EXCLUSIVE: Trom creator Torfinnur Jákupsson is turbocharging his quest to place the Faroe Islands on the global film and TV map.
It’s been a whirlwind year for the man who first came up with the idea for hit thriller Trom while working at a fish factory when he was 16. Deadline can reveal his now-one-year-old production shingle GRÓ Studios – the first of its kind in the Faroes – has built a development slate featuring around half a dozen projects including one set in the U.S. and UK.
The writer-producer is now a fixture at major TV and film markets and will be shopping the new projects over the coming months.
More than anyone, Jákupsson can be considered the person responsible for beginning the quest to put this tiny Scandinavian Island – population 53,000 – on the global screen map, and things were given a further shot in the arm recently with a much-desired improvement to the tiny nation’s tax rebate. In the interim, the Faroes could be seen as the backdrop to major scenes in the climax to James Bond movie No Time to Die, and more recently played host to some of the filming for Disney+’s Peter Pan & Wendy.
“People are showing more and more interest in having the Faroes represented when I speak to them at markets and festivals,” Jákupsson tells Deadline in the days leading up to Cannes. “Trom has given good exposure to a new, albeit small, market. This is a fledgling industry but it’s growing fast and we have lots of talent.”
For a nation with a population akin to your average small British town, the Faroes is punching well above its weight.
Jákupsson’s GRÓ is now pivoting global by shopping a U.S./UK-set period crime drama about a legendary Liverpudlian conman from New York-based writer Kanika Oung. Although it is currently on pause due to the writers strike, Jákupsson is seeking a UK co-producer.
The GRÓ slate features two other contemporary crime dramas with an international scope, Jákupsson tells us, along with a pan-Nordic geopolitical thriller centered on the unlikely role of the Faroe Islands in securing the stability of the North Atlantic and the Arctic region, and a legal drama about economic collapse, mass emigration and secession from the Danish kingdom.
Couple that with two feature films – a Nordic neo-Western set in the Faroes and a Denmark-set social thriller – and Jákupsson and his team have their work cut out.
“The common thread here is the sociopolitical element,” he explains. “These projects look at Scandinavian society from a slightly different angle and aren’t limited to the Faroes.”
The projects are in various stages of buyer conversation and development. Given that the Faroese contribution tends to barely make up a quarter of the budget, Jákupsson says the time is ripe to look beyond the Scandinavian shores for co-production money. The UK is a particular target, he says, pointing to the Faroes’ connection with the nation due to the British occupation during World War Two, which was dubbed Operation Valentine.
“[UK buyers] are showing interest so now it is a matter of that link [between the Faroes and UK] being reflected in story and characters,” he adds. “We are looking at new models and thinking about how we can produce high quality but at a cheaper price point that utilizes local talent.”
With greater “international collaboration,” Jákupsson believes “the next generation” of Faroese talent can be trained up.
He has come a long way since his fish factory days when the idea for Trom first came to him. Given its humble beginnings, one of Deadline’s seven Global Dramas To Watch 2022 has been a runaway success, picked up by Viaplay, the BBC and ZDF amongst others. The series, which is currently waiting to hear on a second season, is based on the Hannis Martinsson novels by Jógvan Isaksen and follows a journalist as he investigates the murder of his daughter.
“I felt like a naive village idiot believing so strongly in my project when I took it to market but I come from an entrepreneurial family,” explains Jákupsson. “The fact it has done so well has been a surprise.”
He says Trom’s success is partly derived from its treatment of the Islands as a character in its own right, turning the nation into “an integral part of the story.” In the future, he envisions the Faroes providing the perfect backdrop to a horror film, or fantasy drama.
The U.S. writers strike may be grabbing all the headlines but a less publicized stalemate between unions and streamers in Denmark is currently keeping the likes of Trom Season 2 on hold.
While Jákupsson would love to make more Trom, he acknowledges that the Scandinavian and U.S. labor crises could be a boon for the Faroes. “Denmark is in the EU but the Faroes are not, so Danish productions could come here to produce,” he adds. “This is a matter of how we promote ourselves without going against the Danish unions. We don’t want to make enemies.”
These factors, coupled with the lifting of the cap on a government tax rebate that previously had a ceiling of just 200,000 Krona ($30,000) per year, means the future is bright, Jákupsson says.
He forecasts a lofty three-to-five productions per year in the nation within the next five years and views small production hubs with similar rebates such as Iceland and Ireland as nifty exemplars for the Faroes to follow.
“They have become big industries over short periods of time and that is very inspiring,” he adds. “Now we need to establish an industry that benefits all parties and has good facilities, which will help with the next generation of Faroese filmmakers.”
Armed with a hefty development slate, this entrepreneurial “village idiot” and his GRÓ Studios have no time to waste.