Against adversity, the human will to succeed produces a determinism that can be very powerful. Moving to live in a foreign country can produce this kind of ‘strength of spirit’ within us all. In this section, Success in Sweden, we will be looking at individuals and groups that have persevered through the unknown, to produce achievements and success in their lives. By sharing their stories we hope to inspire and encourage all of you!
This is the story of expat, Josh Thorne, and his film production company, made right here in Sweden.
Thorne Film AB
Coming to Sweden for the first time should have been a daunting task, but as many of us expats know, love can drag you through any situation.
My life in London, which I’d terminated completely to join my new love, was full and successful. This background gave me the fuel and confidence to settle into and search for opportunities in my new country of residence. Opportunities, that were easy to find once I examined the knowledge gaps within the Swedish system.
Prior to my move to Stockholm in 1989, I had been working as a film producer in London where I had produced many UK TV commercials. I worked with a London production company, who’s client base was made-up of advertising agencies.
Consequently, when moving to Sweden, I’d set my sights on approaching all the advertising companies in Stockholm. Whilst living with my Swedish wife in Stockholm, I began to pursue an idea that came to me during my rounds there, whereby, I could offer companies the consultation of what was termed as, an agency producer. The profession was unknown to the majority of Swedes but played a huge role in the commercial film making industry, outside of the Nordic region.
The job basically entailed me (or any other agency producer) to be the controller of film production budgets, ideas, schedules and administration, between advertising agencies and film production companies. This seemed to be the way to go, I thought, and proceeded to open up the very first agency producer company in Scandinavia, servicing all the larger agencies such as Saatchi and Saatchi, Grey Advertising, and DDB Needham.
The workload soon became too much for me alone and around two years into the company’s life, I needed to look for help. It came in the form of Mark Baughen and William Hicks who had both come from the film/ advertising industry in the UK. Both had moved over to Sweden for the same reason as me, love.
The company went from strength to strength and even though other individuals tried to copy our business idea, we held our own. We were involved with one of the very first commercials on Swedish commercial television for ‘YES’. We also had campaigns for various well established brands and were nominated and won the Swedish equivalent of a Cannes Lion. With all this going on, the company couldn’t help but grow and soon we found ourselves 11 strong, which for Swedish standards, wasn’t a bad size company.
I’d met Colin Nutley, a well known expat director, after calling him up on a whim, regarding his work on a film he’d directed called Blackjack. I asked if he’d be interested in directing commercials for me, which he agreed to, and we met up for a coffee in my office. To my surprise and glee, it turned out that he’d directed one of my favourite short BBC series called ’Annika’ back in the early 80’s. A wonderfully naive and well directed story about a Swedish schoolgirl on a school trip to the Isle of Wight in the UK. On the way a local biker fell in love with her, followed her all the way back to Sweden where he battled his way through the language, culture and Swedish ways. Unfortunately the story finishes sadly, but here I was sitting in front of the man who had written and directed it! Colin and I hit it off immediately on that first meeting and went on to produce our first project together, a TV commercial for Wasabröd – the Swedish hard-bread producer.
With my business going well with Mark and Will, along with our production team, I decided to pursue the role of producing films for Colin and any other directors that I met along the way. In addition to producing for Colin, I ended up producing and executive producing for Richard Petrelius, Joakim Eliasson and a few other one offs. ’As you do!’
Colin and I went on to make at least 20 films together during a good few years. I joined him in the production of his feature film Sista Dansen (The Last Dance) as his 1st assistant director and after that we went our own ways. He started up his own film company and I followed a different path which has lead me to where I am today.
We asked Josh to finish with some practical advice for those setting up a new life in Sweden.
What do you personally love about Sweden?
I’m from London and the thing I love most about Sweden is the intimacy of it’s capital, the care and tradition for nature and the environment. The clean water that’s everywhere around us and the opportunities for a very high standard of life.
What has been the hardest hurdle for you to overcome here?
The hardest thing to overcome was the language. If, like me, you work with communication, it’s a must to understand what makes the Swede laugh & cry. The language allows you to get closer to the culture, humour and the way in which the Swedish mind works. The bureaucracy wasn’t, and isn’t, too easy to accept either. The Swedes do like a piece of A4 paper!
What tips and tricks do you have for people moving here?
One quality that I found very quickly, when moving to Sweden, is patience. I’ve had an enormous amount of bureaucracy thrown in my face over the years and it’s really a case of – going – with – it !
Do you have any other advice for new-comers to Sweden?
I would advise all new-comers to listen to every conversation at every moment and ask people to talk to you in Swedish whenever possible. They will almost certainly use only easy words to begin with, so it should be a smooth and slow transition into the advanced language as you go along. I would also advise newcomers to explore the freedom of the countryside. Nowhere else in the world has the law that you may pass, park or picnic, on any property, without needing permission. This gives you an amazing insight into places that would normally be inaccessible in other countries.
Josh is today, owner, CEO and executive producer at an animation studio called againstallodds in Stockholm. He lives with his wife, a dog, a cat and four children in Älvsjö. He has a summer house in Sörmland just two hours away from Stockholm and travels back to London for short visits every once in a while.