Fortitude - a case study

At a recent industry event on drama production, a case study was presented on the forthcoming television series Fortitude.

Patrick Spence, from production company Fifty Fathoms and executive producer on the show, gave an insight into how the drama came about and the challenges it presented - such as a distinct lack of snow and the looming presence of polar bears...

Stanely Tucci in Fortitude

The concept

Fortitude is a northern Arctic town, a place which has never known violent crime until a murder in the close-knit community touches everyone. Mistrust grows as the crime proves the trigger to uncovering Fortitude's darkest secret…

The series was conceived by Simon Donald, who originally had it in mind as a feature. When he told Spence about his idea, the producer was gripped by it but thought it would work much better on TV. "I thought he was trying to pack in ten hours of telly into a ninety minute film. I told Simon, 'This is for TV, no question'."

Finding the perfect film location - with snow

Although the series is set in the northern Arctic, the drama was actually shot in Iceland. It was filmed from January- June, when there is normally a certain amount of guaranteed snow - but…not this year. Spence said: "We had snow throughout pre-production and then, just a day before filming started, the temperature rose just slightly, rain came down, and the snow was all washed away. We had to bring snow down from the mountains and our fake snow budget just soared!"

Michael Gambon in Fortitude

Local knowledge

The exec producer spoke enthusiastically about the local crew and their skills. He was also keen to stress how vital it had proved to have good local knowledge of an area so remote and hostile, which he illustrated by telling how, after a long day's shooting and a particularly good evening in the bar, he and a couple of colleagues were walking back to the hotel when they were approached by a local officer with a rifle, telling them to get inside immediately as there was a polar bear nearby.

The series itself bears resemblance on the theme of the close-knit community they shot in: its divisions, secrets and strength. Indeed, the town in eastern Iceland in which they filmed has a small population of very tough, resilient people, all of whom have to prove that they have a very good reason to live and work somewhere so physically challenging.  

The cast

Spence was also full of praise for his casting directors and says that it was a revelation to cast Northern Irish actor Richard Dormer as the local head of police.

 "Finding Richard was one of the most exciting moments of my career," he said, before going on to explain that mastering a relatively obscure accent was quite a feat for the Game of Thrones actor.

Stanley Tucci plays an American detective living in London, who is flown in to aid the murder investigation. "When we saw Stanley doing that role, well, it couldn't have been anyone else," Spence said.

Listening to the producer it all bodes well for the Sky production. Now we'll just have to sit tight until January to see the finished product.

Fortitude was first detailed

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