MIPCOM: FremantleMedia Starts Sales on 'Modus,' 'Capital'

Modus Still - H 2015
Courtesy of FremantleMedia International

"There’s a social relevancy to our story," says star Melinda Kinnaman of the new 'Nordic Noir' show produced by Miso Film.

FemantleMedia International (FMI) has launched international sales on Swedish psychological drama Modus and British drama Capital as the company continues to push European dramas.

The focus on European properties follows the immense international success of German spy show Deutschland 83, which aired on Sundance and was the first German-language show to air in the U.S. and has sold to the U.K.

Modus, an adaptation of the hit Anne Holt crime novels which have sold 6 million books worldwide, premiered in its home country of Sweden to a 37.2 share. It stars Melinda Kinnaman (sister of The Killing star Joel Kinnaman) as a criminal profiler and Marek Oravec (Captain America: The First Avenger) as a religiously-motivated killer.

The series was adapted by International Emmy-winning writers Mai Brostrom and Peter Thorsboe. In adapting, the challenge for the duo was to find a way to change the novels without upsetting longtime fans of the hit series. The result was a time shift. They are "building the Anne Holt universe," said Miso Films Swedish head Sandra Harms, taking characterization from the first film and plot points from the fourth.

While dark dramas have become the standard Scandinavian product, Modus focuses on family relationships and the personal perspective of Kinnaman’s character and stays away from the police investigation format in an attempt to develop the genre past the procedural. There isn’t a police station in sight.

It is one of the challenges of exporting drama, said Miso Films co-founder Peter Bose. The show is pre-sold to Germany’s ZDF, which co-produced the show, Norway, Denmark and Benelux.

"We can’t do a Swedish or Danish or Norwegian show without having the financing in place like we had on this show," he said about the deal with ZDF. "We can’t take it for granted that we will sell the show internationally. I know that we have succeeded over the last 10 years because of the success of Scandinavian drama, but it’s not given that you can recoup like 30 or 40 percent of the budget through international sales." The pre-sales and co-financing made the show possible. FremantleMedia took a majority stake in Miso in 2013.

Such an arrangement also gives international broadcasters approval rights and can lead to cross-cultural conflict — and cooperation. Both commissioning broadcaster Sweden’s TV4 and Germany’s ZDF have been involved in the development process. "It’s a close cooperation, but of course there can be conflicts," he said. "Sometimes Scandinavia is a little bit more free and prepared to do things a little more over the edge as opposed to Germany which can be more traditional."

"Nordic Noir" has become a catchall phrase for any of the cold-climate crime, but the countries have different traditions in storytelling, said Harms. Using Danish writers, who come from serialized storytelling, in a Swedish market that is used to 90-minute closed episodes has created a new voice said Harms.  “It might be one step in a new direction,” for the Denmark-based company which launched their Swedish arm last year.

It also focuses on political issues, religious radicalization, parenting an autistic child and gay marriage. "There’s a social relevancy to our story," said Kinnaman. "I have to say I’m quite tired of sexual killings, there is so much of that in police TV series. This is another angle." The show is all dark shadows, white snow and the Stockholm skyline.

The result is a show that Miso and Fremantle expect to sell wide across Europe, with the U.K., France and Spain in its sights for MIPCOM.

FremantleMedia head of drama says the company is "very confident" in non English-language shows after the success of Deutschland 83. "The world’s a very different place now." The company also sees it building a franchise brand under the Modus name and after the Holt books.

Capital, from Life on Mars and MI5 producers Kudos, was made for BBC1 and is also launching at MIPCOM. It is based on the novel from John Lanchester and sees intertwining stories take place on a single street affected by immigration, income inequality race and class.

"It’s very topical and of the moment because it’s all set on a London street, but that street could be anywhere in the world," said FremantleMedia's head of drama Sarah Doole.