PODCAST: Permafrost – the first co-developed Nordic drama podcast

Podcast listener numbers are increasing, along with the
offering and number of platforms. The Nordic public
service providers can offer proximity to their own culture,
their own language and recognition. The development process is now in full swing to produce the first pan-Nordic drama podcast. This is Permafrost.

Why don’t we collaborate more on Nordic audio content? Anders Stegger says that this thought occurred to him quite early on. He took up his post as DR Media editor in 2020, and his responsibilities include fiction podcasts.

“The natural explanation is, of course, that you can’t add subtitles when the content is purely audio. But that doesn’t mean we can’t work together on larger development projects,” he says.

There’s also the risk that too many cooks spoil the broth. That’s why the development work takes place in Sweden.”

Anders Stegger, DR

If we each make a version of the same elaborate script, everyone should get a better product. Anders Stegger remarks that the field of podcasts has little money at its disposal, but if the Nordic providers combined their resources more often and leveraged their common brainpower, this could eventually lead to amazing projects.

No sooner said than done – he arranged a meeting with Swedish Radio and NRK. “Send me something good that you’ve done,” he urged them. SR provided something that made Stegger’s ears prick up – this could be something big.

More Nordic elements in the script

Permafrost was pitched to SR by the production company Munck as a fictional podcast. A research team has travelled to Siberia to study the tundra.

In 2020, Anders Stegger took up his post as Head of DR’s drama podcast offering. Why don’t we collaborate more? he asked himself. The process is now underway to strengthen the bond between the podcast editorial teams at the Nordic public service broadcasters. Foto: DR

Suddenly, their colleagues back in Scandinavia lose contact with the dispatched group. There is complete radio silence. A rescue team is sent to Russia to find out what has happened. After several discussions, DR and NRK came on board. And so did the Nordvision Fund, granting the project development support in November.

“Now we’ve received funding to develop it further and see whether it will add something extra if we give the characters different Nordic nationalities, or if what they discover in Russia has anything to do with Scandinavia. We’ve asked the developers of the podcast to look at how we could incorporate the Scandinavian countries into the story without having to include a meeting halfway across the Öresund Bridge,” says Anders Stegger.

National versions and actors

How do you make co-developed podcasts appealing across the Nordic countries without spoiling the story? Apparently, the solution is to make three national versions with different actors for each country. “There’s also the risk that too many cooks spoil the broth.” That’s why the development work takes place in Sweden. DR and NRK make suggestions and share ideas along the way, but otherwise we try to take a step back when decisions are made,” says Anders Stegger.

Huge demands on acting abilities

He sees clear opportunities for the drama genre in podcasts. av befolkningen lyssnade på. I Danmark väntar vi fortfarande på vår första fiktionshit.”

“In Finland, Yle has had great success with the fiction podcast Radio Sodoma, which a quarter of the population listened to. We’re still waiting for our first fiction hit here in Denmark.”

Telling a story using only audio is very demanding, Anders Stegger remarks.

“In a TV series, a few poor lines of dialogue are no big deal, as long as the visual narrative is stunning. In a podcast, you only have the credibility of the audio to rely on. This puts huge demands on the actors. If you’re already familiar with the actors, you might have an image of them in your head from their previous roles, and then it won’t work.”

This is only the start

Before long, DR’s contact with Swedish Radio also meant that another Swedish production, Exorcismen i Eksjö, caught the Danish team’s attention. DR’s listeners will soon be able to enjoy a Danish version of this fascinating Swedish podcast series. Illustration: SR

However, this has not prevented Anders Stegger’s eagerness to find exciting new drama projects for the podcast department – quite the opposite, in fact. His contact with SR and NRK has already led to another collaboration.

“I’ve just commissioned a production based on Exorcismen i Eksjö, which was made by SR. Its name came up when I was talking to SR and NRK.
They sent me it, and I thought it was brilliant. So now the scriptwriters in
Sweden are working on a Danish version. In a way, this is also the result of our collaboration within Nordvision,” says Anders Stegger.

Permafrost (DR)
Co-producers: NRK and Swedish Radio
Production company: Munck
Development support: EUR 20,000