Tag Archives: Modern Times Group

Black Lake

Swedish horror thriller Svartsjön (Black Lake) sees a group of friends experience a series of disturbing events when they visit an abandoned ski resort that was once the scene of a horrific crime. Jarowskij producer Emma Nyberg offers six things you need to know about the eight-part series with the help of writer Ulf Kvensler.

1. Black Lake is about student Hanne, 25, who follows her boyfriend Johan and some other friends to an abandoned ski resort in the northern part of Sweden. Johan plans to buy the place and reopen it. But strange things soon start to happen at the resort, leading Hanne to investigate why it was closed down on the eve of its opening 20 years ago. Johan is convinced locals are simply trying to scare them away, but Hanne feels there’s a deeper meaning to uncover. Soon, solving the mystery at Black Lake becomes a matter of life and death for the group and forces Hanne to confront demons from her past.

2. The show stars Sarah-Sofie Boussina as Hanne; Filip Berg as Johan (pictured top); Mathilde Norholt as Mette, Hanne’s elder sister; Valter Skarsgård is Filip’s younger brother, Lippi; and Victor von Schirach as Osvald, Johan’s best friend who is involved in a secret love affair with Lippi. Other cast members include Philip Oros as Frank, childhood friend to Johan and his new girlfriend Jessan (Aliette Opheim); Odin Waage and Anderz Eide as Norwegian brothers Jostein and Dag, who live in the area; and Nils Ole Oftebro as the mysterious caretaker, Erkki. Casting was carried out by Lovisa Bergenstråhle.

Writer Ulf Kvensler with producer Emma Nyberg

3. Ulf Kvensler, creator of the show, was inspired by films like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity: “I’m a big fan of horror movies, and especially the psychological kind where you don’t get to see very much but build the monster yourself in your head. It’s also a very cost-efficient sub-genre of horror. Paranormal Activity cost like US$15,000 to shoot and has grossed some US$200m worldwide. And it’s scary as hell!” He adds: “In the end, we didn’t go full ‘found footage’ for Black Lake. The broadcaster wanted a little more production value, and they also wanted to scale back the horror a bit to broaden the appeal. More focus was put on the mystery and on the relationships between the young people in the group. This was also necessary to have enough story for eight episodes. I think we found the right balance between the elements. Horror buffs probably think Black Lake is pretty lame stuff, but the regular audience definitely thinks it’s scary enough.”

4. The nature of the found-footage style means there is a documentary quality to the series. Kvensler explains: “Part of the attraction is that it has a documentary feel. When you frame supernatural elements this way, it makes them all the more powerful. So we wanted the dialogue in the show to have a very natural feel. We actively sought actors who enjoyed improvising and finding their own words to express the beats in each scene. And directors who also wanted to work that way.”

Star Sarah-Sofie Boussina as Hanne

5. Kvensler believes that in a ghost story, “the ghost should symbolise something that society as a whole is haunted by, something it wants to hide or forget.” He explains. “In Black Lake, that ghost is the relationship between the Swedish government and the indigenous Sami population in northern Sweden. In the first decades of the 20th century, Sweden was world-leading in racial biology, the purpose of which was to prove that Swedes were superior to the Sami and Finnish populations who also live in Sweden. German scientists, who would later be prominent during the Nazi regime, were inspired by their Swedish counterparts.”

6. Black Lake’s first run was a hit and a second is currently in development with Modern Times Group-owned broadcaster TV3 in Sweden. The series, distributed by Banijay Rights, also aired on MTG’s streaming video-on-demand platform Viaplay.

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Mipcom 2015: The peak of drama’s golden age?

Michael Pickard reflects on Mipcom 2015 and finds that while the huge supply of television drama shows no sign of abating, the business is getting much more complicated.

Was this it? Was this the peak of the latest golden age of television drama? Walking through Cannes this week for the annual Mipcom market, it was difficult to imagine what the next step might look like. What could possibly be around the corner that would make Mipcom 2015 look like a mere stepping stone to an even higher standard – a platinum age?

The evidence was there from day one, or more precisely, 08.00 on day one when hundreds of television executives took every last seat inside a screening room at the Majestic hotel to watch ITV Studios Global Entertainment’s flagship new series, Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands.

Shiri Appleby in Cannes promoting UnREAL
Shiri Appleby in Cannes promoting UnREAL

This was the morning after the world premiere the night before of The Art of More, US VoD platform Crackle’s first foray into original drama that distributor Sony Pictures Television later revealed had been sold to 25 territories around the world.

