Thin Ice - The Hard-Hitting Reality of Climate Change
BY Georgi R. Chakarov
A new super production from Yellow Bird/Banijay Group (the creators of Stieg Larsson´s Millennium trilogy) - is set to push the topic of the fatal consequences of climate change in a political world which fails to take overdue actions. Actually, the term ‘climate change’ seems quite outdated in 2020 when even ‘climate crisis’ seems too soft as a real catastrophe is taking place in the realms of ‘eternal ice’ of the Planet.

As the creators of Thin Ice tell Georgi R. Chakarov, this is the most important issue that the world is facing now and a series like that could inspire people to change in order to protect the global eco system. The story will reveal the depressing and hopeless reality which the people of Greenland face as the ice melts down and incompetent politicians simply wonder what to do with the island’s resources. Executive producer Søren Stærmose developed the idea together with Lena Endre and was joined for this interview by writers Birkir Blær Ingólfsson and Jónas Margeir Ingólfsson and director Guðjón Jónsson.
Søren Stærmose, Executive producer

Birkir Blær ingólfsson, Writer

Jónas Margeir ingólfsson, Writer

Guðjón Jónsson, Director

How did you come up with the idea to create Thin Ice?
After having shot a feature for Yellow Bird in Cuba and Öland called Echoes from the Dead, I and my main protagonist Lena Endre (we actually also worked together in the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson) sat down and talked about what engaged us in life – because we know that it takes a couple of years before it will be realized. We did find out our common interest for the global warming and the climate change in the Arctic Sea. She was the ambassador for an environmental organization and I mentioned my interest in Greenland – after having lived there for a year - when I was a soldier. I also went on a big trip to the northwest of Greenland a couple of years ago. BUT what a journey - it took me 6 years to finally develop and finance this project and start shooting Thin Ice in January this year.

What will be the main topic of the story: climate change or political corruption?
The topic is of course climate change and how it affects the Arctic. But more importantly the story focuses on the incompetence of the political system to deal with climate change. We’ve seen how the leaders of the world sit through meeting after meeting after meeting, discussing how to fight climate change - the most drastic challenge mankind will face. Yet, the world’s emissions of greenhouse gasses continue to rise, seemingly without any real action to prevent it. The structure of our political system has failed us - and that’s a frightening fact. We wanted to show how politicians are seemingly sidetracked, pursuing immediate short-term interests and their own public image, and thus prevented from ever being able to properly address the bigger and more pressing issues like the future of the planet. It’s not corruption - but rather a human frailty and our inability to confront threats that aren’t immediate.

To pick Greenland means a complexity of many aspects. The melting ice opens up the possible exploitation of the immense natural resources of texoil. That’s why the story takes place during some dramatic days at a high-end political meeting at The Arctic Council, where the member states - US, Canada, Denmark (without Greenland), Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia - are having on the agenda “Do we have to exploit it or not because of already sufficient carbon emissions?” The international superpowers’ interests of getting these oil licensees from Greenland with different masterplans behind closed doors is turning the meeting upside down. Besides that, the hope of many Greenlanders to have independence one day, being able to have own economy in place for a possible big oil deal. Furthermore, we try to show “the balanced and the unbalanced relationship to Denmark” for the questions of identity. It’s a drama thriller where we for the first time have hoovered Greenland or all their acting talents and the whole TV show takes place on the East Coast of Greenland. Thanks to our best PR and Marketing associate - the US president Donald Trump – he did put a world focus on Greenland with his wish of “a real estate” deal with Greenland. Thin Ice is all about the above.

You shot the production during the coldest period in Greenland but still were the effects of global warming visible?
Yes, very much so. We had scheduled our shootings in Tasiilaq, East Greenland after pouring through satellite photos and data about ice and snow around Tasiilaq to make sure we would be there when the sea was frozen, and the ground covered in snow. Using this data from the past, we were confident we would get the best conditions for shooting but something abnormal happened. Suddenly, all the sea-ice broke up and disappeared in one day and snow receded from the mountains. We don’t know if it ever happened at that time before in Tasiilaq, but at least it was a screaming inconsistency with all our data and satellite photos.

We had to move our shoot further North to a town called Ittoqqortoormiit. Even there, climate change was very visible. The sea-ice, which normally would be solid at that time of year, was all fractured and broken up. The town had also been dealing with starving polar bears wandering into town in search of food in far greater numbers than before, due to the lack of sea ice which is their primary hunting ground. The town has a quota for how many polar bears they can kill in self-defense when they wander into town every year. They had long since used up all that quota and when we were there they were forced to try to scare the bears away without shooting them.

During our filming in Greenland we also met with Sirius sledge soldiers, who are Danish policemen that patrol the northern part of Greenland on dogsleds. They told us that the sea ice had broken up underneath them further north than ever before, so they had to call for help. An Icelandic plane flew up to fetch the men and dogs and get them back to headquarters - which is something that has never happened before.

