Per-Olav Sørensen has been a really busy man this year – the Norwegian director has had two pieces of his work released on Netflix, with his YA film Royalteen and then hugely successful series The Playlist. You’d think he’d be taking a break but no way, he is back again with new festive TV series A Storm For Christmas.
The series centres around various passengers and staff stranded at Oslo airport at Christmas due to a storm, disrupting their Christmas plans and creating an assortment of dilemmas for the stellar cast the director got to work with.
I spoke to the director about the series – and airports!
Nordic Watchlist: Many years ago I worked in an airport, even on Christmas Eve, so I could relate a lot to the types of scenarios and characters in your new series – it did get me wondering though – what has been your worst airport experience?
Per-Olav Sørensen: I think most of my worst airport experiences have been more from the planes – I have had some pretty dramatic moments in my life. An emergency landing in Copenhagen airport once, and another in Iceland.
Then there was flying from Siberia once with no seatbelts and a cabin full of animals. So I think the worst experiences have been more with the aeroplanes – except one time in Russia where I was working as a journalist and I wasn’t allowed to go through customs with all our material. So then I got placed in jail – so there we go – there is one worst airport experience for you.
Nordic Watchlist: I’d really love to know whether this was genuinely shot in Oslo airport or whether it was done in a very convincing studio?
Per-Olav Sørensen: I feel that the real main character in this series is the airport – and we were extremely lucky as we were able to shoot the series in Oslo Gardermoen at the beginning of the year as it was in-between all the shut downs and covid rules. So it was an open airport that was restricted in areas and that allowed us to film there – so everything you see is the real place.
One part of the airport that is featured a lot is a circular bar, where a lot of the action happens and different characters cross paths, so now we know it is actually the real bar you can go to yourself in the airport!
Per-Olav Sørensen: We were extremely lucky with the timing and I loved working there – the people there were so kind to us and we got to work in our own giant studio.
This is very true – Oslo airport is certainly not small – in fact you might often see the gate staff head to their locations on scooters as it could be quite a distance from where their office or check-out desk is based.
The filming took seven weeks within the airport and then a further two weeks were spent shooting in locations outside the airport for some of the scenes, as Per-Olav explains:
Per-Olav Sørensen: About 90% of the series is based in the airport but we have a few ‘exterior’ scenes – one which is shot in Tromso and we were so lucky with the footage that it almost looks like we had added effects to it making it look like it was shot in the studio!
Nordic Watchlist: How much fun was it getting to work with this cast and the narratives that they each brought to the series?
Per-Olav Sørensen: A Storm For Christmas is a low-key drama but it was extremely challenging to make as we had 30 characters and 15 stories which needed to told at ease and without too much complication. We looked at the stories in details; planning where the character might be, where is the camera at this moment, and so even the geography of the story is very well planned.
I loved casting this series, as you have experienced yourself you have people working, and travelling, there from all over the world. With Oslo airport a lot of those people are Norwegians, Swedes, and Danes – so made sure we that was interweaved into the story.
We casted some famous faces, some surprise names, some new faces to acting, and I feel that we had necessity to make a spectrum of characters which makes each one memorable.
This is not the easiest trick to pull off but Sørensen certainly lands it with great success – we have the likes of Id Else Broch (Home for Christmas), Dennis Storhøi (Troll), Sus Wilkins (Loving Adults), Valter Skarsgård (Katla), and Jon Øigarden (Exit) – and that is naming a few!
Per-Olav Sørensen: It was like a puzzle, characters needed different energies, different looks, and signatures – which made even more fun to work on.
This time of year always sees the usual welcome tide of Christmas movies – new and old – all there and ready for watching. TV series’ have been a new discovery and one which the director is well rehearsed in after bringing the excellent Home For Christmas to our screens for two seasons over the past couple of years.
Nordic Watchlist: Do you think A Storm for Christmas will have a place for those grinches out there and get them in the Christmas spirit?
Per-Olav Sørensen: I get asked this question a lot, especially after Home for Christmas, people ask me: ‘do you think these things are banal?’ in the worst sense of the word. I feel we need to be banal because it is the banal things in life that we can all relate to.
If we make everything that is not relatable then there is nothing to laugh or cry about – so I feel you need dare to find something in the writing to be banal before you get arty farty or whatever. Especially when you are basing something in the airport.
Per-Olav goes on to explain how the airport is like a bus stop and in A Storm For Christmas he focuses on what would happen if you had to change the people waiting there from thirty minutes to twenty four hours, during Christmas, they all need to be somewhere but will they get there? Or how?
It is a fun ride as over the six episodes we follow those stories and begin to feel that Christmas magic ourselves (or at the very least be glad we aren’t stuck in an airport).
A Storm For Christmas is out on Netflix now