(Editor's note: This interview was conducted just before the global outbreak of the coronavirus.)

Meta Louise Foldager Sørensen set up her Copenhagen-based company Meta Film in 2010, which now has outposts in Stockholm and London. Since 2014, she is also CEO of the TV drama production outfit SAM Productions, co-founded with writers Adam Price, Søren Sveistrup and Studiocanal, and last year she launched with Price A&M Productions, dedicated to non-scripted lifestyle, culture and kids programmes.

Her production credits include Lars von Triers’ Antichrist, Melancholia, Nikola Arcel’s A Royal Affair,  Björn Runge’s multi-awarded film The Wife. TV shows to her credit include Ride Upon the Storm (DR), Pros & Cons (Viaplay), Below the Surface (Kanal5), Something’s Rockin’ (TV2 Charlie), the Netflix shows Ragnarok and upcoming crime drama The Chestnut Man

We did this interview with Sørensen just as Netflix confirmed the commissioning of Ragnarok season 2, and before the coronavirus global outbreak.

You have an impressive workforce of 33 people working for SAM Productions, Meta Film, including 9-10 producers. Could you detail how you set your various projects in motion across your various brands?
Meta Louise Foldager Sørensen
: SAM is dedicated to TV series, Meta Film to feature film and we’ve launched the new company A&M with Adam Price in May which handles non-scripted content. Within Meta Film, we’ve also started to work on documentary films, under the supervision of Mille Haynes [former head of CPH:LAB] who joined us in 2018.

We have a strong development department with seven people at SAM. I’m deeply involved in developing and initiating projects with that team, in collaboration with my partners Adam, Søren and Studiocanal.

At Meta Film, we have three people in the development department. Then we have either full time or freelance producers that we attach to various projects. It’s a very organic process and we discuss both their availability, their interest, and where they are in their career. If a producer is keen to work in crime, then we decide to put him/her on a crime project.

We also have in house post-production producers, working with our new post-production department, who take over all post-production activities, so that producers have more time to concentrate on producing.

Each person seems to be selected based on his/her potential ability to lift a project and his/her own personal development…
MLFS: Absolutely. We try to understand how each person in our company can develop as an individual, what they want and can achieve, how a project can be a vehicle for them to develop their career. Sometimes employees come to me and say: ‘we’ve had another job offer’. We then discuss if they should take that job or not. Our relationship is based on trust.

Is this also the kind of relationship you have with talent, a relationship based on trust?
: Yes. Sometimes it’s better to let someone go for a while, let this person explore his/her creativity elsewhere, and if they have trust and love, they will come back. I know that giving trust and freedom is beneficial for everyone.

Pernille Munk Skydsgaard who has a strong experience in production and distribution joined you in December. What exactly will be her tasks at Meta Film and SAM?
MLFS: We’ve known each other since university. We’ve worked together before, when I started Meta Film. She approached me last year and we had a project that was perfect for her. It’s an asset for us to have her on board as she has a background in production as well as in marketing and distribution. She will help us launch projects in the market on top of producing. She is attached to several projects, including a feature film that we will announce later this year and a TV series in development.

You've always been a true creative producer, working very closely with top talents such as Lars von Trier, Nikolaj Arcel, Pernille Fischer Christensen, Björn Runge. What makes you board a project or decide to invest time in a particular project or person?
I actually don’t know! Gut feeling is one thing I guess. But in my work, every story or person is like a piece of a puzzle. When I hear about a story, I have pieces of the puzzle in my head, and will do my upmost to put them together. I do have a long experience of combining creative and financial pieces together. When I see how to make things work, who I should approach, which actor etc, it’s the most joyful part of my job.

You've produced more TV series in recent years than feature films. What are the pros and cons of producing for TV drama versus film today?
MLFS: When I started with SAM six years ago, I thought TV drama was basically like long features. Now I know how different it is. I had to start all over, learn how to work with different formats, genres, languages, locally or globally. Business-wise there is much more going on in the TV drama world today. But I do believe that film will catch up again and that the walls between film and TV series will collapse to give way to one big storytelling environment, where financing will be more fluid.

Could you expand on the differences that you’ve experienced while working in film & TV drama?
MLSF: For the moment, for film financing, you need 8-12 investors. Whereas for TV series you have two-three financiers, or one if you work with a major streamer, and if the series is a success, you can do several seasons and have secured income and work for several years. This is not the case with feature film. Even if you put a great film together, you have to start again from scratch for the next project - unless it’s a franchise. This brings insecurity, especially in Denmark where financing of film has changed quite a lot.

