Göteborg: 8 Takeaways From Tectonic Change in Nordic Drama, Buzz Titles, Fest Bets and Those Photos on the Walls of the Clarion Draken Hotel

As the final work in progress wrapped on Friday, Göteborg ‘s head of TV Drama Vision Cia Edström and head of industry and Nordic Film Market Josef Kullengård could finally relax after a mission well accomplished.

Two of their biggest challenges this year – hosting an industry showcase for 700-plus international delegates in a brand-new venue, the Clarion Hotel Draken, and lifting the Nordic industry’s moral by the crisis in the drama sector – had been successfully met. Variety drills down on how and why:

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All-Time Record Attendees

As many as 2,029 accredited delegates registered for the festival and industry showcases at the 47th Göteborg Film Festival, and parallel TV and film markets, the largest in the Nordic region. “We’ve never hit this silver line,” said Kullengård. The 18th TV Drama Vision drew 729 delegates, the Nordic Film Market 556.

Ideal New Göteborg Industry Hub

Literally built around Götoborg’s historic Draken Cinema and the festival’s main screening venue, the newly opened 33-floor Clarion Draken Hotel proved a perfect set up for the festival’s industry hub. “Finding the right meeting point for delegates is a headache for many festivals and we have waited for more than 40 years for this place!” said Edström who felt the hotel was literally ‘tailor-made for their needs.

It’s been energizing to see people’s reactions, as the place perfectly combines business and pleasure,” said Kullengård, who underscored, jokingly, that the main talking point was photos of festival celebrities over the beds in each hotel room – especially the ones with Mads Mikkelsen and Ruben Östlund. He missed mentioning who was sleeping with them.

Hot Upcoming Nordic Series and Films

TV shows shown as works in progress which made strong impressions took period pieces “Ronja the Robber’s Daughter,” picked up by Netflix, Disney+ first Nordic original “To Cook a Bear,” and Eliot Summer starrer crime drama “Cry Wolf.’ But the most-buzzed about shows were the SVT/Disney+ co-production “Whiskey on the Rocks,” a Cold War submarine satire based on true events, and “Faithless,” Tomas Alfredson TV adaptation of Ingmar Bergman’s 2000 movie.

The Swedish helmer of “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” and “Let the Right One In” made a lauded on-stage presentation with scriptwriter Sara Johnsen (“22 July”) and his A-list cast of Lena Endre, Jesper Christensen, Gustav Lindh and Frida Gustavsson. The six-part Miso Film TV show, ordered by SVT and Arte France, is due to premiere early 2025.

On the film front, the works in progress session had one of the strongest slates in years.

Strong A-festival bets for the spring and fall 2024 include the genre-bending eery period drama “The Girl with the Needle” by Magnus von Horn, intriguing “Redoubt” by John Skoog, the drama-fantasy “Arman” by Halfdan Ullmann Tøndel in which Renate Reinsve (“The Worst Person in the World”) delivers an outstanding performance, if clips are anything to go by), the WWII drama “The Swedish Torpedo” by Frida Kempff, poetic coming-of-age “When the Light Breaks” by Rúnar Rúnarsson, and adrenaline-filled heist “The Quiet Ones” by Frederik Louis Hviid (“Shorta”).

Whiskey on the Rocks
Whiskey on the Rocks

The most buzzed about projects in development were the Swedish creative documentary “Notch-the Story of Minecraft” from “Young Royals”’ production banner Nexiko, technology critique “Push the Button” by Göteborg-based Anton Källro;, “Djinn”, a female-empowering drama by acclaimed Iranian-Swedish helmer Milad Alami (“The Charmer,”, “Opponent”), and “Demands of a Teenage Heart” by Sweden’s Lisa Meyer (“The Longest Wait”).

“I was impressed by the number of promising young directors – especially women – offering innovative narrative approaches to topical issues such as the overweight, said Tribeca Film Festival artistic director Frederic Boyer, referring to Emilie Thalund’s “Weightless.”

Nicolas Girard Deltruc, head of Montreal’s Festival du Nouveau Cinema praised the upcoming works of helmers “at the forefront of what’s happening in the world,” aptly using period pieces to explore burning contemporary subjects ranging from extremism, racism to abortion. “During COVID there were smaller and more intimate works. Now the subjects are still very personal, but the filmmakers have create big-scale cinematic works,” he said.

