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MIPCOM: In Denmark, Drama Rules

The Killing Season 3 Premiere Mireille Enos Paper - H 2013
Carole Segal/AMC
"The Killing"

Piv Bernth, head of the country's leading broadcaster Denmarks Radio, says concerted effort to encourage producers to take creative risks lead to "The Killing" and "The Bridge."

Denmark is an incubator of dramatic talent -- and now we know one of the reasons. At Denmarks Radio, the main broadcaster, there is a concerted effort by commissioning editors to encourage producers to take risks and jump into unknown waters.

So said DR's head of drama Piv Bernth, who was speaking on a program buyers panel Wednesday at Mipcom in Cannes.

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Her team is responsible for overseeing or investing in a number of highly regarded drama series of the last few years, including The Killing and The Bridge, both of which have been formatted and aired on U.S. cable -- AMC and FX, respectively.

"I never tell the writer what to do," she explained. "Yes, we give notes, but unless something is going wrong or off the tracks, we have to trust the creatives "

As a major broadcaster in the region, DR has managed essentially to lock up the 8pm time slot on Sundays for its original dramas; audiences have come to expect to see the freshest fiction go out at that time.

When asked about The Killing, Bernth said she believed her producers needed to have instilled in them the ambition to create the best TV in the world.

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What prompted them to undertake a series in which the resolution and discovery of the killer takes 200-odd episodes was "exasperation," she said.

"We had gotten fed up with murder series, procedurals in which the case was neatly tied up at the end of each episode. For us it had gotten boring and mechanical."

Not that there aren't lessons to be learned from this type of show.

"I told them to take five things from these hours and go forward -- be innovative and courageous."