Tag Archives: Jeppe Gjervig Gram

Money maker

Bedrag (Follow the Money) III is the next chapter of the acclaimed TV series from prolific Danish broadcaster DR, set in the world of organised crime and money laundering. Creator and showrunner Jeppe Gjervig Gram (Borgen) explains how this new season, due to air this month, attempted to stay ahead of the headlines.

Over the past two seasons of Bedrag (Follow the Money), we have been chasing crooked CEOs in the corridors of power and lavish executive offices. Ever since the first season, however, I’ve dreamt of exploring a different world of financial crinminality: the money of organised crime.

Jeppe Gjervig Gram

Drug trafficking is a major global industry; a market that doesn’t go away, no matter how many laws the politicians pass or how hard the police crack down on pushers. As long as there are buyers, there’s money to be made. And since the market is illegal, all the money goes straight into the pockets of drug lords – criminal heavyweights who run a business where violence and murder are an everyday part of the equation.

Cannabis accounts for a huge part of the industry. Danish drug lords alone are estimated to generate yearly profits of more than a billion kroner (US$151.6m) from the drug. This lucrative market could not exist without widespread money laundering; without it, criminals would be unable to spend their dizzying profits. To this end, they are aided and abetted by an army of morally suspect accountants, attorneys, bankers, foreign-exchange companies and nominees who launder the money – from miserably paid Eastern European straw men right up to the heavyweights of the financial world.

The inspiration for the third season of Follow the Money came from the huge money-laundering scandal surrounding one of the world’s largest banks, HSBC, when it was discovered that the bank had failed to prevent the systematic laundering of billions of dollars of Mexican and Colombian drug cartel funds – and escaped with a fine that was essentially peanuts. But when we started meticulously exploring the Danish money-laundering cases back home, we realised the Danish banks had to be playing a far greater role than the public was aware of.

A little less than a year later, the news hit: the number-one Danish bank was being exposed as complicit in international money laundering – and we felt we were very much on the right track.

Then followed a string of police cases against foreign-exchange agencies. Accusations of money laundering were raised against another major Danish bank. And confrontations between armed gangs over drug territories erupted in a central Copenhagen district. The past six months’ writing has been a race against real-life events.

Follow the Money’s third season was inspired by a real-life money-laundering scandal

The new season of Follow the Money is both a continuation and something entirely new. We invite viewers into a whole new world, following the cannabis money trail through the city and out of the country. This means a more vibrant urban scene and fewer glamorous executive offices; more raw, urban districts and fewer well-to-do suburbs. The different environment sparked new energy – a vitality that we chose to incorporate in the visual style and narrative flow. If you want to follow street money, you have to follow the beat of the street.

As we embarked on our journey into this new world, we also realised we would have to be brave and let go of some of our beloved main characters, Mads (played by Thomas Bo Larsen) and Claudia (Natalie Madueño), simply because we felt their stories had reached their proper ending.

However, there were two other characters I felt we were far from done with: Nicky (Esben Smed) and Alf (Thomas Hwan). On the contrary, the third season is very much shaped by a strong desire to pit the two men against each other. The story about what happened to Nicky after he turned his back on his family, what happened to Alf after he was shot, and what happens when the friendless gangster and the insomniac policeman find themselves on a collision course in the midst of urban gang warfare.

In this next season, the two men are joined by a new female protagonist whose part has been a sheer delight to write. Conscientious and upstanding bank assistant Anna feels neglected both at work and at home but discovers a whole new side of herself when she starts money laundering for some of the city’s leading gangsters.

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On the up down under

Stateless marks Cate Blanchett's directorial debut
Stateless marks Cate Blanchett’s directorial debut
Dozens of Aussie screenwriters will be dusting off their computer keyboards following the news that Screen Australia has greenlit A$640,000 (US$474,241) of development funding for 23 films and television series.

The project that has caught the attention of the international media is Stateless, which will be directed by Oscar-winning actor Cate Blanchett. Described by Screen Australia as Blanchett’s “first venture into high-end TV,” it tells the true story of Cornelia Rau, a young German-Australian who escaped a frightening cult, only to be trapped in a bizarre labyrinth of psychiatric and legal systems.

NBCUniversal-owned production company Matchbox Pictures will produce Stateless, which is based on a screenplay written by Elise McCredie. McCredie has a long and varied track record as an actress, but her first big hit as a writer was Nowhere Boys, a teen series that was also produced by Matchbox.

First airing on ABC3 in 2013, the show was successful enough to secure a renewal and to be adapted as a feature film (Book of Shadows). Sold internationally by NBCUniversal, it has also aired in the UK and Canada.

The other projects backed by Screen Australia include works from Bryan Brown and Rachel Ward, Richard Roxburgh, Marieke Hardy, Jan Chapman, Stephan Elliott and Bondi Hipsters’ Nicholas Boshier. However, the only other high-end television drama to secure Screen Australia funding this month is Trust – a drama based on a journalist’s mission to expose a shadowy movement cloaked in conspiracy theories and deception.

Trust’s writing team consists of Sarah Lambert, Blake Ayshford and Kris Mrksa. Lambert’s standout credit to date is Love Child, a critical and ratings success for Channel 9 and Playmaker in 2014.

Sarah Lambert is part of a team of writers on Trust
Sarah Lambert is part of a team of writers on Trust

Ayshford has written episodes for a number of shows including The Beautiful Lie, Nowhere Boys, Devil’s Playground, The Code and Crownies, while Mrksa’s credits include Underbelly, The Slap and Glitch.

