Interview: Henrik Björn, Jordskott

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If you’ve been joining me on my journey through Jordskott, you’ll know that I’ve been loving it. It has been something completely different – a Scandinavian crime drama with serious supernatural/horror overtones that is unlike anything that’s come out of the region for a long time. I’ve wanted to chat to the show’s creator, Henrik Björn, for a while now, and he graciously agreed to answer some of my questions (even though he was on holiday). As with a director/creator it’s a fascinating read, so do have a look after the jump.

The Killing Times: It’s a complicated story that has elements of crime and then some horror and supernatural in it too. Where did you get the idea from?
Henrik Björn: I have always been interested in this kind of grander storytelling, with favourite films like Pan’s Labyrinth, Blade Runner and Alien. I’m intrigued by stories that are built on vaster and more complex grounds than first meet the eye. I was never interested in creating just another Nordic Crime story – Jordskott is a mix of genres that I believe is quite unique in many ways. The idea originates from my childhood, my grandmother actually. She took my on long walks in the woods outside the country house and told me stories about the beings who lived there and the importance of respect nature.

TKT: Did you draw on fairytales (the brothers Grimm, Pippi Longstocking etc) for this story?
HB: In Scandinavia we have a well-established folklore that most people know about – but it has never been filmed properly. Interesting enough I have learned during the process that what I thought was a typical Swedish mythos actually is a global thing. People abroad seem to recognise the events and characters in Jordskott, even though they are from Argentina, Russia or Asia. So I guess it’s the same folklore but with different names. The mix of Swedish local touch, but with a story that is familiar on a global scale is one of the reasons that Jordskott has such strong appeal in other countries. But it is important for me that Jordskott stays in the crossroad of myth and reality. It must be a balance in the storytelling and even though events in the series sometimes are over the top, I wanted the series to be believable and to create characters you really cared for. Jordskott is not a monster show – but there are forces of nature that eventually clash with the “ordinary world” as we know it. The less we show the monster, the better. For me it’s more about that creepy but still wonderful feeling when you walk alone in a forest and suddenly can sense a presence. Like someone – or something – is watching you. Like you’re a guest there and that every step you take is under observation by the forest itself. That’s the feel what I wanted to create.

TKT: I’ve always admired Scandinavian countries and the relationship they have with their natural surroundings, the myths and storytelling passed down from generation to generation. Is Jordskott an environmental drama at its heart?
HB: Yes it is. I wanted to create a series that nailed the audience to the sofa. That was intense, surprising, scary and emotional. With lots of cliffhangers and executed with a consistent look and feel. And at the same time deliver a message of the importance for mankind to live in harmony with nature. So we worked hard with achieving that in the writers room and that was my goal later on when I later directed the episodes. So I guess you can see it as a beautifully shot, award-winning and 10-hour long promotion film for mother nature. 

TKT: What has been the reaction to it in Sweden?
HB: Overwhelming. I myself come from a “geek pop culture”, collecting vintage Star Wars, drawing comics and so on. So I actually know Jordskott would find its way to the hard core of fans. Surprisingly enough the core ended up with an record audience. Over 30 per cent of all Swedes in front of the TV on Mondays were watching Jordskott! Further more we had brilliant reviews in the established press as well as in the more edgy film blogs. We recently won the BANFF Rockie Awards in Canada for Best Serial Drama, up against the highest international competition. But best of all is the response from the viewers, we trended on Twitter after every episode, we now have thousands of posts of #jordskott, we have fan clubs all over the planet and even brilliant and creative fan art produced. It was quite obvious that the audience was ready to see something new and odd. Jordskott seem to evoke emotions and get peoples fantasy and creativity going. From my perspective, thats all you can ask for when you create film.

TKT: There are plenty of cliffhangers, like the very best crime dramas. When it comes to crime drama, what are your favourites?
HB: The Wire, The Shield, Top of the lake and True Detective (season one) are series I really liked. They all found their own tone and executed it brilliantly. But Hill Street Blues is still the best police/crime series for me! I haven’t seen it for many years now so I’m not sure how well it has aged, but when it aired in Sweden when I was a kid I remember how I felt “wow, this is something else!”.

Skärmavbild 2015-05-12 kl. 15.29.10TKT: The ensemble cast is excellent. There’s a story from Star Wars, where Harrison Ford reportedly told George Lucas: “You can type this shit, but you sure can’t say it.” Obviously the words you have typed aren’t shit at all, but when there’s a heavy supernatural element to the story, how do the actors play it so seriously? They do a great job!
HB: I was heavily involved in the casting, I attended every session in person, put different combinations of actors together to see the chemistry but also to get a sense of their personal approach to the project. You can’t cast someone in a series like this who doesn’t fully buy into the premise and universe. And yes, there are some lines in the series that really must be delivered with authority; otherwise the whole series risk doing a nosedive. But everybody on board, from actors to set design, DoP, crew, editors, special fx and music really understood what we was creating together. 

TKT: I love the fact that now, Eva and Gerda, are put in opposition to each other, but both are mothers who are willing to do anything to save their child…
HB: Yes, so do I! As the series goes, we learn that the premise “How far are you willing to go in order to save the one you love the most” applies to more characters than Eva…

TKT: Please tell me Wass survives… I’ve been quite taken with him!
HB: No spoiling from my side mate! But Göran Ragnerstam who plays Wass has done a brilliant job for sure. He was a real fighter for this project from the very beginning. I would hate Wass to die as well, but you never know. This is after all Jordskott, so everything can happen.

TKT: Will there be a second series? Do you have outlines for more stories to tell in Silverhöjd?
HB: We know where we want to take Jordskott in the future and we are fully motivated to sink our teeth into it. Strong forces within the networks and among us at Palladium want a second season and we will all work hard for it to happen. The future will tell!

Jordskott (finale): Wednesday 12th August, 10pm, ITV Encore

For all our Jordskott news and reviews, go here

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