How is global warming affecting the lives of the people of Greenland?
The world is getting warmer. But the Arctic is warming up at twice the rate of the rest of the world. Obviously, that has consequences. For example, the sea doesn’t freeze around Greenland, making Greenlandic sled-dogs obsolete. Which is interesting because the Greenlandic people have depended on the dogs for survival for hundreds of years. Now they are literally killing them, because the dogs can’t earn their keep anymore. The number of dogs in Greenland has dropped incredibly in the last few years.

And that tells us that the way of living for Greenlandic people is changing completely. They used to be the purest hunting culture in existence, using their dogs to hunt on the ice sheet. Now the ice is gone. The dogs are gone too. And the Greenlandic people are - what? It’s hard to say. In a way, they are left without identity because of climate change. The entire identity of the nation seems to revolve around ice and the cold - and it’s both a pure and beautiful identity. And now it’s melting away, literally.

This is just one aspect of how climate change affects Greenlanders. The purpose of the series is to explore these issues more thoroughly. And also, how climate change affects Greenland politically, which is a whole new chapter in itself - explored in detail in the series itself.

Have you cooperated with climate experts while developing the project? What have learned during the process?
Yes - and it was frightening. We had many meetings with climate experts while developing the project. And of course, we read extensively about the subject. In short, we learned that everything seems to be going to hell - and that no one is really doing enough to prevent that. Our writers even kind of just gave up all hope. The more you understand about climate change - the more frightening and depressing it becomes. The world has lost this battle, even before it has started to fight it. It was depressing and frightening for the writers. But it reinforces our belief that the subject of our series is the most important issue in the world.

Do you believe that series like Thin Ice can make both politicians and ordinary people change their thinking and habits in order to stop the pollution?
Of course, we’d like to hope so. That’s the reason for making the series. But it’ll take a lot more effort than just one series. It will require a complete restructuring of the system the world has built around consumption. Every single person in the world will have to do their part and agree to the cause. If the series can lead a few people to that conclusion and in that way inspire change, if only in a few households - at least we’ll be closer to a solution.

Josefine Tengblad, Head of Drama at TV4 and C More

Josefine, Thin Ice will undoubtedly be among the biggest highlights of the year for TV4/C More with a star-studded cast and famous director, but can you tell us what else makes it stand out among other productions?
Thin Ice will definitely be one of many highlights in our 2020 slate and we are very eager to present it to our viewers in February. Besides an A-list cast and crew, the series also portrays many different contemporary subjects at the same time, making it a thrilling adventure in a beautiful environment for a broad audience to take part of.

Why did you decide to go into the ‘hard topic’ of climate change? Have you made similar shows before?
We are always looking for drama series that are relevant to a broad Nordic audience and I think it’s fair to say that climate change is a subject that is gaining many peoples’ attention, interest, worries and also some hope right now. Therefore, we believe Thin Ice will attract the interest of our viewers. This follows a long tradition at TV4 and C More of tackling contemporary subjects in a scripted and dramatized context. One of our biggest international success stories so far has been Modus that centered around hate crime. Recently, we have seen Greyzone centering around terrorism, Moscow Noir which in some ways described the complex political situation in Russia, and Blinded, our latest series, showing how a bank crisis affects human beings and the society at large.

What will viewers learn about climate change and politics from the series?
It is important to point out that Thin Ice is fictional, but with parallels to the real world. In terms of learning, I just want to clarify that it is not a documentary. However, I hope it – as all our dramas – will spark discussions in Nordic homes and given the perfect timing of the series I am sure it will.

Is TV4/C More planning to do more projects related to saving nature and the life of indigenous people?
We are looking for projects that have the potential to attract a broad audience with local relevance and the highest production quality. As long as we can check those criteria, it doesn’t matter if the overall theme is a murder case, a family crisis or climate change. We commission series to entertain and spark feelings for our large audience - not based on a political agenda. We are also proud to be giving a glimpse into the life of the population in Greenland.

As an organization how is C More and TV4 involved in preventing climate change? Will there be a special awareness campaign during the broadcast of the series?
We will not be doing any special awareness campaign during the broadcast of the series. This is because we have no intention of starting a political campaign. Our only goal is to offer our viewers a thrilling adventure in a fiction world related to many very contemporary themes, climate change being one of them.

Lena Endre
Thin Ice

Thin Ice was created by Søren Stærmose and Lena Endre. The script was co-written by Birkir Blær Ingólfsson, Jónas Margeir Ingólfsson and Jóhann Ævar Grimsson. Cecilie Mosli served as concept director, with Thale Persen and Guðjón Jónsson directing the shooting in Iceland and Greenland, respectively. The 8x45’ production was shot over ten and a half weeks. The series deals with the burning issues of Arctic changes and international geo-politics. The story kicks off with a research vessel, under attack outside Greenland. At the same time, the Arctic Council is trying to sign an agreement that prohibits environmentally harmful oil drilling in the region. The attack puts the agreement in jeopardy.
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