Nesbø and NRK end collaboration

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Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) has canned production of a four-year, multi-million dollar television series created by the multi-talented Norwegian author Jo Nesbø. With a budget of NOK 80 million,  Okkupert (Occupied) was set to be one of the most ambitious and expensive TV productions made in Norway.

Author Jo Nesbø was named "Årets Peer Gynt" (This Year's Peer Gynt) for 2013 and will receive the prestigious prize in August. PHOTO: Cato Lein

Author Jo Nesbø is known as a man of many talents. NRK, however, has dropped a TV collaboration involving Nesbø and a production company. PHOTO: Cato Lein

NRK was due to start production in autumn, and premiere Occupied next April. The series is set in a future Norway invaded by Russia, with the country’s oil resources under siege.

Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reports there has been friction between NRK and production company Yellow Bird over the series’ progress, design, the people involved, and the level of Nesbø’s personal input.

“NRK had thought that Jo Nesbø should be more present in the project,” Yellow Bird’s Marianne Gray told the newspaper. “Jo has long worked to develop the series, but he has other things going on. He writes books, he has a band and his career has exploded internationally …  It was an original idea of Jo Nesbø’s but it was not meant that he should write the whole series. He is a busy man.” Nesbø is also a former football player and worked as a successful stock broker before his crime novels went global. Nesbø is further known for his songs and children’s books, has been involved in movie production of his novels and has been lead singer in the highly popular Norwegian band Di Derre.

NRK’s Project Editor for external drama, Tone C Rønning, says not all projects under development end up being produced. “The sum of many circumstances has meant we’ve chosen not to go ahead with the project,” she says. “Sometimes a step back is a step in the right direction.”

While the collaboration has folded, both NRK and Yellow Bird say there’s no bad blood between the parties. “Nesbø is warmly welcome back to NRK,” says Rønning.

TV2 taking over
The series is not quite dead in the water, either. Dagens Næringsliv reports rival broadcaster TV 2 is in talks to take over production. “We are in final negotiations, and hope to land a final agreement in a short time,” TV 2’s head of communications, Jan Petter Dahl, told the newspaper. No date has been set for the series’ launch.

NRK’s Rønning is pragmatic about the program’s prospects. “If it becomes a huge success on TV 2, then I have made a bad decision, but if it’s a successful project, it is also for the benefit of all,“ she says.

The budget remains at NOK 80 million, far surpassing NRK’s 67 million kroner blockbuster Halvbroren (The Half Brother) based on the book by another Norwegian author, Lars Saabye Christensen. It was one of the most expensive productions in Norwegian TV history when it premiered in January.

Occupied will be financed by Yellow Bird’s sales company Zodiak Rights, French TV group Arte and TV 2, with support from the Norwegian Film Institute (Norsk filminstitutt). Further funding is being sought from the Nordic Film and TV Fund (Nordisk Film og TV-fond).

newsinenglish.no/Emily Woodgate