The latter is a six-parter that started airing on ABC1 this month. Pursuing a familiar theme, it focuses on a policeman who is called to his local cemetery in the middle of the night after six people have inexplicably risen from the dead in perfect health.

Nerida Moore, senior development executive at Screen Australia, said: “The titles we’ve announced reflect a really exciting slate of projects and associated talent. They’re very individual in approach and each will have its own unique creative journey ahead. The recent changes to our Story Development Guidelines reflect our appreciation for the individual creative process and the ongoing need for flexibility in the ways we offer support. We look forward to seeing more innovation and imagination as these projects flourish.”

Elsewhere, Endemol Shine Studios has acquired the English-language reversion rights to Follow the Money, a new thriller from Danmarks Radio (DR) that is set in the world of economic crime. The deal follows an earlier adaptation success for DR’s The Killing (aka Forbrydelsen) and comes despite the fact that Follow the Money doesn’t air in Denmark until January 2016.

The original series was created by Jeppe Gjervig Gram, one of the three writers on Borgen, writing a total of 14 out of the 30 episodes. His partners on Borgen were Adam Price, who recently co-founded production company SAM, and Tobias Lindholm.

“This is yet another compelling series from DR, and we’re looking forward to developing it for the American audience in partnership with the very talented team at Anonymous Content,” said Charlie Corwin, co-chairman and co-CEO of Endemol Shine North America.

The Wire's David Simon is working on Show Me a Hero for HBO
The Wire’s David Simon is working on Show Me a Hero for HBO

Meanwhile, HBO has announced that its upcoming miniseries Show Me a Hero will debut on August 16. Starring Oscar Isaac, Catherine Keener, Alfred Molina, Winona Ryder, LaTanya Richardson-Jackson, Bob Balaban and Jim Belushi, the show is set in the 1980s and tells the story of a young mayor of a mid-sized American city who is faced with a federal court order that says he must build a small number of low-income housing units in the white neighbourhoods of his town. His attempt to do so tears the entire city apart, paralyses the municipal government and, ultimately, destroys the mayor and his political future.

Written by David Simon (The Wire, Treme), Show Me a Hero is based on a non-fiction book by Lisa Belkin that explores the issue of racial segregation in Yonkers, in the state of New York.

Simon said: “The story appeals to me not merely as political history, but because the question in Yonkers in 1987 was the same one that we face today. Are all of us – those with and those without, white, black or brown – are we all sharing some portion of the same national experience? Or is the American Dream something other than that?”

The director is Paul Haggis (Crash), who says: “Frankly, I have long desired to be a part of anything David Simon does. If he had asked me to direct a history of footwear, that’s what we would be discussing now. Luckily, it was a part of our history that intrigued me, largely because it isn’t history at all, but an exploration of issues that remain at the core of the American narrative.”

In last week’s Hit & Miss, we looked at some of the titles that have garnered a high number of Emmy nominations. Today, we are giving a shout out to the writers nominated.

In Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series, the contenders are Joshua Brand (The Americans), Gordon Smith (Better Call Saul), David Benioff and DB Weiss (Game of Thrones), Matthew Weiner and Semi Chellas (Mad Men) and Weiner alone (for Mad Men again).

Jane Anderson's work on Olive Kitteridge has earned her an Emmy nomination
Jane Anderson’s work on Olive Kitteridge has earned her an Emmy nomination

The sentimentalist vote would surely favour Weiner, to mark the end of Mad Men. But he will be hard pushed to see off Game of Thrones, which is nominated for the final episode of season five (Mother’s Mercy).

In Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special, the nominees include John Ridley (American Crime), Dee Rees, Christopher Cleveland, Bettina Glois and Horton Foote (Bessie), Stephen Merchant, Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg (Hello Ladies), Hugo Blick (The Honorable Woman), Jane Anderson (Olive Kitteridge) and Peter Straughan (Wolf Hall).

Despite the dearth of women in these two line-ups, Anderson has a good chance of winning. An industry veteran, she boasts credits ranging from The Wonder Years and How to Make an American Quilt to Mad Men.

She gave an interesting interview to HBO recently in which she discussed the challenges of adapting Olive Kitteridge from its source novel by Elizabeth Strout. “It took a long time for me to solve this as an adaptation,” she said. “Because HBO’s work is known for its edginess, we talked about how we make this very brilliant novel about older people in a small town in Maine sexy. What will make this different? What will give this edge?

“I tried an outline where we started backwards and we went back in time, and it didn’t work. Then I tried it starting with the suicide scene. It’s just three minutes of screen time that assure the audience that something really drastic is going to happen down the line. When you add stakes like that, everybody can just friggin’ relax and I can tell the story. I can just unwind it. You need that in television and you need that in a miniseries.”

Xena: Warrior Princess star Lucy Lawless has quashed speculation of a reboot
Xena: Warrior Princess star Lucy Lawless has quashed speculation of a reboot

At the other end of the spectrum with regard to female characterisation, actress Lucy Lawless has played down speculation that her iconic series Xena: Warrior Princess is undergoing a reboot at NBC. Sam Raimi was reported to be involved but Lawless later described it as a “rumour.”

She Tweeted: “Sorry, friends! News of a #Xena reboot is just a rumour. I’d love it to happen one day but it’s still in the wishful thinking stage.”

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