By: Steffanie Moyers
30 Degrees in February is many things – a show about travel, happiness, escape, family, healing. It ranges from warm, to darkly comedic, to outright tragic, sometimes in the scope of a single episode.
Like many Nordic imports, audiences here in the West have latched on to the show thanks mostly to streaming services like Netflix. And it’s a good thing too, because there are few shows on air now that balance so many different things at once.
Whether you’re looking for a character-focused dramedy, or a tantalizing travelogue, chances are 30 Degrees in February has something for you. Fortunately, The Script Lab recently caught up with the series’ showrunner Anders Wiedemann for an inside look at what makes the show tick.
1) I’m curious – what was the initial spark that eventually grew into what we see now?
When I was in my 20’s I spent a couple of years travelling around the world, especially in Southeast Asia. I started collecting the stories and the characters I met, noticing that they – and perhaps me as well – went to the other side of the world for the same reason: to find happiness. I thought that the backpacking scene would make a great backdrop for a novel. Then “The Beach” came out. Then, maybe ten years later or so, I read an article about Swedes selling their houses to move to Thailand. That was the final spark for what would be “30 degrees in February”.
2) Production took place in both Sweden and Thailand. Did such an ambitious international shoot result in any unexpected challenges for the cast and crew?
Certainly. This was the first Swedish major film-production set in Asia. The shooting lasted six months, and was excruciating. Due to the heat, three DOP’s ended in hospital. A thunderstorm flushed the set away. The production went over budget. One director resigned, another one got fired. But the turmoil never affected the storytelling. And the second season was a smooth sail without any war stories what so ever.
3) I understand you studied in Southeast Asia during University and spent several years abroad after graduation. What was it about Thailand in particular that appealed to you as the appropriate “escape” for these characters?
Actually, I have most experience from Indonesia, not Thailand. I speak Indonesian and have spent many years there. However, almost no Swedes travel there, and cannot really relate to the country. On the contrary, about 5% of the Swedish population goes to Thailand EVERY YEAR. So that’s why I picked Thailand. But I would love to write a story set in Indonesia.
4) Having written for both television and screen, do you have a preference for one medium over the other?
Not really. It all depends on the idea. It’s a cliché, but TV is better for characters in interpersonal relationships, and film is better for characters in action. But the difference is much smaller now than it used to be. I would say that all of the middle budget films have disappeared from the cinemas and ended up in our television sets instead. But if you want arthouse stuff (or superhero action), you still need to go to the movies.
5) Throughout the two seasons released thus far, we’ve seen fires, dumpster diving, teen romance, prison, a tsunami, and a dead body. Do the show’s more outlandish moments present themselves organically during the writing process, or do they come to you first as independent ideas that you then try to incorporate into the script?
I think the second season is more organic than the first, which was more high concept in its ideas, but also (sometimes) a bit more contrived. My goal in writing is never to invent anything new, but rather discover what’s always been there.
6) Can you give us a little insight as to what’s in store for season three? Another time-jump perhaps, given the length between seasons?
Since time has passed between the seasons, and the actors have grown, the time jumps are necessary (unless you hire the best makeup department in the world). Also, I think that it’s really cool to play with what has happened in between seasons. Anything is possible. I would say that the third season is a conclusion of the stories, the final act for at least these characters.
7) In terms of process, some writers approach a serialized story with an end goal in mind – something that focuses seasonal arcs and individual plot threads. Did you approach the planning of ’30 Degrees in February’ with any sort of conclusion in mind?
Yes. See question number 6. I always conceived 30 degrees as a three season show. A beginning, a middle, and an end.
8) Kajsa, Majilis and Glenn arrive in Thailand under vastly different circumstances, yet they are all hoping to find a sort of happiness that eludes them back home. This “quest” of sorts underlines much of what we see play out on the show – often in subversive or unexpected ways (the ironically named Island of Happiness, for example). What do you think it is about this particular theme that resonates so much with audiences?
I think it is very relatable to most people. Every living being that we now of wants to things: To avoid suffering and to find happiness. And we tend to start to look for happiness outside ourselves. A new husband, a new drug, the next gen playstation, a warmer country where the sun always shines.
9) How important is collaboration when it comes to generating an entire season’s worth of material? Do you open a writer’s room, for example?
I haven’t yet found the ultimate setup for writing. The writer’s rooms in Europe tends not to work as the ones in the US. In Scandinavia we have a lot flatter hierarchy than in America, so collective writing here tends to be a lot discussions to find consensus, which I personally think could be a great way for collective creativity, but maybe not if you want to create a show with a strong and original voice.
If you ask writers what the best setup would be, if there was no time restraints, a lot of writers, even from the US would give you “Me and another writer” as an answer. However, I’ve been fortunate to work with great story editors and other persons to spar ideas with. And later in the process, I other people’s thoughts and ideas are food for creativity. Film and TV is a collective art form and if you don’t get that you will probably keep your sanity better writing a novel instead.
Don’t forget to check out 30 Degrees in February on Netflix!