In this 5th series of interviews with Nordisk Film & TV Fond prize nominees, we speak to the co-writers of the Danish hit show produced by SF Studios.
The New Nurses ((Sygeplejeskolen) is the Nordic mini major’s second successful vintage show produced for TV2’s niche channel TV2 Charlie, after Something’s Rockin’. Set in 1952, the series chronicles the early intake and training of male nurses in post-war Denmark.
The story centres on Erik (Morten Hee Andersen), a young soldier fighting people’s prejudice as he trains to become a nurse, and his relationship with fellow nurse student Anna (Molly Egeling). Roni Ezra (Below the Surface) directs.
Claudia Boderke and Lars Mering are known primarily as co-writers of the three comedy feature film series The Reunion, all of which were major blockbusters in Denmark. The films were later remade in Germany and Holland. The New Nurses is sold internationally by REinvent Studios.
When did you get into writing and TV screenwriting in particular?
Claudia Boderke: I have to admit that it more or less “happened to me”. I was a host for a children’s TV-show in Germany in the late 90’s and wrote songs and sketches for the show. People obviously felt entertained and encouraged me to continue writing - and so I did… and fortunately I was - with some difficulties at the beginning - able to continue writing for film and TV when I moved to Denmark.
Lars Boderke: I was writing and playing theatre and suddenly I was asked to write a 24-episodes Christmas calendar for adults. It got lukewarm reviews but high ratings. And from then on, I never stopped writing for TV and film. I’ve been lucky to always have a writing partner. Having someone to discuss, laugh and be frustrated with makes the job so much more meaningful to me.
What do you find the most challenging and most thrilling about writing for television?
Claudia & Lars: Writing TV-series requires a good portion of structure. We tend to compare screenwriting with some kind of craftsmanship. And if composing a story is like constructing a house, composing a series is like constructing a whole settlement. If you are writing a series, it gives you the possibility to dig deeper into your characters and make them change during the season or suddenly reveal a side of themselves, that you didn’t expect in a more radical way than usually is possible in a movie.
Generally speaking, what type of stories and genres make you tick?
Claudia & Lars: We like a good laugh, so we are quite fond of comedies. Apart from that all stories that engage us emotionally.
How did you get involved in The New Nurses?
Claudia & Lars: The broadcaster TV2 asked us, if we could come up with a historic topic taking place in the 50’s. In our research, we read about an experiment that took place in 1951 at the Rigshospital in Copenhagen, where seven men got the chance to prove, that they were suitable for the job, even though they of course, didn’t possess female qualities like empathy, motherliness and a strong caring gene - and we were hooked. There are a million hospital-series, but we have not heard of one, that is about the first male nurses.
Relevance, authenticity are buzz words in TV drama today. In what way does this relate to The New Nurses?
Claudia & Lars: There still is a nurse-shortage in Danish hospitals today - especially regarding men. In Denmark, only 3,5 percent of all nurses are male and those men, who dare to choose this job, often have to cope with prejudices and some kind of reversal discrimination. And still today it is hard for nurses to ensure high quality of patient care while they have to cope with heavy workloads and having to struggle with physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. So even if the series is set in the early 50’s, it feels relevant to us today.
Do you have any tip to other budding screenwriters, or an advice you received, that you found particularly useful?
Claudia & Lars: We are not only writing together, we are a couple as well and have kids together. We really had to learn, not to take criticism too personal and be constructive instead of frustrated. In the end we both only fight for the best story. And we try to keep in mind, that it's a gift, to have different forces to strengthen our work.
Could you cite two TV dramas that you’ve binge-watched recently?
Claudia & Lars: Actually, - we’ve had no time to binge-watch anything recently, because we are writing nearly non-stop. But we are looking forward to watching for example Sharp Objects and Succession that we’ve heard should be fantastic.
What's next for you?
Claudia & Lars: We have just finished writing the second season of The New Nurses, and right now we are writing Shooting draft for a comedy-movie.
For more information about the Nordisk Film & TV Fond Prize, CLICK HERE.