On Thursday December 13th, Bozar welcomed the creator of Borgen – Adam Price, who revolutionised the world of European series in 2010 with the Danish political series, following the path to power of Birgitte Nybord, the country’s first woman Prime Minister. The series imposed the Scandinavian model of creation and profoundly changed the way Nordic television stations worked with creative professionals, opening the door to a new wave of fiction that made Scandinavian show-runners the driving force behind European storytelling.
’’It developed over time in Denmark. Basically, if we go back to the 80s TV drama wasn’t doing well in Denmark. Then some people were sent to the United States who tried collaboration with America’s production. They came back and said: That’s how they do it – they choose one main character and they develop the plot around him. So that was the first principle of TV series and it still implies more or less,’’ said Adam Price to more than 80 people who attended the master class.
’’The main character holds the vision. Now there is the principle of double story. Danish TV Productions are not commercial, they are public. Their moto is, We are not put on this planet to make money, numbers or viewers. Of course viewers are important but we are not solely there for that. We should be extremely ambitious storytellers. We need to have an ambition to say something about the society, political issues, and our zeitgeist. What is it to be a human being right now, European citizen, existence? You would always be asked what the deeper meaning of your criminal story is. And they might say – well, you need to dig deeper.”
Is politics and religion topics you are naturally drawn to?
I created a series about coalition politics in Denmark. At the beginning we didn’t imagine that anybody would want to see it. We were explicitly told that no one but the Danes would watch it. Perhaps the Swedish and Norwegians out of brotherly love or mercy. We were surprised so many countries reacted to Borgen.
Sometimes we can be ahead of politics in Denmark. People discussed a lot what was going on in Borgen. We were imagining what the political situation might be – something we were wrong but sometimes we were right. We were part of the political events with something so fictional.
There is a strong criticism on migration policy in your series, what message are you trying to convey?
Some scenes are inspired by real life events we read about. And the scenes about migration are part of a character development which you shouldn’t notice. Denmark has a quite restrictive immigration policy right now and we send many people away. Sometimes it seems these convictions are not researched well, sometimes it seems like people are evicted too quickly.
Borgen was a feminist project. The core element and conflict lies between the conflict and the relationship mother – daughter. After two seasons, I decided that I want to say something about the masculine side. There is one common element in my writings – people that are almost seduced by the power of their work. You have a woman in Borgen and she is on the highest post – she is offered to be a Prime minister. Her character develops and in the end of Borgen she is wise enough to choose her daughter. The men in Ride upon the storm are not as wise as she is – how far are you willing to go to fulfill your ambition?
How do you start working on your characters?
The main characters need to be as multilayered as you could possibly make them. The greatest character of all time is probably Hamlet and he is everything: he is evil, he is heroic, he is perverse, he is a beautiful son, and he is a horrible son, a great lover and the worst one…
When you create main characters it is important to find the contradictions which lie in their psyche. Living up to expectations and answering to the character’s real drive. A conflict which they almost cannot survive. Discussions around their personalities and alter ego.
Could you share more specific screenwriting techniques that you learnt?
One of the best screenwriting techniques is trying to avoid sharing too much information, sometimes a line would stink from information and here it depends on the actor – how is he going to play it. Another reminder is to be very careful to not getting carried away with the second characters because one of the biggest mistakes is making them more interesting that the leading role.
The master class was followed by a projection-premiere of Ride Upon The Storm, Season 2.