New Nordic Storytelling Lab Seeks to Rewrite Finnish Drama Script

The Finnish Film Affair, a showcase for new films from the host country and the Nordic countries, will showcase TV series for the first time at this year’s event, which runs alongside the Helsinki International Film Festival — Love & Anarchy (HIFF).

Along with the 26 feature and documentary projects presented to industry guests at a stage event on September 22, a curated selection of four TV drama series from Finland. “It’s something that the local industry and our international guests have frequently asked us about,” said Maria Pirkkalainen, director of Finnish Film Affair.

“We have already piloted the highlighting of a few selected Finnish TV series in 2019 with great reviews and we believe now is the right time to continue, especially with a record number of international guests joining us here at Helsinki.”

The four selected projects are in the early development stage, each with the support of a Finnish broadcaster already secured. Prior to the showcase, the creators of the shows participate in a workshop with New Nordic Narratives, a holistic lab focused on sustainability and inclusion.

According to the creators of the lab, screenwriter Valeria Richter and producer Helene Granqvist, the goal of New Nordic Narratives is to build on the traditional model of a project development lab by helping to redefine the role of filmmakers and series creators as “agents of change” whose impact can go far beyond the screen.

In particular, this means focusing during the development phase on sustainable production practices and finding ways to make these productions more inclusive. It also means taking steps to engage audiences on a deeper level — to understand “story structures and how they relate to the larger audience groups that exist and how we speak to them,” according to Granqvist.

“We’re not doing this just because we think it’s super important,” she added. “We also think it’s something that really connects us as filmmakers to the audience and the world around us.”

The creative teams have already had two virtual meetings with Richter and Granqvist, both veteran pitch and script coaches, and will meet twice more in Helsinki before taking the stage on September 22.

The goal of bringing them together, the lab’s creators said, is to create a “safe space” for conversations that don’t always find a place at industry events. “When we have this room with four projects and their filmmakers, and we facilitate the space to discuss them, a lot of things happen in this room,” Granqvist said.

Things have never looked healthier for Finland’s booming TV industry. According to the Audiovisual Producers of Finland (APFI), more than 30 Finnish series will air this year, a 20% increase from 2018. This partly reflects global trends as competition between national and international streaming platforms continues. stimulate demand for new content. The introduction of a 25% cash back in 2017 has also attracted foreign investment into the industry, boosting production budgets and spurring an increase in new shows.

This rapid growth, coupled with wider societal changes, convinced Richter and Granqvist that the time has come for the Finnish industry to rethink the entire ecosystem of how shows are developed, produced, distributed and marketed. — an ecosystem, they say, that’s based on “outdated models.” Part of that is also questioning the things we take for granted,” Richter said.

“We have to dare to try things to make things change,” Granqvist said. She admits, however, that the questions posed to the filmmakers – as well as average global citizens in their daily lives – are “confusing as hell”.

In order to deal with the growing challenges presented not only by climate change, but by the continuing efforts to create more equitable societies, she asked if there was a way to “stay in this confusion, but also to decide to be aware” of how we respond to it. .

“It’s become something very important for us – not being afraid of subjects that confuse us, and [for which] we don’t have answers,” she said. “These are big alarming questions. But what if we dare to let them be present in the room, and decide together to be aware and…[ask] What can we do? Is there space for action? What kind of stories do we want to tell?

“Our starting point for New Nordic Narratives is the holy grail of artistic freedom,” Richter added. “But it’s about getting these different looks and tools that we can look at from multiple angles on our projects.”

New Nordic Narratives lab creators Helene Granqvist (left) and Valeria Richter.

New Nordic Narratives has already organized two successful labs: one alongside the Black Nights film festival in Tallinn in Estonia last November, and the other during New Nordic Films, the premier event for Scandinavian cinema, which took place held in Haugesund, Norway in August. Part of the goal, organizers said, is to take the conversation beyond just the filmmakers participating in the lab and to include key industry decision makers.

“We network with all major industry events in the Nordics,” Granqvist said. “We have these melting pots where the industry meets, and having this topic on the agenda, making it normal to talk about these things, is part of our strategy.”

The response, she added, has been overwhelmingly positive. “We think we’re onto something that’s really missing in our industry.”

The Finnish Film Affair runs from September 21-23.

Here are the four projects selected for New Nordic Narratives during this year’s Finnish Film Affair:

Maria Lizelia

Broadcaster: Svenska Yle Drama

Creator: Ulrika Bengts

Co-writer: Hanna Åkerfelt

Logline: It’s 1759 and the young midwife Maria Lizelia is faced with an unexpected choice. Should it stick to the letter of the law or its spirit? A woman’s life is at stake.

What Bengts says: “We’re not blessed with dramas about women’s work and professional identity. Even less when it comes to representations of midwives, when questions of sexuality, pregnancy, abortion, childbirth and infertility concern all women, and by extension most men. Expecting a child ends his life. With the action set in the mid-1700s, when the risks of childbirth were far greater than they are today, the stakes are raised and the drama escalates. Even though the 1700s differ from our time, the theme is painfully relevant. A woman’s right to her own body is always a controversial issue.


Broadcaster: Yle Drama

Producer: Oskari Sipola

Producer-screenwriter: Ronja Haikka

Editor-in-chief: Tua Harno

Co-screenwriter: Maaria Nuoranne

Logline: Tove wants to be an Olympic figure skater even if she has to sell drugs to get there, but her new coach Miia won’t let her get away with her lies.

What Haikka says: “I participated in different individual sports throughout my youth. I learned to recognize the importance of the bond between a coach and a young athlete. This delicate relationship is particularly emphasized in individual sports, such as figure skating. I learned myself that trust between a coach and an athlete is often linked to success. The athlete’s determination to win with uncritical blind faith can [open the door to] potential abuse. In our series, we see two very different coach-athlete relationships through our protagonist Tove. The series provides an opportunity to examine the will to win, to grow, and the power dynamics between a coach and an athlete.

under the clock

Broadcaster: Elisa Viihde

Producer: Tiina-Mari Pitkanen

Editor-in-chief: Katri Manninen

What Manninen says: “‘Under the Clock’ (working title) is a drama set in the 1960s. It follows four young friends as they break free from the expectations of their families and seek and find their identity and own voice. This is the first show I’ve created as showrunner, working side-by-side with producer Tiina-Mari Pitkänen. Our mission is to create safe, innovative and sustainable production with the motto “How can we do this smarter?” It all starts with the script development process inspired and guided by production requirements. We are particularly happy to develop the series with Elisa Viihde, who chose our project for this lab and who is active in advancing sustainable production.


Broadcaster: Svenska Yle Drama

Creator: Eva-Maria Koskinen

Producer: Jussi Rantamaki (Aamu Film Company)

More details to follow.

About Monty S. Maynard

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