Another big difference between film and TV drama is that in TV, the main commissioning broadcaster has the final cut, whereas in film, the director has final cut. Therefore, directors who insist on having the final cut and see themselves as auteurs, feel more at ease working with feature film than TV drama. This also impacts the kind of movies that are being made, which is why cinema today is perhaps more a space for artistically creative talents.

What films do you have in development or production?
I don’t want to announce anything. I need to greenlight projects before announcing anything. We will have Scandinavian projects this year and most probably an English-language UK co-production next year.

Do you have a first look deal with SF Studios?
I do have a deal with them and we work very closely, but it’s not an exclusivity.

At SAM, how do you split your tasks with Adam and Søren?
We are all co-owners. I run the company on a day to day basis and they sometimes bring projects to the table, as creators and writers. They also come up with ideas that are then written by other screenwriters. They follow the projects as creative producers. The biggest task is to optimise the use of their time so they can make the most out of it.

You’ve produced for Netflix Ragnarok seasons 1 created by Adam Price, season 2 was just greenlit, and you have Søren Sveistrup’s book The Chestnut Man to be turned into a six-part TV series for them. How is your relationship?
At the beginning, I was a bit apprehensive to work with such a major group, and I thought that the numerous Netflix employees in Amsterdam would interfere with our decisions. But now that we work together, I can say that they are extremely collaborative, kind, respectful of the creative process and all are working for the benefit of the project. It’s a wonderful ride. We’ve had a huge success with Ragnarok and are very happy to do season 2 with them.

Regarding The Chestnut Man, we decided to do it with Netflix even before Ragnarok 1 was finished. We are very proud to have two series with them and look forward to starting production on that project.

How different is it to work for a global platform like Netflix?
MLFS: One of the big differences is that Netflix is American, with an American working culture. So for instance, our perspective of time schedule is totally different. They think we have a lot of free time. We don’t. As CEO, I want to make sure our employees have the best working conditions because I want to attract and keep the best people. I don’t want to push our employees into working late hours, or during vacation etc.

Also Netflix are the only big financiers. Once they agree on a project, at an early stage, everything goes very fast. For instance with The Chestnut Man, they loved the book and we made a deal. It was greenlit and it will happen. From early development, we go straight to commissioning, which is a huge advantage for the creative process. We can approach talents and tell them: ‘we are going to do this project. Do you want to be part of it?’ which is hugely different than saying do you want to work with us so that we hopefully can make this happen? We are like 5-6 weeks ahead when we work on a Netflix project.

Creatively we discuss the entire project together - like with any traditional broadcaster - but again, a major difference is that they have a different perspective as global distributor. They think how can this story, this cast, come across on the other side of the world. This is new for me and it’s actually very interesting. You think of casting in a different way. A national broadcaster will suggest a local star to attract the local audience, but that local star will be an unknown face to a Chinese or a Brazilian audience. So a Netflix series gives more space for new talent to break through.

Studiocanal handled Ride Upon the Storm, Below the Surface, Pros & Cons, Something’s Rockin’. How do they feel about your Netflix relationship?
They control 25% of SAM and are involved in all our decisions. They are very happy about our relationship with Netflix. Studiocanal is the sister company to Canal+ who also has a good working relationship with Netflix.

How do you see TV drama evolving - and SAM Productions - in three years from now, with the inflation of prices, race for talents and peak TV around the corner?
I was surprised to see how a local series such as Ragnarok can be distributed around the world and how successful it can be. Netflix does see the fantastic potential of local original content and they have contributed to breaking down the language barriers. The market is totally different than 10 years ago and there are so many more players to work with.

I have great hopes for the future. On a personal level, foreign language productions make me more curious for instance than American shows. Every time I open a US show, I feel I have seen the same streets, the same characters before. Now, I can follow an Israeli, or a Portuguese character, and it’s so much fresher. I believe there will be even more co-productions, between different territories.

In feature film, a film like Parasite that won several Oscars has been a game changer. This is also thanks to language barriers being broken.

On another topic, you've contributed largely to the #MeToo debate in Denmark. Do you feel things have improved and at your own level, how do you make sure gender equality is a reality?
In our company we do statistics - how many female writers, directors, producers etc. we have; we even count the lines for female/male actors. The #MeToo movement has made huge changes in mindsets and this will be beneficial for the younger generation. #MeToo was a reaction to thousands of years of gender inequality. It was time to say: Stop! But there is still a lot of work to do.