In the past, Finnish drama has always been in a slightly different position from Nordic and European productions. It focused more on producing domestic drama aimed at the home audience. And with the same budget that DR, NRK or SVT required to make a single drama series, Yle would be able to produce three different series.
Liselott Forsman is a consultant on international co-productions at Yle.
“The general feel of Finnish drama was different from that of other Nordic productions,” she explains. “The other Nordics used to joke that life was too short for Finnish TV drama, but the audiences in Finland really appreciated their own stories. Yle TV1 would present more social realism and urban fiction, while TV2 included warm-hearted, lighter and more rural-based shows in their schedule. It was as if TV1 catered for the brain, while there was more room for the heart on TV2.
Today, Yle has succeeded in combining both,” says Liselott Forsman. Current audiences are very familiar with international TV drama, and this has also helped to modernise Yle’s shows as part of a natural process.
More drama for youth and young adults under way
Jarmo Lampela is Head of Drama at Yle and has been with the Finnish broadcaster since 2015.
Prior to this, he was professor and Head of Department at Aalto University in Helsinki.
“Yle plays a unique, national role and has an opportunity to create and produce Finnish drama. Through my position, I have specifically chosen to make a case for international co-productions. Another important aim is to offer opportunities for new as well as younger talents. Drama has an established audience, and I also believe that it’ll get new devotees online and through new types of media channels,” he says.
In recent years, Yle has experimented with new ways to reach younger viewers on the platforms they already use. A new drama format on Instagram has been particularly successful.
“The number of titles we offer to young adults has seen a dramatic increase in the past two years. We have Dragonslayer 666, Has been, Karma and Goals360, which were made for platforms other than Yle Areena. We’ll continue to develop drama for social media in the coming years. People aged 29 and under will be a key target group for all our genres,” Jarmo Lampela explains.
He reckons that the greatest challenge is to reach young adults who are used to accessing content on any available platform, mostly through recommendations. Studies show that audiences appreciate Yle’s content – the real challenge is how to become a part of consumers’ daily lives.
Is an international breakthrough just around the corner?
Ever since Jarmo Lampela began work on this project, he has focused on strengthening the image of Finnish drama, both in Finland and beyond. The Nordvision partners have decided to strengthen Nordic drama through a new initiative called Nordic Twelve, and Jarmo Lampela is very grateful for this.
“Nordic Twelve is a great gift to Yle’s audience. We’re proud to be able to present so many top quality Nordic drama series. At the same time, it allows us to air some of our own drama productions in the other Nordic countries. I believe that N12 will become a shop window for Finnish shows with modern narratives, just waiting to be discovered by the other countries,” he says.
According to Liselott Forsman, the rest of the world is starting to take note of Finnish drama, not least the special melancholy that often prevails in these productions.
“In Finland, we often want to be like the other Nordic countries, while people across the Nordic region and Europe seem to appreciate that Finland is a bit different. Finnish comedy shows that have been up against the BBC in several Rose d’Or finals in recent years have featured touches of the Slavic dark and absurd. At the same time, they are Nordic in content. Our drama and thriller series often contain a distinctive melancholy, which is now attracting interest in the rest of Europe,” she says.
More international co-productions on the way
Engaging in their own international collaboration is one of the keys to strengthening Finnish drama. Right now, Yle Drama is working on three co-productions of this kind.
“For instance, we’re co-producing a series with Chilevision – a historical drama about young Finnish diplomats in Santiago de Chile during the Pinochet coup in 1973. At Yle Drama, we believe in creating more quality drama with unique storylines. Finnish talents will be given the chance to film abroad, working with international teams,” Jarmo Lampela concludes.