Kieler Street co-writer and concept director Patrik Syversen made his name as genre specialist with films such as Manhunt, You Said What?, Demon Box and the series Hellfjord.   

Writer and director of radio commercials Jesper Sundnes is a regular collaborator to Patrik Syversen. He has written the animated hit show Fanthomas and worked as staff writer for the Norwegian comedy duo Bye&Rønning.

Writer/actor Stig Frode Henriksen appeared in the Viking spoof series Norsemen. He co-wrote and acted in the series Hellfjord. A frequent collaborator to Tommy Wirkola, he starred and co-wrote Dead Snow and its sequel Dead Snow 2, which premiered at Sundance. Kieler Street is their first premium drama writing collaboration. The drama thriller was produced by Anagram Norway for TV2. ITV Studios handles world distribution.

The 10x45’ series tells of former criminal Jonas who has assumed a new identity and lives in one of Scandinavia’s most law-abiding towns. He has it all: a happy family, a great job. But the façade starts falling apart when Jonas realises that other inhabitants also have hidden identities. And they are all prepared to do anything it takes to protect the illusion they have created.  

What does it mean for you to be nominated for the Nordisk Film & TV Fond Prize for Best Nordic screenplay?
Patrik Syversen:
It’s an honor to be nominated alongside such talented screenwriters. We’re juggling a lot of different tones and emotions in Kieler Street, so being recognized for the craftsmanship is always fun - even for those of us who claim that awards and red carpets are secondary.

Jesper Sundnes: It’s obviously an honour to be nominated for such an award. As a writer who’s primarily written comedy, it’s also inspiring to receive some recognition for my work outside of that genre.

Stig Frode Henriksen: It's always nice when someone appreciates your work.

When and how did you get into writing and TV screenwriting in particular?  
I’ve been interested in film ever since I saw the original 1933 King Kong as a child. I made movies with my home video camera, and soon started writing screenplays - so writing and directing was always a goal. Inspirations were vast - and apart from the obvious classics I remember Jim Jarmusch and Hal Hartley being key filmmakers who really paved the way for my interest in subversive indie cinema. Having done feature films for the most part, my first encounter with TV-drama was through Hellfjord, a series I directed and was the show runner for. That definitely made me see the potential of developing characters over time. 

JS: Writing is something I’ve been doing recreationally since I was a kid, but I didn’t realize I could make a living from it until I was offered a writing job by comedy duo Bye & Rønning. I immediately found the experience of creative collaboration, seeing our work on television and getting the reaction from the audience very satisfying and wanted to keep doing that as much as possible.

SFH: I got into writing about ten years ago as I'm also an actor and good parts are easier to write then to find. Since I was a kid, I have always loved movies and TV-shows, all genres.

The movie In Bruges has a great script, and has been a great inspiration to me, as well as the comedy series I'm Alan Partridge .

What are the most challenging and most exciting aspects of writing for television?
PS: The most challenging part is finding the structure and building the world that has to last and have a life of its own. That takes a lot of groundwork. To me, writing is very much an emotional process, where all the characters need an inner life from a very early stage. That means working on their different dimensions, making sure their arcs add up, and being true to the overall theme of the series. The challenge is always balancing all those elements, yet arriving at a point where the story seems organic and natural. When the writers and their intent become too visible in a story, it tends to fall apart. Being a director as well, the most exciting thing is to take what’s on the page and bring it to life - through a vast array of tools that transcend the written word.

JS: In general I think the whole logistical part of structuring a story can be quite a hassle. Trying to tell a story that make sense while also being entertaining and interesting.

One of the most exciting parts of the whole job is handing over one’s work to the cast, crew and director and seeing how they interpret what’s on the page and make it their own. It’s especially fun with a production like Kieler Street where there are so many talented people, who all have their own unique way of telling our story.

SFH: The most challenging is that you can't be sure how people will respond and what they will watch. You just have to trust your own taste and hope that others will also find it interesting.

What type of stories and genres make you tick?
PS: To me the story is always in charge, and the genre is just a tool you can utilize in order to tell the story in the best possible way. Subversion is key for me - a story should always go somewhere new, challenge the established and provoke thoughts and feelings. I also have a soft spot for stories that trust their audience and take their time.

