LevelK has boarded the dark comedic drama “The Kidnapping of a President” by Finnish director Samuli Valkama (“No Thank You”), the company announced this week in Helsinki. The film, which is produced by John Lundsten (“Renki”) and Melli Maikkula (“KilJuset”) for Tack Film, is based on the incredible, pulled-from-the-headlines story of the abduction of the first president of Finland.
In a director’s statement provided to Variety, Valkama noted: “‘The Kidnapping of a President’ tells an absurd and comical story based on real events about how in October 1930, a group of Finnish top echelon military officers went drinking and decided to kidnap the first — and already retired — president of Finland, Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg. The plan went south right at the outset,” he continued, “as the incompetent crew recruited for the task were forced to allow the stubborn wife of the president, Ester Ståhlberg, to come along. This kicked off a bizarre series of events, the absolute and complete truth of which may never be discovered.”
Valkama said the film will take a comical approach to dark themes, “as if the Coen brothers made a film about Finland in the 1930s.” The story, he added, will have a contemporary resonance, as it deals with “the rising right-wing sentiments of our society and depicts how words suddenly transform into actions.”
The acquisition marks a strategic shift for LevelK, which will begin to board selected projects at earlier stages in order to shape the script in development. According to the company’s acquisitions and development executive Mark Tucker, the goal is to maximize a film’s sales potential through positioning and market research while strengthening the collaboration between the company and its producer partners.
“Our experience is that producers really value that meaningful creative engagement on script discussions to help shape their project from a market perspective,” Tucker told Variety. “For example, we look at how to strengthen particular characters to attract cast, shaping clarity in genre, elevating certain elements we know buyers and market will respond to, and where we can cut to avoid inflating the budget. This allows us to position as a preferred international partner and ensures that our creative vision of the project is aligned as we move into production.”
Speaking during the Finnish Film Affair, which takes place in Helsinki Sept. 20 – 22, Tucker added: “We particularly love working with our Finnish partners. There is something quite special about how they perceive the world, which permeates the film output. It’s a unique style that transcends genre and makes for a bold and dynamic body of work.”
The company also outlined its new strategic approach for Variety. After development and prior to pre-production, head of PR and marketing Natascha Degnova will work from the shooting script to make a detailed sales and marketing strategy, which includes identifying target audiences, positioning, setting benchmarks and developing other measures to maximize a film’s distribution prospects.
By getting in at an early stage, said Degnova, “we can guide [the producers] towards market relevance and timing, as well as necessary and beneficial marketing elements for both theatrical and streaming platforms, so that the film can reach its full potential.” That includes consultation on marketing material, such as still photography, so that the Danish outfit can offer guidance on “what distributors want, what will sell and what will work in trades as well as on streaming platforms, where the images are small and have more competition.”
LevelK founder and CEO Tine Klint added that the new strategic approach aligns with a core company value and “builds strong working relationships and trust within the producing team.”