Powered by its famed partners, Oslo-based Motion Blur, one of Norway’s top producers of commercials, features and TV shows, has never been that busy with projects both on home turf and in the U.S.
That activity in part rolls off the pulling power of the company’s pedigreed partners: “Karate Kid” helmer Harald Zwart; “Kon-Tiki” and “Pirates of the Caribbean-Dead Men Tell No Tales” co-helmer Espen Sandberg: and producer Espen Horn (“The 12th Man,”, “Amundsen”).
Minority shareholder SF Studios lends Motion Blur adds financial stability. The genre-bending outfit also boasts a unique bond with Netflix that has translated into three Norwegian-language orders over the past year-and-a -half from the U.S. giant.
Helmed by rising talent Jarand Herdal, chiller “Cadaver,” Netflix’s first Norwegian feature, premiered last October. Motion Blur’s vampire comedy show “Post Mortem: No One Dies in Skarnes” is launching on the giant streamer on Aug. 25. A third Netflix title, the film “Troll” by “Tomb Raider”’s Roar Uthaug, is now in pre-production.
“For each project we investigate every financial possibility; we’ve just been super fortunate to have excellent relationships with Netflix,” said Motion Blur’s Kristian Strand Sinkerud, who serves as a producer on “Troll” and “Post Mortem,” together with Horn.
“Netflix gives us the possibility to tell local genre-oriented stories to a global audience, something we haven’t been able to do before,” Horn added. “We’re lucky to have two huge writers-directors – Espen and Harald – as joint partners, but changes in the market have also given young talents a chance to put their stamp on innovative films and TV dramas,” he noted, referring to “Cadaver”’s Herdal, as well as “Post Mortem”’s head-writer and co-director Petter Holmsen.
Expanding on “Post-Mortem,” Horn said Holmsen first approached Zwart with the idea, and together with Sinkerud, the four of them brought the show to life. “This has been a fantastic ride. It’s a totally different show, quirky, funny, mixing genres,” the producer enthused.
The six-episode series follows a young girl Live Hallanger, born at a family funeral home, who is declared dead. Hours later on the forensic table, she suddenly awakens with a sudden urge for blood. While her brother Odd struggles to bury people in small-town Skarnes, Live discovers that her new-found dark nature can actually help her family stay afloat.
“It’s the type of vampire show you’ve never seen before, which dares to break some of the ultimate taboos people have about death,” Sinkerud claimed.
To familiarize himself with the “death business” in Norway, Holmsen spent years at a funeral home. “To have a more realistic approach to the average vampire show, we’ve asked ourselves: what if there were vampires in Norway, how would they live in our modern world, as we know it, with normal problems, how would they hide their blood thirst secret and blend in among us,” Sinkerud told Variety.
Asked what vampire shows or classics were in the back of their minds, Horn said their intention was not to be inspired by existing material, but to stay as innovative as possible.
Toplining the show are emerging stars Elias Holmen Sørensen (“The Oil Fund”) and Kathrine Thorborg Johansen (“Occupied,” “The Quake”) who developed a strong connection with Holmsen and took an active part in defining their characters. Co-stars take in André Sørum (“Home Ground”, “Witch Hunt”) and Sara Khorami (“What Will People Say”, “Seizure”).
Hinting at multiple seasons, Sinkerud said “Post Mortem – No One Dies in Skarnes” has “the potential for lots of other stories,” but it will depend on the viewing numbers after season one, he reckoned.
Meanwhile Uthaug’s “Troll” feature project is within weeks of start of principal photography.
Fully financed by Netflix, the big budget action-adventure is a dream project for “The Wave” director, who first had the idea for it on the benches of Lillehammer’s Norwegian Film School, nearly two decades ago.
Little has been revealed about the storyline, penned by Espen Aukan (“The Games”), besides Netflix’s logline, which mentions a thousand-years-old creature, destroying everything in its path, and fast approaching Oslo.
“The Finns have Santa Claus – we have trolls!” quips Horn, who describes the pic as Motion Blur’s biggest project ever. “This is a hugely important film for us and Netflix, and we’re proud to use Norwegian locations that will be an integral part of the story, anchored in Scandinavian folklore.“
He goes on: “We will use visual effect specialists from across Scandinavia, to make the film as great as possible. It’s large comfort to have international VFX competence in our own backyard,” added Horn.
Asked whether a theatrical window before the Netflix global launch would be an option, Motion Blur’s CEO said the U.S. streamer’s films rarely have a theatrical life before VOD, but “ultimately, it will be Netflix’s decision,” he stated. The global premiere is slated for 2022.
Projects in development on Motion Blur’s slate take in “The Happy Boy,” an action comedy feature by Sandberg, and a big international drama series based on Gert Nygårdshaug’s best-selling novel “Mengele Zoo,” with Sandberg penciled as concept director.
Part of a book trilogy, the eco-thriller turns on young boy Mino, born in the rainforest, who makes a living catching rare butterflies. When his community and family become victims of multinational companies wanting to exploit the rainforest, he turns into a avenging warrior.
“I had read ‘Mengele Zoo’ ages ago and loved it immensely, and even read a few film scripts as well. But it’s only when my son read the book and said I should do something about, that I started to work on it seriously,” observed Horn, who feels strongly about this urgent and relevant environmental story.
Motion Blur is currently pitching the book “to the biggest and most important studios, financiers and producers in the U.S.,” said Horn.
Sandberg had his international breakthrough with the Norwegian epic “Kon-Tiki”, co-helmed with Joachim Rønning, which was nominated for a Foreign Language Film Academy Award in 2013.