Filmlance’s Hanne Palmquist

One of Scandinavia’s leading production companies, Filmlance, owned by Banijay, has been providing local broadcasters and platforms as well as international streamers with critically acclaimed movies and drama series. Among its best-known titles are The BridgeBeckThe Sandhamn Murders and Caliphate. Hanne Palmquist, managing director and executive producer, talks about the evolution of Nordic noir, the broad range of Filmlance’s storytelling and the portrayal of more nuanced female characters.

***Image***TV DRAMA: How have you seen Nordic drama evolve?
PALMQUIST: There has been a massive evolution in Nordic drama over the years. We had success here at Filmlance early on with our long-running hit Beck. The popular detective drama first launched in 1997 and still does brilliantly. The region was put on the international scripted map with the classic Nordic noir series Wallander and The Killing. We saw this expand with critically acclaimed, popular shows like The Girl with the Dragon TattooBorgen and our very own The Bridge, of which we are incredibly proud.

Crime is still a very strong genre in the Nordics, as it is everywhere. There’s a good engine in these stories; that’s just a fact. As well as the classic approach, at Filmlance, we also produce what we call ‘blue-sky crime,’ such as The Sandhamn Murders. We have been producing the show since 2010, and it travels internationally via Banijay Rights. It’s a long-running series that is still crime but has coziness, feel-good elements and drama as well. Our other returning, legendary title in this vein is Beck, which we have made 50 films of, with 51 through 54 now in preparation.

When I think of what we have in the pipeline and what interests us, another genre is the thriller, which can also be more international in scope. We’re really excited about our forthcoming slate, especially Fallen, which sees part of the team from The Bridge reunite with writer Camilla Ahlgren and lead star Sofia Helin, who became known worldwide for her role as Saga Norén. We believe it has all the right ingredients to be a local hit for C More and TV4 and beyond in other territories, with Banijay Rights on board to distribute. We also have Taelgia for SVT, where in the Swedish town of Södertälje, families, police and criminals are caught in a crossfire of loyalties, demands and guilt. Meanwhile, some young people are trying to find a way to a better life. Surrounding the adult criminals are the younger ones, the runners. They sell drugs and rig getaway mopeds until, one day, they are forced to take on more dangerous missions with a mixture of fear and pride. It’s a very powerful piece written and directed by Jens Östberg.

Overall, the evolution of scripted in the Nordics has traditionally focused on social realism and crime series, and that’s still our main area. When we have the chance, we do branch out, as we have creatively with Ronja the Robber’s Daughter for Viaplay, and we’ll be partnering with Hans Rosenfeldt (The Bridge) again for this one. We love when our friends return to work with us.

TV DRAMA: As a viewer, I love crime and thrillers. But I also like when shows delve into not only who did it but why they did it.
PALMQUIST: I totally understand your perspective as a viewer and agree 100 percent. There are a lot of shows out there which focus on theories about the ‘who,’ but it is far more interesting to also explore the motives behind the crime. The psychology and complexity of the human story add a whole new layer to the narrative. We have a history of shows which delve into this space, with The Bridge, Caliphate, and it is what we are seeking with Fallen. These shows create a more nuanced and thought-provoking experience, rather than the simplicity of a whodunit-type storyline.

TV DRAMA: What stories are Filmlance interested in pursuing?
PALMQUIST: Our business is primarily built on creating and producing series that examine complex characters, societal issues and human drama. We like to pursue ideas that have a strong focus on character development and to get the audience to think critically about the world around them, just as we did with our HBO series Beartown, which goes to uncomfortable places exploring how a small community could be complicit in a serious crime—without being judgmental or losing empathy for the characters in the town.

One show we’ve fallen in love with recently is Ronja the Robber’s Daughter, based on an Astrid Lindgren book, the author of Pippi Longstocking. She wrote many books besides Pippi, and Ronja the Robber’s Daughter is famous because it is a universal story about how friendship can change your life, can give you the strength to go against expectations and change a way of living that has been set by generations. It’s also a story of how to become part of nature which is very contemporary right now.

One of the things I love about Ronja is that it is a family adventure, and this is something we rarely have the chance to create and produce at Filmlance, especially on this grand scale. We’re in production for two seasons on Viaplay, and it’s a great joy to have the possibility to create an entire world and a more long-running story that we know already has a fan base, and we look forward to bringing Ronja to new audiences too.

TV DRAMA: And it’s in production now?
PALMQUIST: We’ll deliver the first season in late 2023 and the second season in the fall of ’24.

We have a broad slate of shows at various stages of production at the moment. Our portfolio covers everything from blue-sky crime and family fantasy to crime and political thrillers. We’d love to do more shows along the lines of Caliphate from a few years back, and we feel Taeglia, in its own way, has the potential to fill that creative spot.

We continue to produce Beck, which, as I mentioned, came about before Nordic noir. It’s a crime story that stems from a more social-political place. The first seasons were based on the characters from the books by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö between 1965 and 1975. It’s not just an ordinary crime series, as it also examines problems in society and is based on real-life issues that we can relate to.

The second season of Top Dog, our crime thriller based in Stockholm’s underworld, launched recently on TV4 Play. Viewers love the complex characters and relationships, as well as the gritty atmosphere of this show, and we collaborate with ZDF internationally. They’re a significant player across the region and have always been a great partner on many of our shows.

We’re also still busy working on Fallen, and I expect you’ll be hearing a lot about it later this year. It’s been such a pleasure to work on this and collaborate once again with Camilla and Sofia on what is Camilla’s first original show.

TV DRAMA: I imagine being able to make shows for many more platforms has allowed for more types of storytelling, which includes different versions of women.
PALMQUIST: You’re absolutely right. The proliferation of streaming platforms has allowed for more diversity in storytelling, including the representation of women.  There has been a notable shift in recent years to showcasing more nuanced female characters who are not defined by their relationships with males.

I’m convinced that Nordic Noir played a significant role in this, making a big difference to women in the global TV landscape with characters such as Sarah Lund (Sofie Gråbøl) in The Killing, Saga Norén (Sofia Helin) in The Bridge and Birgitte Nyborg (Sidse Babett Knudsen) in Borgen. And we have brilliant female characters in Fallen and Ronja the Robber’s Daughter. Ronja is fierce and fantastic!