Beta has pre-sold sprawling Finnish drama series “Estonia” to Germany’s broadcaster Seven.One Entertainment Group, the parent company of ProSieben. This acquisition marks the start of a collaboration between Beta and Seven.One Entertainment.
The eight-hour drama, about the deadliest civil maritime disaster in recent European history, is now in its third week of shooting.
Produced by Fisher King, a subsidiary of Beta Nordic Studio, the drama charts the sinking of the MS Estonia on September 28, 1994 which claimed the lives of over 850 people. The series also chronicles the tentacular investigation launched in the aftermath of the tragedy.
Miikko Oikkonen (“Bordertown,” “Helsinki Syndrome”) created the series based on numerous testimonies of survivors, which were classified until recently. The story is told though the perspectives of survivors, investigators and journalists.
“Estonia” reunites the creative team behind “Chernobyl,” including award-winning Swedish director Måns Månsson (“Snabba Cash”), cinematographer Jani-Petteri Passi and the VFX company DNEG.
The series is being directed by Månsson and Finnish director Juuso Syrjä (“Bordertown,” “Helsinki Syndrome”). It’s currently shooting in the world’s most advanced indoor water stages located in Belgium, and will continue in Turkey, Finland, Sweden, and Estonia.
“Estonia” stars Katia Winter (“Dexter,” “Sleepy Hollow,” “Agent Hamilton”), Jussi Nikkilä (“Love and Other Troubles”), Peter Andersson (“Jack Ryan”), Arndt Schwering-Sohnrey (“Inglourious Basterds,” “Who Am I,” “The White Ribbon”), and Pelle Heikkilä (“Invisible Heroes”), among others.
Speaking to Variety during the shoot, Månsson said he was compelled to overcome his initial fears of committing to such a complicated, emotionally charged and multi-national project once he found out he would be working again with a “world-class team,” Passi and DNEG.
“Like ‘Chernobyl,’ there’s definitely some action, but it’s all about the characters,” said Månsson. “It has to be meaningful, otherwise why make a series about a disaster?” He said directing “Estonia” was a “cathartic experience” because the sinking of the ship caused a trauma in Sweden and is still considered an open wound due to the fact that the lengthy investigation that was conducted by Sweden, Finland and Estonia never determined a cause for the tragedy.
“The sinking of the MS Estonia is one of the great unsolved tragedies of recent times and thus offers plenty of room for conspiracy theories. This is gripping material that moves anyone who comes across it,” said Henrik Pabst, CCO of Seven.One Entertainment Group.
“Having already had a veritable hit on ProSieben and Joyn with Månsson’s series ‘Chernobyl,’ I’m delighted that we can also present his new project Estonia to our viewers and users on our platforms,” Pabst continued.
Justus Riesenkampff, executive chair of Beta Nordic Studios, said “Estonia” marked a milestone for Fisher King and for Finland. “It’s a totally new level. ‘Estonia’ has a budget that’s three times higher than average Finnish series,” said Riesenkampff, adding that it’s also Fisher King’s most ambitious show to date.
“It’s one of the biggest mysteries in the region and is still a very relevant story to this day so we knew we had find an angle that was different from the usual romance and sinking ship plot,” said the executive, who praised the show’s “unique approach,” as well as its “fresh and contemporary way of storytelling.”
“Miikko Oikkonen was able to access real testimonies about what went wrong and how this could have happened, so the series pulls audiences inside the ship, like a fly in a wall,” Riesenkampff continued. He pointed ProSieben seldom acquires non-U.S. shows at such an early stage. “They hadn’t pre-bought this kind of Europeans investigating drama in a while and they were interested by the team behind ‘Estonia,’ especially Mans who was second unit director on ‘Chernobyl.’”
Martin Håkansson, CEO of Beta Nordic Studios, described “Estonia” as “one of the most demanding and aspiring production coming out of Finland” and said it “sets new standards for Scandinavian productions” due to its “way of approaching the story so truthfully and the talented creatives attached.”
“The unsolved case of the disastrous sinking of the Estonia and its complex investigation remains relevant to all audiences today,” Håkansson continued.
“Estonia” is executive produced by Matti Halonen and Johannes Lassila of Finland’s leading production house Fisher King, in co-production with Martina Stöhr and Petra Jönsson at Sweden’s Kärnfilm AB, André Logie of Belgium’s Panache Production, and Estonian Amrion Oü. The show is also co-produced with C More Finland and Sweden, TV4, MTV Finland, and Telia Estonia, in collaboration with Beta Film, which is handling world sales.