JS: I don’t think a lot about genre, either in the stories that I consume nor in the ones I create myself. Despite the fact that I do love a lot of genre entertainment, I feel that the types of stories that appeal to me the most are the ones that treat genre primarily as a tool for subverting expectations, enhancing and juxtaposing certain aspects of the story, in order to tell it in a way that is as unique as possible. Having said that, I’m always very excited about a well-made horror film, though they are quite rare.

SFH: It can be anything from drama, sci-fi, horror, western, to comedy. If I get an idea about something I would like to watch on the screen myself, it doesn't matter what genre it is.

To write things you yourself would like to see makes sense to me.

How did you get involved in Kieler Street and why?
PS: Stig Frode had an idea about a street full of criminals with new identities, and that concept struck a chord with Jesper and I. Thematically, the idea of actively reconstructing your entire life opened up for a universal theme about identity: who do you choose to be in different social situations - and what does that say about your very core? If there even is one. I took the idea and pitched it at one point, and noticed that interest was high. So we wrote a pilot and it escalated from there.

JS: Originally this was a loose concept that Stig Frode have been talking about for a while, and Patrik and I always thought it had potential. When Patrik had met with some executives who were interested in it, we got together and planned out how one would make such a concept work, what stories we would tell and what types of characters that would suit such a narrative. I think we wrote the pilot pretty quickly from there.

SFH: We started to work on Kieler Street because we wanted to do something different and unpredictable, maybe move away from the Nordic noir a bit. It’s an idea, originally set to be a US show, but then I pitched it to producers Anne Kolbjørnsen and Ole Marius Araldsen at Anagram Norge among other ideas just for fun, and they really liked it.

Relevance, authenticity are buzz words. In what way does this relate to Kieler Street?
PS: We try not to actively parade the themes and social commentary in our work, as the projects should speak for themselves, but there are always elements of social and political relevance in everything that’s made, even lesser projects. They, too, reflect society, trends and what people choose to consume, for lack of a better word. As for authenticity, I always strive to make our characters and the world they inhabit as authentic and psychologically complex as possible. That is especially important in a series like Kieler Street, where the premise is very high concept. That calls for a subtle and grounded tone to counterbalance the plot elements.

JS: I was not aware that these words were buzz words, but in my opinion, these words could easily be related to any contemporary piece of entertainment.

Do you have any tip to other budding screenwriters, or an advice you received, that you found particularly useful?
I guess everyone finds their own way of writing. In my opinion, there isn’t a specific set of rules you need to follow, but some things are more important to keep track of than others. The most important thing is to know what story you are telling, and why you are telling it. That goes along with defining a theme (or themes), and being able to express why that particular theme is important to you. That will guide your every choice. It also helps you being true to your creation, and avoiding derivative writing. Also, one should always read and write as much as possible.

JS: It’s hard to give one general piece of advice about how to do this sort of work. In my opinion, it’s very individual what works and doesn’t work. Yet, I think it helps to meet with people of similar interest, study what others do, read, and try to write as much as possible.

Could you cite two TV dramas that you binge-watched recently?
PS: I recently saw Young & Promising season 4 (which is the only season I haven’t been involved in, so I could just enjoy it as a fan) and Castlevania season 2, which was surprisingly good.

JS: I just watched Babylon Berlin and Ash vs. Evil Dead. SFH: Barry is the only series I have binged recently. It's a great balance of drama and comedy. I'm eagerly waiting for the second season; I like how it gets darker and darker.

What's next?
PS: Jesper and I are writing a new drama series for Anagram, and have a couple of other projects in development. We’re also working on the second season of Kieler Street. The full season is outlined, but we’re still having fun throwing ideas around, so that we’re prepared when the ball starts rolling again.

SFH: I have a couple of acting jobs that I'm not allowed to talk about, and I'm also working on several different scripts. The script idea I'm most excited about, is a US comedy series quite different from all the comedies we see today.

For more information about the all the TV series nominated for Nordisk Film & TV Fond Prize: CLICK HERE.