By Christos Zervas
Not long ago, I read an article which ranked the worldai??i??s most stressful countries. Reading through and reaching the rankings, I saw that Norway was placed least stressful out of the 74 countries ranked.
Coming from Greece but having spent recent years in Norway, the difference is indeed obvious to me. I agree with Greeceai??i??s 30th place in the same list. The list made me wonder how Norway contributes to such a noisy and hectic world. The answer can be found in #SlowTV!
Thomas Hellum is the main person responsible for this innovative project. He has worked at NRK Hordaland in Bergen since 1992. The former lighting designer moved into photography and then began work as a producer, specializing in documentaries. In 2009, he became one of the driving forces behind the “Slow TV” movement, filming and broadcasting apparently boring events – as they happen – but turning them into genuinely thrilling successful stories!
I had the pleasure to meet Thomas Hellum in NRKai??i??s HQ in Oslo, where we sat down together for almost 30 minutes and found outai??i?? ai???Why the worldai??i??s most boring television is hilariously addictive!ai??i??
In a time when our societies & lifestyles run in a very fast mode, the idea of #SlowTV started from a common lunch room, in late March of 2009.
Back then, a radio producer had the idea, as of transmitting the German invasion in Norway, at April 9th. Exactly 69 years from that date. However, there was not enough time to get ready. And then, the Bergen railway happenedai??i??
When you buy a train ticket to Bergen, you also buy a ticket on one of Europeai??i??s most spectacular rail routes. It is not just a journey through varied and fabulous landscapes. It also outlines Norwegian history and tradition.
When the construction was approved in 1894, it was intended to join the two key trading cities of the Sweden/Norway union: Stockholm & Bergen. But Norway separated from Sweden in 1905 and when the Bergen Railway officially opened 100 years ago, in 1909, it became the main artery between the Norwegian capital Christiania (as Oslo was called) and Bergen.
An editor simply proposed to capture the whole 7 hours & 4 minutes journey the train makes between Oslo and Bergen. The idea proved to be so crazy it that was too good to pass by. They contacted Osloai??i??s HQ and when they understood the concept, they wondered what it would cost them not to turn this idea into reality!
ai???Yes! Please, do test this crazy project for us!ai???
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What happened afterwards?
As Thomas explained to me ai???We did the recording (ai??i??) and just a week before being transmitted on air, people started talking about it. We then realised that perhaps this was something so crazy, that it would get some attention. By accident, we put up a Facebook & a Twitter account, just a couple of hours before it went on air (ai??i??) and thousands of people were discussing the same things, as if everybody were on the same train (ai??i??). That Friday night, it was aired in the prime time on TV and it was the talk of the day on Twitter.ai???
Even people at parties were saying:
ai???What is this Bergen railway thing? We should go home and watch!ai???
#SlowTV works in Norway, because TV has the power to get people together. This is a power that should be used in a good way. By placing something in the prime time schedule, you say that it is important. If it is screened during the night or solely on the web, itai??i??s harder to make a project seem as important.
Listening to Thomas describing why #SlowTV became successful, the only such lengthy engaging TV productions I could recall, were the Eurovision Song Contest and sport events, like the Olympic Games. However, the unique thing about #SlowTV, was that it was about a journey. A 7-hour train journey, where all spectators could feel together on board and communicate – talk about the journey.
While on their way, a local journalist met them on board for 3 minutes in a train station, and afterwards took a photograph. And they wonderedai??i??
ventolin pills. ai???What if more people knew that we were in that train? How would people react?ai???
This is what convinced Thomas & his production team to broadcast the Atlantic coastal journey live.
ai???This idea came up the same day that we transmitted the Bergen railway. One of the Twitter messages was asking, why to stop at 7 hours ai??i?? when you can do the real Atlantic coastal journey? We were talking and kidding about it. Yet again, it was another good idea. A kind of idea that you keep thinking about the day after. It was only a week after, when I called the company (NRK) and asked, if we can do something more crazy! And again, we got the permission and the channel for 5 A? days.ai???
#SlowTV is an idea worth spreading. The topics of Norwegian #SlowTV are always centred around Norwegian culture which many people can relate to, like salmon fishing or knitting.
The knitting project was a 12-hour #SlowTV. During the first 4 hours, all kind of techniques and information were shared, followed by the 8 hours & 25 min. of a woollen sweaterai??i??s production- from shaving a sheep to the last knit.
Television turns educational again, as people learn about their history & culture. NRK has a strong educational mission, like BBC does. It always depends on the country if television is blamed for low quality, because public channels still have the power to say what is important.
People, particularly youth, should give another chance to television. We still feel eager to connect to each other and be members of the same group. Television has this power. To connect people around something. Thatai??i??s why, when television focuses on live events it engages people. And if you tell the story very well, you give people the chance to experience something altogether, even if someone is physically alone.
Maybe you can search and see everything afterwards, on the web. Yet you lose this unique feeling.
Closing the interview, I challenged Thomas to create the European InteRail #SlowTV project! His reaction?
ai???Itai??i??s a fascinating thought because you have to go to whatai??i??s really binding Europe together, because each country has a different cultural binding that unite it. Thatai??i??s why is a country! You have to investigate whatai??i??s the best way to tell a story that binds all Europe together and makes a person in Greece to identify him/herself with a person in Germany. It would be a fascinating story to tell, if you get this big enough and crazy enough.ai???
In the very end, Thomas summarized everything with his personal quote:
ai???Life is better, when it is a little bit strange!ai???
Listen to the full audio interview with Thomas Hellum: