers that her DNA sample was stolen from the Nordic Biobank. As she teams up with a cyber security agent, she enters the world of “genetically edited” people.
“We have fantastical characters who develop superhero powers, but the questions we are asking are real. We look at the overall picture of what it means to be human,” added Panjanen. “I believe that it will resonate [with the audience] because it’s a family drama, albeit a crazy one, and although the subject matter is based on scientific research, we do have fun with it.”
As proven by “Enemy of the People,” a Fire Monkey production for C More, and “Transport,” thrillers with a modern twist are still in demand, with the first one focusing on a journalist investigating the death of a national sports hero who becomes the target of a hate campaign.
“It’s a global story told from a local perspective,” said Roope Lehtinen, executive producer and co-creator of the series, mentioning Brexit and “Trump madness” as an inspiration for the universe where nobody seems to care about the truth anymore.
“We are lucky that we have open-minded and bold customers in the Nordic region, with TV channels and streamers willing to take risks.”
Focusing on quality is the first step towards finding a bigger audience, argued Miia Haavisto of Tekele Productions. “Transport”, about food fraud and money laundering, was developed for YLE.
“We didn’t make it to ‘please’ an international audience, it was never our goal, but I think the story will resonate because the characters are so well developed. It’s about individuals who are put to the test.”
“In my own life, I’ve noticed it’s easier to carry the responsibility than try to avoid it. Relatability is one of my main focuses,” added writer-director Auli Mantila.
Local perspective will also drive “Mobile 101,” about Nokia’s rise and fall – presented in Berlin in the Nordic Drama Series showcase alongside Sweden’s “Blackwater”, “The Dark Heart” and “One-on-One,” Norwegian series “Company Thorvald” and “Saving the Fucking Planet”, and Denmark’s “The Shift” and “Trom”.
Also presented at the showcase was “The Invincibles,” made by Moskito Television for Elisa Viihde. Matti Kinnunen’s political drama is set in the banking world, focusing on the 1980s economic boom and the recession that followed.
“I studied economics in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I got to witness how our society and economy first exploded and then collapsed, just a moment later,” said Kinnunen. Apart from tackling one of the biggest turning points in Finnish history, the series also promises to reflect upon some timely issues.
“Right now, the whole world is waiting to see how the economy will recover from the pandemic,” said Mari Kinnunen, executive producer and head of drama at Moskito Television. “We all seem to be asking ourselves: ‘When is the next financial crisis?’ I think it will be easy for anyone to identify with these events.”
As creators and producers are looking outside well-trodden paths, the trend right now is to take a genre and make it a little bit different, Panjanen summed up.
“We are a country of Nordic Noir, but it’s a bit like a sitcom – you know what the beats are. We have all seen the body in the snow, so let’s reimagine it now. There is a lot to be said about the future of Finland on the global television market. We are around the corner, so watch out, guys!”
The Focus on Finland drama initiative is a collaboration between YLE, Elisa Viihde, the Finnish Film Foundation and Audiovisual Producers Finland (APFI) and Business Finland.