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Toronto: ‘Trapped’ Creator Baltasar Kormakur on Getting Into TV and Celebrating Iceland

Toronto: 'Trapped' Creator Baltasar Kormakur on Getting Into TV and Celebrating Iceland

A small town. A brutal murder. A troubled detective trying
to solve a crime as his personal life simultaneously unravels. Between “The
Killing,” “Broadchurch,” “Secrets & Lies,” and a half dozen other crime
dramas hitting the airwaves over the past several years with similar
descriptions, limited-series are far from unique during this “Golden Age of
Television.”

READ MORE: TIFF 2015 Joins the TV Festival Fray with New ‘Primetime’ Program

Where Baltasar Kormakur’s “Trapped” stands out, however, is
in the simple fact that the show is uniquely Icelandic in tone, feel and
landscape. So naturally, Americans are already lining up to get on board.

The 10-part series bowed this week at the Toronto
International Film Festival as part of the program’s inaugural “Primetime”
component. “Trapped,” along with Argentinean series “Cromo,” NBC’s “Heroes:
Reborn,” Hulu’s “Casual” and French series “Les Revenants” were the initial
projects featured as part of the festival’s TV extension.

As it turns out, debuting for North American audiences at
the festival was the push Kormakur — already known in Hollywood for film
offerings like “Contraband” and the upcoming “Everest” — needed in order to
take his first television series to the next level. Immediately after “Trapped’s”
debut at TIFF, the Weinstein Company announced it had acquired U.S. distribution
rights, joining BBC, ZDF and France Televisions in Europe.  According to Kormakur, that’s just the
beginning.

“The remake rights are not a part of this deal,” Kormakur told
Indiewire. “They want them, but it’s not part of this deal. There’s a bit of a
biding war over that.”

“Trapped” revolves around a small town police officer named
Andri (played by Ólafur Darri Ólafsson), whose team discovers a dismembered
body on the same day he learns his ex-wife is returning to town with her new
boyfriend. As the hours in the day count down, a huge snowstorm also hits the
town, trapping him, his two daughters, the townsfolk and an entire ferry of
potential murderers inside the town walls. A succinct title to describe those
events, it’s also a metaphor for Andri’s personal life; he’s trapped living in
his in-laws’ basement with his girls in the same small town to which he
originally migrated for his ex-wife’s sake.  

“It’s a great stage because in a village like that, everyone
has a history,” Kormakur said. “There is a connection or a past more or less
between everyone. The backbone is a thriller, which is always good because
nobody’s going to come and see a drama.”

For Kormakur, developing “Trapped” under the banner of RVK
Studios, his new production company, was not only a chance to branch out from
film, but an opportunity to showcase Icelandic talent and capture the essence of
his home country. That meant using the breathtaking snowy backdrops and natural
elements in his favor, and hoping that the weather cooperated.

“In Iceland, the weather is the biggest character you deal
with every day,” he explained. “There’s nothing more relevant in your life than
what kind of weather it is. One of the challenges to shooting this show was to
actually get the real storms. You can’t really create that with wind machines.
So we needed a heavy snow.”

The first day Kormakur arrived on set, the weather obliged
with a heavy storm. It was the perfect opportunity for Kormakur (who directed
the pilot and the finale as part of his original production deal) to get out
there and shoot most of the pilot’s final scenes, which involved a car- and
foot-chase scene in the blistery outdoors.

“The weather is not a headache to me, it’s a challenge,” he said
of those impressive outdoor shoots. “I love dealing with the elements because
they make everything organic and real. That weather is our reality.”

Murders and snowstorms aside, at its center “Trapped” is
very much a character drama revolving around Andri and the people in his life.
Should the show carry on for a second season (which Kormakur would happily do),
the police officer will remain the heart and centre of the series. Ólafsson,
who has been gaining traction in Hollywood as of late, may not be the typical
A-List leading man with charming good looks and a trim figure, but according to
Kormakur he’s been the talk of the ladies back home regardless. Coming back
home to work is a welcome change for both producer and actor now that they’ve
escaped their own battle with the elements. 

“The thing about Iceland is that we are trapped there
anyway, all of us,” Kormakur explained. “We have been trapped there for
thousands of years. The storm is more of a hook and a sell, but in the end it’s
about the character.”

READ MORE: The 2015 Indiewire TIFF Bible: All the Reviews, Interviews and News Posted During The Festival

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