Finnish director Juho Kuosmanen, behind “Compartment No. 6” and “The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki”– both awarded in Cannes – will now turn his attention to new series “Yours, Margot.”
The upcoming series is one of the 10 projects chosen for Series Mania and Beta Group’s Seriesmakers.
Based on Meri Valkama’s novel, “Yours, Margot” will be produced, just like his previous films, by Helsinki-based Aamu Film Company, with “Compartment” scribes Andris Feldmanis and Livia Ulman also on board. This time Kuosmanen dissects the experiences of Vilja, who spent her childhood in East Berlin, following her foreign correspondent father. After his death, she finds old letters to “Erich,” all from mysterious “Margot.” Now, as an adult, she decides to return to Berlin and track her down.
“It’s a great story about a person who looks for the truth about her childhood years, but finds only different interpretations and contradictory memories. These characters share their past, but it’s hard to talk about it when your experiences are totally different,” Kuosmanen told Variety in exclusivity.
“I enjoyed reading this book a lot and felt it would work in a series format. There is a clear, pretty simple plot, but at the same time an interesting theme that goes deeper and deeper.”
“We used to feel so proud, saying that at Aamu, we only do features,” laughs Jussi Rantamäki, the company’s CEO.
“This move into series wasn’t some strategic decision. We both loved the book, but there are so many side characters – it just needed a wider scope. It wasn’t necessarily about saying that from now on, we will make more TV at Aamu or more TV with Juho, since he is already such an established filmmaker. It came from the content,” he says.
“When the artists we are working with come up with a new idea, we have to consider it – that’s our rule. Then, together, we are trying to figure out if it should be a feature, a short, or now maybe a series.”
While Kuosmanen already co-directed and co-wrote the 2022 show “Zone B,” alongside Siiri Halko and Khadar Ayderus Ahmed, he won’t share directorial credits on “Yours, Margot.”
“’Zone B’ was a short format TV series, it was a great project with a fantastic non-professional cast and a very collective way of working. I don’t really see our industry as so divided between series and cinema anymore, so I never thought of it as my ‘series debut.’ Actually, short format is super interesting and I would be happy to do it again some day,” he observes.
“In features, the responsibility lies heavily on the director’s shoulders. With series, I see it more as a collective work of art, with writers picking up a lot of this responsibility. It doesn’t mean it’s less interesting or meaningful; it’s just a different mindset. In this one I have been [involved] from the start and I have been working closely with the writers, so it’s not like directing episode 666 of ‘The Bold and the Beautiful.’”
The series, tracing the collapse of the German Democratic Republic, will still concentrate mostly on “the collapse of the family,” says Rantamäki.
“We will prioritize these relationships, because that’s what Juho does so well. If you look at his films, in ‘Compartment’ [based on Rosa Liksom’s novel] it’s all about this shared intimacy. In ‘Olli Mäki,’ you have a boxing world championship, but it’s all about two people [falling in love]. We will play with the same elements in the show.”
“We are still in very early stages, [but] let’s hope we will find enough money so that we don’t have to locate every scene in the trunk of a Trabant,” jokes Kuosmanen. “Compartment No. 6” saw two strangers stuck in a train from Moscow to Murmansk.
Open to collaboration with platforms, Rantamäki sees “clear co-production potential” in the story, which will take place in Finland and Germany.
“The main character will be Finnish and we will choose the actor we feel is right for the role, as it’s always the case with Juho. But when it comes to the German side, there will be a chance to engage celebrities, or at least actors that are internationally known,” he says.
With “Yours, Margot” selected for Seriesmakers, Aamu will bring another show to Lille this year: “Monster” created by Eva-Maria Koskinen, currently in development with YLE.
“We haven’t forgotten feature films – we just go for the stuff we love,” notes Rantamäki.
“We will see whether it’s a wise strategy or not, but if one day Juho comes to me with an idea for a Nordic Noir, I am sure I will find a reason to make it.”
“I love to work and when I see something interesting, I just can’t help myself. I’m happy to work with a producer who supports me and is willing to find a way to finance these projects no matter what the final form is,” notes Kuosmanen.
He is currently also focusing on his “own, dear” film festival in Kokkola, which he co-founded with Rantamäki, Maija Aho and Laura Airola. Its next edition will take place from Sept. 7-10, 2023.
“To be honest, I can’t plan my future. I’ve tried, but life has never followed my plans,” he says.
“I never thought I would do a boxing film. After ‘Olli Mäki,’ I decided to do something easy and ended up in the middle of a blizzard in Murmansk. After shooting ‘Compartment,’ I decided to have a long rest after its release… I have pretty much stopped planning.”