In February 2013, ZDF Enterprises (ZDFE) secured international distribution rights to Death of a Pilgrim, a four-part crime drama from Swedish public broadcaster SVT. Aired to great acclaim in Sweden during January, the series will be introduced to buyers at MIPTV with a full international launch at MIPCOM.
Fred Burcksen, chief operating officer of ZDFE, says Death of a Pilgrim is a dramatisation of the events surrounding the assassination of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme in 1986.
Although the Palme case has never been solved, Death of a Pilgrim sees a fictional crime team revisit the killing to see if they can shed new light on the story. “It’s still a hot topic,” says Burcksen, “so we’re very pleased to be representing SVT.”
ZDFE has a strong track record of selling Scandinavian drama and Burcksen is confident Death of a Pilgrim can sell as well as other top Scandi titles: “Scandinavian crime is a global asset that works well in markets as diverse as the US, Australia and Asia. I can see it fitting well into late-night free-to-air slots or on pay TV. It could also have a life as a scripted format.”
Asked why Nordic drama does so well, he says: “The first key reason is the quality of their talent – the writers especially. The next is that they spend their money on quality and give their talent time to do things properly; they really believe in what they do. I also think German companies like ZDFE have helped by stepping in as partners, going back as far as the Stieg Larsson trilogy.”
Proof that ZDFE really likes Death of a Pilgrim is that it has backed the project without a parallel commitment from ZDF. “Usually we go into projects like this together. But ZDFE was keen to speed up the process so we have gone in alone, which means the German market has not yet sold,” says Burcksen.
Burcksen will be hoping that the series can do as well internationally as it did at home. Premiering on SVT1 on Sunday, January 13, it reached 1.8 million viewers, giving the show a 50% share.
The show: Death of a Pilgrim
The producers: SVT with DR, NRK, YLE and Chimney Pot with support from Nordisk Film & TV Fond and the Nordvision Fund
The distributor: ZDF Enterprises
The broadcaster: SVT (Sweden)
Concept: Latest edgy drama out of Scandinavia: a fictionalised crime investigation into the real-life unsolved assassination of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme in 1986