As part of its industry program running parallel to the Helsinki Film Festival — Love & Anarchy, which takes place Sept. 14 – 24, the Finnish Film Affair is presenting five local TV series currently in the works that will be pitched to potential co-producers, financiers, broadcasters, streaming platforms, sales agents and other international industry reps.
The five projects will be presented on Sept. 21 during a showcase day of Nordic films and series in development or production. This year marks the first time that TV shows will be pitched alongside feature film projects.
More from Variety
“Including series is something that both the local industry and our international guests have frequently requested from us, and something that we are now developing each year,” says Maria Pirkkalainen-Barber, head of Finnish Film Affair and Nordic Flair. “This year we were delighted to choose the five projects in collaboration with the export initiative Focus on Finland, and next year we are planning on doing an open call to further support the demand for this.”
The five projects selected encompass a variety of themes and genres, from documentary to dramedy to adult animation, and are backed by some of the leading production houses in Finland.
“Kona! – Dream Big, Pitch Hard” tells the story of Konsta Kurikka, one of the top Finnish pitchers in pesäpallo, Finland’s national game, which has similarities to baseball. Writer-director Lotta-Kaisa Riistakoski follows Kurikka on his quest to become the first Finn to make it to America’s Major Leagues, growing into an idol and experiencing both thrilling wins as well as bitter disappointments.
The 6 x 28’ documentary series is produced by Tiina-Mari Pitkänen for Rabbit Films. Riistakoski says the show was born from what she describes as a process of “simply following [her] intuition.” “I had been following Konsta’s career for years and when I found out that he is going to switch pesäpallo to baseball, I immediately felt that it’s time to act,” she says. “I was impressed by his ability to dream big.”
Documenting the pitcher’s efforts to make it to the Big Leagues, Riistakoski says she found Kurikka to have “such a fascinating personality.” “He is ambitious and passionate and his willingness to put all in is tempting to follow,” she says. “I believe that his example encourages us all to chase our own dreams.”
Written and directed by Niklas Lindgren and produced by Max Malka for Endemol Shine Finland, “Supporting Actor” is an 8 x 24’ dramedy that follows Aki Kurki, a well-known but temperamental actor with high artistic standards who’s tired of playing supporting roles. When a fortune teller breaks the news that Kurki is cursed, the actor sets out to discover who put a hex on him and why, only to realize that he has a lot of burned bridges to cross before he can reach the truth.
Lindgren says the series was born out of his own musings about the nature of success. “What does it really mean to succeed? Does succeeding in your personal life compensate for the lack of success in your work life? Why do I obsess about other people’s success so much?” he asks. “I soon realized that the world of the working actor was the most interesting and versatile place to set the story of ambition, insecurity and search for meaning.”
Endemol Shine’s Malka notes that “Supporting Actor” boasts a “high-concept story” along with a “strong script, actors and cinematic storytelling [that] make it a quality dramedy internationally.” Banijay Rights is repping the show internationally and looking for distribution deals during Finnish Film Affair.
Another series being pitched next week in Helsinki is “The Boy Next Door,” a 4 x 56’ drama written by Eva-Maria Koskinen and directed by Hannaleena Hauru. It tells the story of a woman who confronts her childhood love to understand why he disappeared mysteriously over 20 years ago, only to uncover the shocking secret that he’s attracted to underage girls. Produced by Jussi Rantamäki of “Compartment No. 6” outfit Aamu Film Company with backing from Finnish public broadcaster YLE, the show is described as “a mini-series about two families facing the last taboo of our time.”
Koskinen says “The Boy Next Door” is an exploration of “what taboos and secrets look like at first glance and how they alienate people from themselves and each other,” while looking at the impact on two families of “destructive secrets” harbored for more than two decades. Her goal is to create a traditional, suspense-filled drama “that hooks the viewer and engages her in a taboo topic in a safe way.”
That topic, she argues, has never been explored in quite the same way before. But Koskinen believes audiences have never been more ready. “#MeToo showed us the important perspectives of silenced victims. Now with those in mind, we are ready for stories like ‘The Boy Next Door,’ about how communities are dealing with a potential perpetrator,” she says.
“The Crashing” is billed as a character-driven drama series with elements of crime that explores the human capacity for resilience and connection in the face of tragedy. Written and directed by Anna Äärelä and produced by Pilvi Waltzer for Oy Bufo Ab, the 6 x 50’ series is set in a small border town in Northern Finland, where a man armed with a rifle fires a shot at a passing car, causing a deadly pile-up. In the ensuing investigation, the survivors discover what really happened at the crash site, but each has a reason to hide the truth.
“‘The Crashing’ starts off with a heartbreaking crime, but the aftermath is seen from the perspective of the four victims instead of the investigators,” says Äärelä, who explains that she drew inspiration from the idea of “having people meet in a place where they thought they’d fall apart alone.” “The series handles the wide spectrum of grief that can include anger, contempt, and even laughter. We see friendships and perhaps even romantic love being born out of the solitude of getting hurt.”
Äärelä says that writing the show “has been challenging, but also healing in a way,” adding: “Somehow bringing these fictional people together in their hopelessness gives me comfort as well.”
“The Whorytale” is a genre-bending adult animation series about a middle-aged mythological goddess and two brave young women joining forces to fight oppression. Shifting gears between drama, fantasy, horror and action, with a thick dose of dark humor thrown in, it spins into motion when the Olympian goddess Aphrodite accidentally boards the wrong plane and ends up in the world of mortals, unaware of the rules and controls we humans place on women’s behavior and bodies.
Written by Laura Gustafsson, Malin Nyqvist and Oskari Sipola, the 8 x 30’ series is based on Gustafsson’s Finnish feminist cult novel “Huorasatu,” published in 2011. “The Whorytale” is directed by Nyqvist and Sipola, who also produces alongside Vesanen for Welhofilmi and Veli Studio.
“The novel our show is based on has become a cult classic in Finland, the story resonating especially with a younger female audience,” says Sipola. “Looking at ancient mythologies through a feminist lens, with loads of black humor added, entertained us and made us think, and we feel it will do the same as an animated series. A new age requires a new mythology, and we feel we have just the right one. It’s a story so dark it could only come from the happiest country in the world.”
The Finnish Film Affair runs Sept. 20 – 22.
Best of Variety