Further screenings included crime thriller The Last Panthers, shopped by StudioCanal and Sky Vision, 20th Century Fox Television Distribution’s The X-Files, CBS Studios International’s new Showtime drama Billions, Starz’ The Girlfriend Experience, Endemol Shine International’s The Frankenstein Chronicles, Electric Entertainment’s period drama Mercy Street and Constantin Film’s young-adult novel adaptation Shadowhunters.

Many of the on-screen stars were also in Cannes to support their shows. Dennis Quaid and Kate Bosworth were on La Croisette to support The Art of More; Kieran Bew, Joanne Whalley and Ed Speelers championed Beowulf; Game of Thrones’ Iain Glen was promoting his new Australian drama Cleverman; and Stephen Rea and Tuppence Middleton spoke on stage during a session for the BBC’s epic new period drama War and Peace.

Shiri Appleby and Constance Zimmer also flew into Cannes from the US to promote their Lifetime drama UnREAL, which is sold by A+E Networks, while Riley Keogh was talking about The Girlfriend Experience.

The Girlfriend Experience's Riley Keough
The Girlfriend Experience’s Riley Keough

As the market played out, there were also no end of programming deals done and new partnerships formed. SundanceTV joined Sky and Canal+ as a coproduction partner on The Last Panthers, A&E picked up The Frankenstein Chronicles, Globo Brazil’s La Fiesta (The Party) travelled to buyers across Latin America, Asia and Europe, while Ale Kino+ in Poland grabbed rights to Franco-Norwegian political thriller Occupied.

Elsewhere, Germany’s ZDF landed The Missing, Finland’s YLE picked up Mr Robot (arguably one of the most sought-after series at this year’s market), France Télévisions added police drama No Offence and TF1 came on board RTL’s Hitler biopic. There were also more sales for Cold War series Deutschland 83.

But perhaps the deal of the market was pulled off by Israel’s Keshet International, which sold new eight-parter False Flag to Fox International Channels – the first time the broadcast group has picked up a foreign–language series for its global network.

The Palais itself (main image) and the nearby hotels were adorned in billboards promoting drama from around the world. The next big entertainment format might have been there too – it was hard to see.

Iain Glen attended to support Cleverman
Iain Glen attended to support Cleverman

But we knew this already. We knew there is more original drama being produced around the world than ever before and that audiences have an apparently insatiable appetite to immerse themselves in story. And we knew that, thanks to FX Networks chief John Landgraf’s summer briefing that sparked ongoing debate, this content bubble might burst in the next couple of years. Viewers might never have it so good again.

So despite the glut of international productions being pitched to potential buyers, new challenges emerged. In particular, the necessity for broadcasters to have on-demand and catch-up rights as well as linear is proving a tricky hurdle during negotiations.

During one panel highlighting buyers’ needs, Katie Keenan, head of acquisitions for Channel 5 and Viacom UK, said: “One of the biggest challenges for us at the moment is the ability to give our viewers the access when and where they want it. That’s a key focus for me.”

Jason Simms, senior VP of global acquisitions for Fox International Channels, echoed: “It’s not just the rights but where and how you can watch it. Buying wasn’t rocket science when I first started but it’s getting closer because of the technology. You have to keep on top of it.”

Tuppence Middleton spoke about the forthcoming War and Peace
Tuppence Middleton spoke about forthcoming BBC epic War and Peace

However, Jakob Mejlhede, exec VP of European broadcast giant Modern Times Group’s programming and content development, plotted a different course: “We want to secure good, strong catch-up rights but, having an SVoD service, it’s also in our interest that we guide our users behind the subscription window. It’s not in our interest to have a very long catch-up, we want a couple of weeks and then to bring them behind the subscription window.”

Mejlhede went on to say that although there’s plenty of demand for drama, the supply is perhaps too high: “There’s so much I can’t figure out what’s out there and what I haven’t watched. I think it may slow down a little bit.”

And, ultimately, it doesn’t matter how many dramas are available on the international market if the type of show you’re looking for isn’t there.

Mejlhede continued: “Generally there’s big difference between linear and online viewing. On linear, there’s a shortage of the good old procedurals. The last big launch we had was The Mentalist. Online, there’s much more room for experiments and serialised shows.”

Fox International Channels during a Mipcom panel
Fox International Channels’ Jason Simms during a Mipcom panel

Television drama continues to dazzle and amaze with fresh and innovative storylines, backed up by bigger budgets that are needed to create new, fantastical characters and the worlds they live in. Indeed, we’re running out of precious metals to describe the times the genre is living in.

If a show is good enough, it will always find a home, particularly now in the age of VoD platforms such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. But they can’t buy everything, and if traditional broadcasters can’t find the show that fits their need, or win the rights they want to go with it, we could see either a downturn in production, more development deals between broadcasters eager to own rights from the start, or a mixture of both. We’ll have to wait until Mipcom 2016 to find out how this drama plays out.

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