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Beta Nordic Studios takes 25% stake in Iceland’s Sagafilm


The Minister, Ráðherrann, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson / PHOTO: Sagafilm

The long-established Sagafilm will be joining Sweden’s Dramacorp and Finland’s Fisher King in the German group Beta Film’s roster of Nordic brands.

The investment in Sagafilm comes less than a year after Beta Film’s founder Jan Mojto announced the creation of a Nordic production hub, Beta Nordic Studios, to oversee its expansion in the Nordic region.

The Nordic group’s CEO Martin Håkansson will be joining Sagafilm’s board of directors, together with Justus Riesenkampff, EVP Nordics at Beta Film. 

This new partnership will allow Sagafilm to better access the international film and television markets - both as co-producer and line producer of foreign projects.

Meanwhile the mega indie German group Beta Film will be able to ramp up its production of quality TV shows and feature films, leveraged by its global distribution arm. 

Explaining his company’s drama strategy to, Riesenkampff said: “Being a distributor today is not enough; you need to get access to local content and talents. We believe in building a ‘federation’ of European production companies - mostly around TV drama - with each company keeping its independence. Today, we need partners with their own ways of doing things and we fully support them as partners." 


Beta Nordic Studios takes 25% stake in Iceland’s Sagafilm

Justus Riesenkampff / PHOTO: Beta Film

Beta Nordic Studios’ took a majority stake in Matti Halonen and Mikko Oikkonen’s Fisher King last October, and set up a joint venture with Patrick Nebout’s Dramacorp in 2016.

Established more than 40 years ago, Sagafilm has gradually upped its production ambitions, as part of its ‘make local go global’ strategy, surfing on the attractive 25% filming incentives in Iceland and spiralling number of local and international TV players.

Recent acclaimed TV shows include Stella Blómkvist (Síminn/Viaplay) and The Flatey Enigma (RÚV), both nominated for the prestigious Nordisk Film & TV Fond Prize for best Nordic screenplay, and Thin Ice, co-produced with Yellow Bird.

Sagafilm’s upcoming productions are the following:

  • political drama comedy The Minister starring Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, set to premiere on RÚV September 20.
  • crime series Sisterhood starring Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir, Jóhanna Friðrika Sæmundsdóttir, Ilmur Kristjánsdóttir and Lilja Nótt Þórarinsdóttir. The series commissioned by Síminn and Viaplay just finished shooting. Delivery is set for 2021.
  • crime drama Stella Blómkvist season 2 (Síminn/Viaplay) set to start filming early October. Heida Reed will reprise her role as the quick-witted lawyer of the titular name.
  • feature film Wolka, produced by Poland Film Produkcja. The film directed by Árni Ólafur Ásgeirsson (Undercurrent, Ploey-You’ll Never Fly Alone) just started filming in Iceland. It’s the story of Anna (Olga Bołądź), who gets released from a Polish prison. Once free, Anna has one goal: to find a woman called Dorota’ This means for her breaking her parole to travel to Iceland. Sagafilm CEO and the film’s producer Hilmar Sigurðsson said Wolka will be the first film about the Polish community in Iceland, which counts around 30,000 people.
  • Sagafilm’s upcoming series Signals which won the Best Pitch at London’s C21 Summit last year is still in the financing phase, with Channel 2 attached as Icelandic broadcaster.

Four questions to Kjartan Þór Þórðarsson, Sagafilm Nordic CEO

How long have you been in discussions with Beta Film?
KTT: In 2018 we decided it would be interesting for us to be part of a bigger group, simply because the industry is growing and the demand for financing is a bigger burden on businesses. Our local market is extremely important; this [partnership] is just a way for us to strengthen what we do on the local market and to grow on the international market, the way Dramacorp in Sweden and Fisher King in Finland have been doing. We’re extremely happy to have found like-minded partners in Beta Film and having Jan Mojto on board, someone with a particular taste for ambitious quality programmes, is very important.


Beta Nordic Studios takes 25% stake in Iceland’s Sagafilm

Kjartan Þór Þórðarsson / PHOTO: Sagafilm Nordic

So far Beta Film hasn’t handled any of your shows internationally. Will they have a first look now on your content?
KTT: That’s correct, Beta Film hasn’t yet represented our series internationally, although we’ve known each other for years and have always been in discussions. But distribution is a tricky business. It depends on what’s happening on the market at a specific time. So far we’ve worked for many different clients and have strong relationships with all distributors. This has been our strength. Beta Film just wants to be a partner and let us continue to work the way we’ve always done, which is why we’ve agreed to this partnership.

A year ago you signed a two-year multi-project deal with Comcast NBCUniversal-owned Sky Studios. What series are part of the deal?
KTT: Sisterhood, Signals are part of the deal, as well as another series-not yet announced.

Have your TV shows been distributed in Germany?
KTT: Actually, Germany has been a tough market for us to crack. It will be interesting to see if the partnership with Beta Film will open up the market for us.