Á vef Norræna kvikmynda- og sjónvarpssjóðins er rætt við Pálma Guðmundsson stjórnanda Sjónvarps Símans um áherslur í leiknu efni og verkefnin sem framundan eru. Hann ræðir meðal annars um áhuga sinn á að gera kvikmyndir sérstaklega fyrir efnisveituna, Sjónvarp Símans Premium og að styðja við handritshöfunda.
When did you start investing more heavily in original content?
PG: It was progressive. But from day one I did some deals that allowed us to be involved in the development before moving into financing. I commissioned Stella Blómkvist even before we became an SVOD platform. When we started to stay on the safe side we chose to invest in content based well-known IP, such as the Stella Blómkvist book series.
What is your budget for scripted content?
PG: Our annual commissioning budget for film & TV drama is around €1.5 million.
What is your commissioning strategy for original series in terms of genre and volume?
PG: Series are extremely expensive to produce so we need to attract the largest audience possible while focusing on authenticity. Also, in Iceland, indie channels are owned by Telcos. It doesn’t fit the image of our group Síminn to spend a lot of money on specialised content as it doesn’t draw enough viewership.We therefore focus on escapism, drama and comedy, and try to avoid content with high age restriction.
In terms of volume, ideally, I’d like to have two scripted series a year whatever the genre. I foresee that we will reach this level in 2020.
What about youth drama?
PG: We are buying animated kids content but haven’t entered youth drama. It’s a difficult group to cater to and it’s very risky. Of course we’ve seen the success of Skam, but for now, we prefer to stick to high-end drama.
Concretely how do you commission a show?
PG: In the initial stage, I ask producers and creators to pitch different ideas. I want to make sure we won’t take too much risk. Once I agree on a project, I let creators get ahead with their job. I think one of my strengths is to bring different people together that I trust.
Are you open to collaborations with other services on second windows or other territories?
PG: I have a rule: everything that comes to my table is always non-exclusive. The financing of high-end drama, especially with international partners, is way too complicated to hold projects on an exclusive basis. I don’t want to lock local talents and ideas for months or years and therefore stay open to all types of financial partnerships. For instance we partnered with Viaplay on Stella Blómkvist and have another project with them called Sisterhood. If we close the deal, we will have the first window for Iceland and Viaplay the second window and rights for the rest of the Nordic region.
Who are your various production partners and what projects do you have in your pipeline?
PG: We are working with all major local producers. Glassriver [co-owned by writer/director Baldvin Z] has produced the hit comedy drama Ordinary People for us; season 2 launched last month, is doing extremely well and we’ve supported the development of season 3. We have two other projects with them: the comedy My Funeral by local comedian Laddi, scheduled for spring 2020, and the international premium drama Atlantis Park [working title, previously known as The Trip], co-created by Baldvin Z [Case, Trapped] and Andri Óttarsson [Stella Blómkvist, Case]. It’s in pre-production.
With Sagafilm, we have the project Sisterhood and Stella Blómkvist season 2. We also have a project with Baltasar Kórmakur’s RVK Studios: DNA based on a book by best-selling crime novelist Yrsa Sigurdardóttir.
Do you invest in Nordic TV drama?
PG: Absolutely. We have bought Made in Sweden, The Hunters (Jägarna), The Truth Will Out (Det som göms I snö), Wisting and many more. Nordic content is getting better and better and we want to widen our offer. The EU is pushing us to get more European drama, next to US content, so this makes sense.
How do you feel about the arrival of the new streaming giants and peak TV?
PG: We are already well established in Iceland and have a strong network of relationships, but nothing is guaranteed.
What is your strategy regarding feature film?
PG: We buy mostly library movies from US studios like Fox, Disney, Paramount, next to independent quality films. I’m waiting for opportunities to invest in Icelandic films, to launch them straight to SVOD-bypassing cinemas. That will be our next step.
What other areas will you focus on in the future?
PG: Our goal is to support three new areas in the future: Icelandic feature film, documentaries and scriptwriting to help local writers hone their craft. We simply do not have enough of skilled writers in Iceland.