Noemi Ferrer, Executive Director DR Sales: “We are public service and proud of it”

We have no content that we don’t want to sell. That creates a fantastic spirit.

NOEMI FERRER
We are DR Sales / PHOTO: DR
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Noemi Ferrer, Executive Director DR Sales: “We are public service and proud of it”

We are DR Sales / PHOTO: DR

In this exclusive interview, Ferrer discusses DR Sales’ DNA, strategy and hottest titles across documentaries, TV drama and kids programmes.

Seasoned film & TV executive Noemi Ferrer joined Danmark Radio’s international sales arm in 2020 as TV Drama Executive Producer, before being promoted as Executive Director. The polyglot has transferred to DR her long experience in international deal-making, gained through her earlier positions notably as Head of International at the Danish Film Institute and Financing Manager International Co-productions at Zentropa.

You’ve joined DR Sales two years ago. How has the adjustment been for you, coming from feature film, and then taking overall responsibility for DR Sales after working solely as Executive Producer on the premium dramas?
Noemi Ferrer: There are two aspects to my job: Being part of a team and my actual work itself. Joining DR sales’ team has been a great and inspiring experience for me. Everyone is super committed and passionate about the public service remit, working for the interest of the general public. Also, we have no content that we don’t want to sell. That creates a fantastic spirit.

The second aspect is work itself. Interestingly enough, what I’m doing now is not so different from my earlier work. A lot of people are old acquaintance as many producers have switched from film to TV or work in both sectors. Also, at DR Sales, we often come in at an early stage, and there, it’s all about rights, how to work in the cleverest way with rights.

How many people are now working full time at DR sales across all your departments-fiction-docs, kids/youth and formats?
NF: We are nine people including myself. We have three sales executives: Mette Bjerregaard, Freja Johanne Nørgaard Sørensen and Camilla Maria Saabye Krog. Then Kim Christiansen handles documentary co-financing and co-productions, Lykke Fogtmann is our legal manager, René Grau Nielsen handles deliveries, Nanna Lykke marketing and press, and Frederik Rune Kristensen is our office and festival manager. I run everything across financing of drama, documentaries, animation, and kids.

Today what are the areas that you focus on as sales arm of Danmarks Radio? In recent years you seem to have refocused on DR’s own content across all genres…
NF:
To make it short: we are public service and proud of it. We focus on selling series, docs, kids and youth programmes, content that is both entertaining and important to tell.
About 75% of drama is produced in-house, then for documentaries, the share is roughly 50/50%, and in kids and youth it is 100% in-house. Naturally these shares can change if we find a super interesting project.

Kids content is 100% Danish. In drama, we don’t produce or commission outside of the Nordics. And in docs, although we are open to content from other countries, in the end, we only commission Nordic documentaries. Our profile is therefore quite clear - public service and Nordic.

What type of competitive MGs do you offer indie producers of TV drama?
NF: We can’t compete with global streamers, but what we offer producers is a different type of collaboration on top of classic MGs. We ask them: what is your financing plan and how can we help you finance your project in a smart way? We tell them we know other major players can offer you handsome cash up front, but do you want to recoup afterwards or not? How keen are you to safeguard your rights and strengthen your company and assets on the long term? Many producers respond well to this proposal.

Then transparency is key. We are very clear about what sales can be generated, how far we will go with rights. It gives a lot of calmness to have this approach. We don’t rush people into deals.

DR is still reshaping its drama strategy. How have you been navigating this transitional period?
NF: We have three series in production: the in-house event series Carmen Curlers, ordered for three seasons, and Norwegian shows State of Happiness 2 produced by Maipo Film for NRK and Everything You Love produced by The Oslo Company for Discovery. We also have the Danish realistic drama Outlaw from Strong Production/Splay One, that premiered at the Berlinale Series Market Selects programme and will compete at Series Mania. There are upcoming shows that I can’t mention.

