Nordic crime in an enchanted forest: An interview with the creators behind Jordskott
A child goes missing and a gifted but conflicted cop becomes obsess with finding her. The cop is Eva Thornblad and the child is her daughter Josefine, missing for seven years when we join the show. Eva is the impulsive type, diving headlong into abandoned buildings and desolate tunnels with no backup, armed only with her smarts and her flashlight.
Jordskott is the latest drama series to emerge out of Sweden, and with its premiere in the United Kingdom last month, it is quickly becoming one of the biggest Nordic crime dramas, along with The Killing and The Bridge. Produced by SVT and set in the Swedish forests, this ten-part thriller is currently airing on ITV Encore.
We sat down with the series creator Henrik Björn and producer Filip Hammarström to talk all things Jordskott.
Can you tell us about how you came together on the series?
Filip: Henrik came to me with three pages of a cool idea and I really liked it so we developed it into a series. I’ve been through the whole process and read pretty much every script, version. I’ve pretty much been on set, so I’ve had more influence than other producers.
Henrik: I have been working as a director/script writer for TV-ads for quite some time. It has been a lot of fun and brought me to cool places around the world. But it came to a point where I wanted to create something greater, tell the kind of story I like myself. Nobody gives you these kind of projects out of the blue, so I had to create it myself. So I started writing and created the ‘backbone’ of Jordskott.
Filip: It started with a combination of mythology and the forest. It was Henrik’s childhood stories, actually. That his grandmother told him when they were in the forest. She would tell him ‘Lets take this way not that way – because they don’t want to be disturbed if you go that way.’ But it wasn’t anything that was scary, mothering will kill you if you go that way, just sort of a mutual respect for one another. And I think that was the essence there – having respect for the forest because the forest needs respect.
What do you think is the key element to the series success?
Filip: I think it has stunning visuals, which helps a drama that is subtitled and not in your native language. The visuals make it feel as though it has a real international quality so it’s like ‘okay this is something that is good enough for me!’. But at the same time, it is different. It has a touch and a tone to it that is different but familiar in a way. It has a crime element, but the crime element has something extra so it gives a feel of ‘what is this!’ – you want to know more about it. It has another element that brings you in, pulls you in. So I think those two elements combined really work for us. Also having the forest as a part of it – as an important character – everybody has the forest – there’s always these stories about the forest being unknown, and we explore that.
Henrik: Sweden is a large country with a small population. There’s a lot of nature out there. In a world where we de-forest and pollute I believe a setting of old, deep and living nature is really appealing. The Swedish nature attracts a Swede in one way, we recognise it and it evokes emotions and maybe even memories. For people abroad the setting is more exotic and mystical. In both ways, it works.
There is a strong atmospheric feel associated with the series
Henrik – I had a vision from the beginning – the importance to create a special ‘Jordskott-air’. I didn’t want us to copy, I wanted us to invent. So I told my crew I wanted every freeze-frame of the series to feel like Jordskott. This is accomplished when a lot of creative people work together, understand and follow one vision. My role is to be specific and clear with the vision, so there has been a lot of meetings, a lot of discussions. And step by step we all synced and ‘locked in’ on the Jordskott atmosphere.
What makes Eva such a strong and likeable protagonist?
Henrik: Eva is a character who has been through the worst loss and sorrow possible. She has sort of been in hell and returned. But she has chosen to survive it and fight on, turned the agony to impulsion, she is an efficient cop where she has turned her pain itno helping others. But she is still thin as a membrane when it comes to children in jeopardy. We don’t ‘explain’ Eva’s strength and driving force with for example pill abuse, alcoholism or a physical disorder, which is actually quite common when it comes to female protagonists. Eva is strong within herself. Also we can sense she is hiding feelings from us, maybe even from herself. This inner pressure is exciting to follow. Can we fully trust Eva? Moa Gammel portraits Eva in such a brilliant way – she is both so fragile and strong and brave at the same time.
When the series premiered in Sweden, did you imagine it being such a success?
Filip: We knew we had something different. The scripts were great. And then when we started shooting it was like ‘oh wow this is turning out great!’ and the editing it’s like ‘oh yeah this is something really new here!’. SVT aimed us to have a high amount of viewers – the aiming goal was 1 million viewers, which is already a big number in Sweden. But the first episode we got almost 1.6 million. So that was pretty cool. And, I guess, we were all surprised. Because you can sit there in the editing room and be like ‘I really like this’ but you can never know if your neighbours like it too.
The reception was insane – it was crazy. Pretty much every newspaper wrote about it – everyday during those ten weeks there was some article about the series. We were trending on Twitter, so every Monday-Tuesday when it’s airing that’s what everybody talked about. We got really great ratings and reviews so it was a crazy time in Sweden.
Henrik: We had a record-breaking audience in Sweden and more importantly for me, a huge involvement and commitment form the viewers. Jordskott triggered the audience. We trended on Twitter after every episode, Instagram is filled with posts inspired by Jordskott in different ways. We even had a lot of fan art made which I believe is quite rare for a Swedish series. So yes, our vision to create something new worked and was every effective.
And then in the UK…
Filip: It’s funny – when we went through the pitch before when we were trying to finance the project, we had an international audience in mind – a broad audience with edgy execution was the goal. And it worked! And we didn’t know it would work that good.
Had you been following the trend of Nordic crime dramas in the UK?
Filip: Yes – it’s a wave going on in the UK and the rest of the world thanks to The Killing and The Bridge so we are really happy about that and wanted to hit the wave.
Henrik: I’ve seen them [Nordic crime dramas] and I like them. The Bridge was an inspiraction in the sense that I know the creator Hans Rosenfeldt. A guy I know wrote a Nordic Noir series which became a huge international success. It was in a way proof that it’s doable to create Swedish drama that people want to see abroad.
What do you think has made Nordic crime dramas so popular in the United Kingdom?
Henrik: The pop culture of Sweden and the UK are very similar. We sort of like the same music, fashion, film. It’s easy for a Swede to feel like home in the UK and I think that works both ways. Still, there are obviously differences which create that little exotic twist. We love British drama and your actors, and I hear the opposite in the UK. “Swedish dramas and actors are so much better!” That’s kind of fun actually.
My goal was never to create another ‘Scandi Noir. I had this story in my head that I wanted to tell. It’s not the typical ‘serial killer’ investigation’ as we often see in crime stories. Jordskott is about a mothers struggle to cope with her sorrow and loss, mans ignorance towards nature, and explores how far we are willing to go in order to protect what we love most. I think the script, its characters and the production value appealed in many layers. I don’t believe Jordskott is sfi-fi; it’s a brave mix of genres that the audience has appreciated. In many ways Jordskott breaks new ground, and that was also one of our goals.
Jordskott is currently airing on ITV Encore.
Jordskott Silverhojd website: http://www.discoversilverhojd.com/
Jordskott Wikia: http://jordskott.wikia.com/