First-time attendee Joan Sala, a buyer for Spanish platform Filmin, said he was impressed by “Nordic filmmakers’ formally aesthetic approach, that is commercial but with an arthouse edge. Our competitors in Spain are financially stronger than us; it is therefore vital for us to snap up projects at an early stage, the way we did with the multi-Oscar nominated “Anatomy of a Fall,’” he explained. On his way back home to Barcelona, Sala had four-to-five Nordic projects that he planned to discuss with his colleagues for potential acquisition for Spain and Portugal.

Tectonic Changes in TV Drama

In his annual take on drama trends, Ampere Analysis’ Guy Bisson put the Nordic market’s current mayhem into a global context. It will take up to three years for the new world order in commissioning and production, driven by streamers, to settle, he estimated.

As the subscription-based streaming model has reached a saturation point, the biggest players are turning to the new lucrative advertising realm (set to bring them 6% growth in the next five years) and emerging territories to boost their bottom line. Meanwhile rights are increasing being shared between streamers and other platforms, while non-fiction is seeing a surge.

Keys for Nordic Drama Producers

Among Europe’s territories hit hardest by industry  change – such as a dead halt in 2023 of all drama commissioning from prime client Viaplay –  a Nordic audience was offered possible solutions from TV Drama Vision industry panellists:

*Broadcaster alliances in the shape of New8 between eight pubcasters, and the Scandi Alliance between Nordic commercial channels TV2 Sweden, TV2 Denmark and TV2 Norway were promoted as viable ways to fight global streamers, with more muscular financing, faster decision-making, and rights protection for authors and producers.

*Co-production with the rest of Europe to tap organically into new original stories, soft money, tax incentives, multi-territory and windowing models are also natural alternatives, long practiced by the feature film sector.

Quality Control

The slowdown in commissioning has also meant more focused acquisition strategies from broadcasters and platforms alike on stories that really matter.

“We will continue to make good drama, but we need to choose the best of the best”, said Marianne Furevold Boland, head of drama at Norwegian pubcaster NRK. “It is our duty as public broadcasters to create stories that steer new conversations, bring hope and help us understand each other in our very challenging world,” she said.

Furevold Boland also noted that “scripted bonanza competition has optimized the drama craft. Young talents are emerging, with great stories to tell. We embrace this,” she said.

Netflix, Disney+, Amazon in Nordic languages

“We are here [in the Nordics] for the long run, and 2024 will be our biggest year in Sweden in terms of original productions and a diverse slate” said Jenny Stjernströmer Björk, VP of Nordic Content at Netflix, who mentioned Mikael Marcimain’s upcoming thriller “An Honest Life” and the anticipated classic “Ronja, The Daughter’s Robber,” picked up from Viaplay.

Briefly detailing her drama strategy, Stjernströmer Björk said she has gathered learnings from past features and series. “The more relevant and authentic the story, the more it resonates and travels. So we’re looking for stories told with the heart, with a strong core, and executed in an authentic way,” she said.

Her Netflix colleague Håkon Briseid, director of Nordic series, underlined cultural differences between the five Nordic countries. “Some jokes don’t translate well. Our job is to dig into what makes us unique, while looking for common factors,” he said, citing content as conversation starters with a high must-see edge derived from suspense, comedy dramas, a balance between light and dark and cross-generational potential.

“The next thing for us will be non-fiction,” added Stjernströmer Björk.

Also invited on stage, Karin Lindström, Amazon’s head of originals, MGM Studios and Prime Video said the U.S. group plans to grow its original slate in the region across drama, entertainment, movies and 2024 will be “an important year,” with the first original drama in local language. She said she is looking for stories that are broad genre – thrillers, crime, even romance. “We do see romcoms coming back and doing well,” she underlined, before teasing TV Drama Vision delegates with a clip of “Stockholm Backout.”

Meanwhile Vibeke Lia, director of programming & production for The Walt Disney Company Nordics & Baltics presented an impressive teaser of Disney+’s first Nordic original “To Cook a Bear.” “It’s a true standout series, with natural Nordic DNA,” she said.

To Cook a Bear
To Cook a Bear

AI Explained and Applied

The overarching theme at the Göteborg Film Festival, artificial intelligence, was debated and displayed in concrete cinematic applications, via the spooky “Another Persona,” an AI-generated version of Ingmar Bergman’s classic “Persona,” the hybrid project  “About a Hero,” mixing AI with the body of work of the legendary Werner Herzog, and a live presentation of machine-triggered script development hints from Banijay content exec Steve Matthews.

In three years time, AI will most probably deliver cinema quality, so we may as well get ready and grab opportunities, while working hand in hand with institutions to tackle ethical issues, said experts.

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