Behrman has a background as political reporter for the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet and news programme Ekot. Other screenplays to his credit include the series Skeppsholmen and the feature film Four More Years. He also works as a psychologist in Stockholm.

Rockström has been writing for television for more than 20 years. He is associated to the acclaimed series Alex, Thicker than Water, Wallander and Walk the Talk. 

Both Behrman and Rockström collaborated earlier on SVT’s crime series Before We Die

Caliphate is based on Behrman’s original idea. Shot in Stockholm and Jordan, the eight-part thriller follows five women whose fate is intertwined in an examination of how religious fundamentalism can seduce individuals and destroy lives.

The young Swedish woman Pervin, wife of an ISIS fighter, is stuck in Raqqa, Syria with her baby, but desperate to get away. Fatima is a Säpo intelligent officer, trying to stop an ISIS terrorist attack. At the same time, three Swedish teenage school girls gradually slide towards religious radicalism.

In the main roles are Aliette Opheim, Gizem Erdogan, Amed Bozan, Albin Grenholm, Nora Rios, Yussra El Abdouni, and Amanda Sohrabi. The series is directed by Goran Kapetanović, who won a Guldbagge - Best Director for his film My Aunt in Sarajevo in 2017. Tomas Michaelsson is producing for the established production house Filmlance (The Bridge, Beck). Endemol Shine International handles distribution.

Too read more about all the 2020 Nordisk Film & TV Fond Prize nominees: CLICK HERE.

What does it mean for you to be nominated for the Nordisk Film & TV Fond Prize?
Wilhelm Behrman: It’s huge! I’ve never been nominated for anything in my whole life!

Niklas Rockström: I was surprised and very happy about the nomination! This is the only Nordic TV drama screenwriting prize, which makes it even bigger.

When did you get into screenwriting and why?
WB: It was totally by chance. 25 years ago, I worked as a journalist and an old friend who was in television told me that they needed writers for a low status comedy show. We were the only ones interested so we got the job. The business was different in those days.

NR: I wrote short stories in my early 20s, and was probably aiming for a life as a real author, but realised soon that I went to the movies more often than I read books. So that was a big hint about my future. At this time, the business needed screenwriters for the everyday soap operas, so that’s where I began writing scripts. This was some 20 years ago.

What aspect(s) of TV screenwriting do you find most challenging but also most thrilling?
WB: To surprise the audience, make things happen that they didn’t expect. And make the dialogue imitate real life. It’s an everyday fight with yourself.

NR: It's always a challenge to find the unique angle of a story that makes it unpredictable. But it also has to be character-driven. Finding a mix of those two aspects that works is something that occupies us a lot in the writers’ room.

What type of stories and genres make you tick?
WB: Romcom.

NR: I don’t have a special genre; it all depends about the story. But I do get a little bit more excited the few times I run into an idea that is similar to the movie The Talented Mr Ripley.

Tell us about the genesis of Caliphate. How did you get the idea for the series?
WB: I saw this photo on the news of three British teenage girls who ran away from their families to join ISIS. That really shook me, maybe because I have a daughter the exact same age. So I felt I had to write a story about it, Niklas agreed and we created Caliphate

How did you share the writing? In what way do you complement each other?
WB: One of us comes up with an idea, then we build the story together and write a storyline. After that the one who came up with the idea does most of the writing. I’m not sure what strengths Niklas and I possess respectively, but I do know that he is brilliant in every aspect of the profession and that we make each other better simply by shooting down each other’s mediocre ideas.

NR: We are different, Wille and I, but it’s hard to say in what way and how we complement each other. He’s the smart one, that I know for sure!! But I have also noted that when one of us is in doubt about the whole project, the other one seems to be more certain than ever. The most important is the respect we have for each other. Without that balance it just wouldn’t work.

What type of research and interviews did you do to bring flesh to your characters and create your plot?
WB: We made our research by reading a lot of articles and books and watching documentaries about ISIS and how they recruit people in Western Europe. After we came up with our story, we let a couple of experts on terrorism check it. But it’s important to always let the story guide the research work, not vice versa. We tell ourselves: this is what we want to happen, how can we make it realistic?

Can you discuss the role of mobile phones and the challenge of creating suspense through dialogue-driven scenes?
WB: Cell phones and texting are a nuisance. We still haven’t come up with a solution; they really slow everything down. Suspense in dialogue-driven scenes is created in the editing room, it’s absolutely critical for the process to have a lot of filmed material to cut afterwards, especially close-ups. Without that you’re in trouble. 

NR: As a screenwriter I wish mobile phones were never invented. They are a problem for a lot of suspense situations where the character nowadays only has to make a phone call to survive (or whatever the problem may be in the story). On the other hand, characters get a lot of information thanks to mobile phones that can increase the feeling of suspense in many scenes. The trick is to make it as natural as possible, which is almost impossible. It hurts every time I write a scene where a character is escaping a dangerous situation and giving important information on the phone at the same time. 

How was your collaboration with Goran Kapetanović and with SVT?
WB: When Goran came on board, the script was already finished. So we didn’t collaborate that much. The people at SVT were great support from the very beginning and all along the process. They showed how much they believed in the project and trusted us. We had no frustrating script meetings. 

The series deals with the problem of integration, especially among second generation young Muslims. Was your intention partly to steer a debate in Swedish society?
WB: No. We have no such goal. We just wanted to write a good thriller. And I don’t think the show will start some kind of debate, other than artistic maybe. We are not the first ones to write this kind of story. Two years ago there was a great Beck movie - Beck Your Own Blood which dealt with the same subject.

What's next for you? Season 2 of Caliphate?
WB: Oh, I don’t know. We have one or two new projects coming up. It’s so much more fun to write new stuff instead of second seasons.

NR: We have some ideas for new series, but right now it’s hard to say which one will be the next to get story-lined.