State of Happiness (Lykkeland) produced by Maipo Film for NRK centres on the discovery of oil in Norway and how it changed the nation. Set in the small coastal town of Stavanger in the summer of 1969, the series follows four young people who are thrown into a whirlwind of opportunities.

The 8-part series world premiered at the first Canneseries 2018 where it scooped Best Script and Best Music. It first aired on NRK late October 2018.

Mette M. Bølstad competes for the Nordisk Film & TV Fond Prize for the second time. In 2017 she picked up the award with co-writer Stephen Uhlander for their joint writing effort on NRK’s drama Nobel.

Bølstad graduated from London’s Central School of Speech and Drama, New Writing. She has written several plays, feature films such King of Devil’s Island and most recently Sonja-The White Swan selected at Sundance’s Premieres section 2019. Besides Nobel and State of Happiness, her TV drama credits include The Heavy Water War and The Half Brother.

What does it mean to be nominated for the second time in three years for the Nordisk Film & TV Fond Prize?
: As a writer, you don't know whether a show will be made or not. Years can pass, on the verge of success. So to have two shows in three years that have gone through all the hoops, and ended up here - that feels rather excellent.

When and how did you get into writing and TV screenwriting in particular? Was there anything special that inspired you?
M.M.B: Nothing I watched. I like to work long narratives. I like the style of writing. Both to be using language when I write dialogue, but also to be descriptive and technical. Scene construction is also a favourite exercise. The variation of the work appeals to me a lot. I don't really get bored. When I wrote prose, I would sometimes dread writing, now I always look forward to it. I got into writing for theatre by chance, ages ago, wrote a play for a friend. Then I wanted to learn more, and went to writing college at a drama school in England. We did TV, radio and film there as well, and I got picked up by Channel 4 and did some in-house training there.

Relevance and authenticity are buzz words in TV drama. In what way does this relate to State of Happiness?
M.M.B: An NRK controller said a little while back that TV drama had more influence on people than the news. Obviously, he got a lot of flack for that, but I get his point. In TV drama you can explain really complicated stuff in an interesting way. State of Happiness is the modern history of Norway. There is a lot of information hidden in the scenes. When we started extracting petroleum some 50 years ago Norway was a relatively poor country, and climate change was not an issue. As for authenticity, the TV drama audience is open-minded, patient and extremely critical. It's possible to do something complicated as long as it feels real. A lot of research has been put into this show, as well as attention to detail.

Why did you focus on 1969-1972 and set the core of the action in Stavanger?
M.M.B: Our idea was to focus on the defining moments that were to have a drastic impact on Norwegian society. That specific period between late 1969 when Ekofisk [first largest off shore oil field in the North Sea] was found, until 1972 when Statoil was set up and legislation was put into place, was absolutely crucial. It took three years for Norway to understand what was going on.

Through our series, we see what happens at a local level, in Stavanger, because this is where the major changes took place, but of course the story of the oil boom is relevant on a national and global level. In season 1, we focus on how the local community is affected, as people get work and their life styles start to change. One of the major questions at the time was who should control the oil, the state or private companies, ships owners for example? This is why we have set the action partly within a shipping and cannery family.

How did you deal with the dilemma of defining where fiction starts and ends with this drama based on reality, and how much research was necessary?
To create a drama that is not too heavy-handed, you have to do a huge amount of research, to know about things without talking about them too insistently. A lot of information was not available anymore, so I had to read newspapers from the time at Stavanger to see how things happened on a daily basis. That helped me develop details for the dramaturgy. For instance, on the topic of how to sell and acquire land to build an oil base, I had to find out about the laws of the time, the pricing, do technical research. I didn’t have to be specific with names, places etc. However, when you do want to be specific, you need to decide where to change names to start to fictionalise. It’s a constant balance.

Do you have any tip to other budding screenwriters, or an advice you received, that you found particularly useful?
M.M.B: I always say: “write about somebody else. And research makes you a better person”

Could you cite two TV dramas that you’ve binge-watched recently?
M.M.B: I don't watch a lot of TV drama, but every now and again I get hooked. Last time was with Sharp Objects.