‘Home for Christmas’ Helmer Per-Olav Sørensen on Global Ensemble Drama Startup (EXCLUSIVE)

High-profile Norwegian movie, theatre and TV helmer Per-Olav Sørensen (“Nobel”, “The Saboteurs”) has turned into one of Netflix’s hottest Nordic collaborators and show-runners since 2019. After the hit Swedish thriller series “Quicksand,” Norwegian dramedy “Home for Christmas” 1 & 2, Sørensen is currently filming Yellow Bird U.K.’s untitled “Spotify” series for the U.S. streamer.

In between drama series, Sørensen has steered the filming of the Netflix Original Norwegian pic “Royalteen,” co-helmed by rising talent Emile Beck. Toplining the modern Cinderella narrative are Matthias Storhøi, Ines Høysæter Asserson (“Skam”), Elli Müller Osborne (“Utøya: July 22”), and Veslemø Mørkrid (“Occupied”).

Based on the YA novel “The Heir,” written as a book series by journalists Randi Fuglehaug and Anne Gunn Halvorsen, “Royalteen” also marks the first production made under new label Global Ensemble Drama, founded by Sørensen.

Seasoned producer Janne Hjeltnes, most recently attached to NRK’s youth show “Rod Knock,”which was crowned best series at this year’s Norwegian Emmys, has joined the Oslo-based shingle as CEO.

Sørensen and Hjeltnes talked Variety about their Global Ensemble plans.

Could you describe Global Ensemble Drama’s DNA and in what way the company stands out on the Norwegian and Nordic indie production scene?

Sorensen & Hjeltnes: The Global Ensemble Drama is a production company run by creative talent developing, creating and producing TV Drama, movies and documentaries. We join forces with international and global streaming platforms, broadcasters as well as domestic partners. We also develop and co-produce with a wide range of international studios and production companies, such as Fremantle.

The Global Ensemble is a cluster of creative companies that was founded as a result of COVID-19 restrictions. Many artists found themselves without any safety net, and even more of them found themselves to be extremely lonely during the pandemic. We decided to create a collective, a group of people coming together and aiming for collaboration across professions and projects. At the same time the industry is changing and rights for both actors and creatives are under pressure. We therefore decided to start four independent limited companies: An agency who represents over 100 talents; a production company for theater; ScopeGlobal, which produces commercials, music videos and social media content;  and of course The Global Ensemble Drama, which produces movies, TV drama and documentaries. You might say we are a huge creative hub!

What type of projects do you intend to produce – both genre and budget-wise, across film, TV and docs – and for what type of audience?

Sorensen & Hjeltnes: We don’t think start-ups like us have the luxury of being picky, so what we aim for now and over the next couple of years is activity, tempo, energy, courage, creative passion, and being open to serve the needs of the market. If there is a need for young adult stories or horror movies, we need to challenge our creative collective to see if we can create them. That said, we also have long term goals and ambitions. These clearly aim towards big drama productions both in film and in TV series.

Will diversity and representation be on your priority list?

Sorensen & Hjeltnes: It is not only on our priority list, this is the basis of our existence. But we like to call it “realistic representation.” Talent telling stories both behind and in front of the camera, need to mirror the world we live in. It’s as easy as that. But to get there in one leap, we need sometimes to invest in talents with less experience. We are willing to do that, because in a long-term perspective, this will be an advantage.

Could you detail your current slate?

Sorensen & Hjeltnes: The biggest part of our slate is not official yet, but in 2021 we are in production with three projects. The first one is the movie “Royalteen,” for Netflix Originals. This project is now already in post-production. In September, we start filming a TV series for a Norwegian broadcaster, and in December we start yet another TV series for a global streaming service. Since we were founded in February this year, we are extremely happy to get a kick-start like this. We are also involved in three documentaries and have three films in development at the Norwegian Film Institute. For 2022, we are working on closing deals for three movies, and three series as we speak.

Per-Olav how has been your experience so far of working with Netflix?

Sorensen: I am very happy with the Netflix working relationship. Since “Quicksand,” the two “Home for Christmas” seasons, “Royalteen” and the untitled “Spotify” project have come in pretty tight flow, we have been working very closely together. Then the pandemic hit and plans needed to be adjusted, and in one case this lead to parallel shoots. I needed Netflix’s blessing and adjustments to pull that off. But as we speak, I am shooting the “Spotify” project in various countries. This is a Yellow Bird UK production though, and has nothing to do with The Global Ensemble.

How do you intend to make the best use of talents across the Nordic region, to feed the growing appetite of global streamers and local broadcasters for outstanding storytelling?

Sorensen & Hjeltnes: Even if our base is Norway and the main part of our collective is based in Scandinavia, we are actively searching for talent outside Scandinavia as well. We work closely together with other European talents, and we hope to join forces with American and Asian talent in 2022. So, the answer lies within this. If we serve the global streamers with local content, it would not be wise to only focus on local talent and content. Since our productions are streamed globally, it opens doors to new partners, new talent and new constellations. We need to use this possibility to create new stories for talents both in the Nordic region and elsewhere.

How do you balance IP protection and maximizing rights potential across platforms?

Sorensen & Hjeltnes: It is in our core value to protect our IPs. This is our most valuable asset. But working close with, for example, global streamers, we need to acquire all rights from the creative forces in a project. This has to be done with the correct remuneration and respect, so the maximizing of the distribution is done on the right terms. This is of course not always easy, but we aim to find the right balance.

Ideally where would you like Global Ensemble to be in three-to-five years?

Sorensen & Hjeltnes: Hopefully we have been able to mix short-term activity with long-term planning, and have a solid slate of productions. But we also know we will change as a company in the years to come. In our setup with four independent limited companies, there will of course be a positive synergy effect, but still the companies need to adjust individually to the fast-changing market. So, we are open-minded when it comes to adjusting the companies both within and in relationship to potential new partners.

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