Icelandic Nightshift finds work at Norwegian broadcaster TV2
by Jorn Rossing Jensen
Already aired by Iceland’s Channel 2, Finland’s YLE-FST and the UK’s BBC4, Icelandic Sagafilm’s comedy-drama series The Nightshift has been licensed to Norwegian state broadcaster TV2, which will shortly start production of a remake – the first foreign version of an Icelandic programme.
When launched in 2007 ratings for the 12 episodes went through the roof on the saga island, and Icelandic director Ragnar Bragason (pictured) collected two Eddas – Iceland’s national film prize – for Best Television Show and Most Popular Television Show.
”What mostly attracted the foreign stations was the series’ unprecedented popularity in Iceland, and the interaction between the three main actors, representing archetypes most people know from their own lives. The setting is a workplace which it is always easy to relate to,” explained Sagafilm producer Kjartan Thor Thordarson.
Taking place on one location, a petrol station on Laugavegur in Reykjavik – ”always appealing to a cost-conscious buyer,” per Thordarson – the series revolves around the three hapless employees during the cold winter nights trying to avoid work and terrorise their few customers.
Bragason came up with the idea for The Nightshift and wrote the first series with Jóhann ÆvarGrímsson and the three leads Pétur Jóhann Sigfusson, Jón Gnarr and Jörundur Ragnarsson. They went on to make The Day Shift, The Prison Shift and a feature, Mr. Bjarnfredarson (2009), the second best-grossing film ever in Iceland.
Most recently the Bragason team (without Gnarr, who is now Mayor of Reykjavik) has finished World’s End, a drama series set in the early 1990s at a remote psychiatric hospital in Iceland, which after TV airing will be released on DVD on December 8.
Founded in 1978, Sagafilm contributed to profiling Icelandic production services, working on such international features as Batman Begins, Tomb Raider, James Bond movies A View to a Kill and Die Another Day and, most recently, Russian director Aleksandr Sokurov’s Venice winner, Faust.