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Apple Tree Productions is building a reputation for internationally appealing scripted, in partnership with ITV Studios

As one of the driving forces behind The Killing and The Bridge, Piv Bernth was instrumental in putting Scandi drama on the map. In 2017, a decade after The Killing’s breakthrough, the former theatre director teamed up with fellow Danish producer Lars Hermann to launch Apple Tree Productions in partnership with ITV Studios.

“When ITV Studios approached me, I was excited because I felt it would take the projects I was working on into a new league,” she recalls. “We shared an ambition to tell high-end stories that really stand out and avoid being generic.”

Piv Bernth, Apple Tree Productions_CC

Piv Bernth

Apple Tree currently has 10 projects in development. Its breakthrough came with Netflix’s 2020 drama Equinox, a supernatural thriller based on an audio drama.

Apple Tree then delivered a second Netflix series, Baby Fever. “It’s really exciting that we have other projects with them,” Bernth says. “Netflix understood the delicate balance between sincere emotion and humour. It was exactly what they wanted and they were very helpful in supporting us. They’re highly respectful of the process, of the creatives, in every way. They guide you, they suggest things, but they know that the final decision will be with the creatives.”

Apple Tree got off to a flying start in 2023, with crime drama Blackwater – Best Series winner at Series Mania – for Sweden’s SVT and Chorus Girls for Denmark’s TV2 launching within weeks of each other. 

For Bernth, these two very different shows hit the local-but-universal sweet spot that makes for internationally appealing storytelling.

“People had tried to get the rights to Kerstin Ekman’s novel Blackwater for 20 years – it’s very Swedish, very Scandinavian, but at the same time, it’s a universal story about displacement and silenced relations, and how the next generation has to cope with the past. It has all the thriller elements, and a good sense of humour.”

Chorus Girls

Chorus Girls

With Chorus Girls, Bernth used a familiar backdrop to dig deep into some rich characters. Focusing on eight dancers in a musical revue in the 1970s, it eschews the obvious path of intense rivalry to show an intimate support network.

“It’s got really balanced and nuanced storytelling and it points out a lot of things that refer to the Me Too movement to show that some of it hasn’t changed that much,” she says.

Global stories

Bernth is energised by how much the market has changed, with streamers showcasing swathes of international drama that makes the world feel a little smaller.

“The audience has seen much more of the world. They know more references, and they know that other people are somehow in the same position all over the world,” she says. The flipside is that producers find themselves in an aggressively competitive market with tight budgets, and new shows have to shout loudly to catch viewers’ attention.

Bernth meets with the team at ITV Studios a few times each month to discuss her projects and potential financial partnerships, while the global ITV Studios labels meet regularly throughout the year. “To exchange all kinds of ideas is very inspiring. We feel that we are part of a new and very nice family,” she says.