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Noemi Ferrer, Executive Director DR Sales: “We are public service and proud of it”

Outlaw, Besir Zeciri, Maria Cordsen / PHOTO: Stephanie Stål Axelgård

How are you doing so far with Carmen Curlers and when will you launch it?
NF: We teased it at MIPCOM and have had strong reactions. We have concluded pre-sales that we can’t announce yet. We will show two episodes probably late spring. It’s a sunny series, not light, but joyful and entertaining, with a message. Beyond the story of the famous electric curlers, invented in the 60s by an entrepreneur [played by Morten Hee Andersen] it’s about housewives from a small community who join the workforce. It is typical of DR’s distinctive high-quality drama. The show in post-production will air in the autumn on DR.

You’ve been quite active in youth drama content. Can you outline your strategy in that growth segment?
NF:
We have actually decided to launch a new label called ‘Next Generation’. We’re focusing on stories created by young talent, about young adults. This is the case with My Different Ways, Outlaw and Everything You Love. We will also have a super interesting project coming in the autumn. These stories tick the public service box, because they are entertaining, and tackle important themes - loss, how to fit in, diversity, and they have super interesting talent on both sides of the camera. Their short format also gives more flexibility for binging or scheduling.

Since 2020, you can exploit DR ‘s back catalogue across all rights, including VOD. How has this impacted your revenues?
NF:
DR has strived for more than seven years to clear VOD rights that we finally got back in 2020. DR’s iconic titles The Killing, Legacy, Unit One, Borgen - are locomotives, driving our entire line-up. Then Covid-19 has also helped boost our back catalogue.

DR’s cult series Borgen is currently in the headlines with its new season Borgen-Power & Glory, now airing on DR, before its global distribution via Netflix. How do you use this momentum to exploit the full line of Borgen rights that you still handle?
NF:
It is definitely rekindling the interest-but it’s been going on ever since DR announced the production of SAM Productions’ Borgen-Power & Glory.

How is the remake market? Your colleague Freja told me recently that this is a booming sector-with foreign distributors keen to grab risk-free IP with a quick production turn around…
NF: Our brands are iconic and the stories are universal so there is a huge potential for remake rights, which are handled by Camilla Saabye Krogh. But we can’t really announce the specific deals yet.

How are you adapting your documentary strategy to the digital revolution?
NF:
Streamers have fundamentally changed distribution, notably regarding documentaries. We are looking both at keeping the same collaboration with indie producers and at the same time, at boarding other types of documentaries, as streamers are looking at different subject matters. We have to adapt to the changes in the market. Eventually though there will be more places to sell our documentaries too.

What can you say about your new focus on impact distribution?
NF:
We work on selected projects that depict or examine social, political, or environmental issues, in collaboration with impact partners like interest groups, decision-makers, museums, educational institutions etc. The goal is to engage people and eventually to foster change.

For instance, DR Sales’ Mette Bjerregaard collaborated with Whale and Dolphin Conservation, the German Ocean Foundation, Plastic Change and Greenpeace on Robin Petré’s From the Wild Sea. Documentary filmmakers of course want to sell their films, but they also have ideals to make the world a better place. This is what we facilitate.

Regarding kids content, DR seems to be keen to boost animation…
NF: Yes DR made a call two years ago to attract kids animation content. The first project that was selected is Team Nuggets, produced by Sparre Productions for DR Ramasjang that we are handling. We select only projects that have good ratings, and potential internationally. We have 5-6 ready-mades and two titles in production. We will make a big push at MIP Junior.

What will be your main titles at CPH:DOX and MIPTV?
At CPHDOX we have The Chocolate War by Miki Mistrati, competing for the F:ACT Awards, All that Remains to be Seen by Julie Bezerra Madsen, competing for the Nordic:DOX Awards, and Terroir to Table by Rasmus Dinesen in the Danish: DOX section.

At MIPTV, which we will attend physically this year, we will focus on State of Happiness 2, Carmen Curlers, Outlaw and Everything You Love.

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Noemi Ferrer, Executive Director DR Sales: “We are public service and proud of it”

Carmen Curlers / PHOTO: DR
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