Filmmaker Kenneth Karlstad has conjured a chaotic coming of age story, “Kids In Crime,” for Norway’s TV2. The writer-director grew the project out from his well received short, “The Hunger,” into eight short episodes. 

It’s a format hoped to attract younger audiences aged 16-22, who are surrounded by many alternative forms of entertainment through social media, games, and streamers. It is unclear how well this strategy worked, but the show proved to be one of 2022’s most successful shows for TV2, according to Brede Havland, producer for Einar Film Drama. It has also been nominated for the Nordisk Film & TV Fond Prize 2023.

An impactful new offering, “Kids In Crime” presents Karlstad’s nose for rebellious but tight narratives and a set of teenage characters hoping to live with the volume turned high. Set in 2001, the show follows the three teenagers Tommy, Pål and Monica, played by newcomers Kristian Repshus, Lea Myren, and Martin Øvrevik. They leap into the deep end of life by running up a large debt with local drug lord Freddy Fingers, played with unpredictable aplomb by Norwegian star Jakob Oftebro (“Kon Tiki,” “1864,” “The Bridge,” “Black Crab,”). 

Friends prior to the project the director didn’t initially see the character Freddy in Jakob Oftebro but he was open to be convinced telling Variety, “Jakob’s talent is on the level of the best actors alive today. Devoted to the bone. If you trust in him, and let him work freely, you’ll be mesmerised by the outcome.”

The high stakes predicament leads the three friends to double down on hedonism, while attempting to navigate a way out. It mixes bold techno beats and a grainy period specific aesthetic, with charismatic performances across the board.  

Director-writer of the show Kenneth Karlstad spoke with Variety:

The series captures the time period in a way that I’m sure many people who were a similar age at the time will recognise. Is the target audience people who were of that time, or is it intended to be broader than that?

The series is made for shit kids, by shit kids. It doesn’t matter what year you were born, really. But to be technical – our primary target audience is youngsters around 16 – 22. Those who are about to move out of their childhood home and live an independent life. Our secondary target is those who were young in 2001. But since my mom’s sewing club loves the show, it looks like we’ve hit pretty broad. 

The episodes are high energy and punchy, did you always intend the episodes to each be less than 30 minutes long?

It’s what the channel wanted, and we adjusted it to that from the start. I found it easier, dramatically, to chop it into eight acts. We could be specific about what the episode is about, rather than talking page numbers. To be honest it’s a 180 minute feature film chopped into eight acts. I wanted things to happen fast as well. Like the whole series was restless and had ADHD.

Kenneth Karlstad Courtesy of Einar Film

What were your major challenges when writing, and expanding from a short to a series?

The biggest challenge was that more characters had to have a dramatic line. But I made it easier for us by deciding early on that every character was going to end up in the same room, at the end. So that the climax was the same for every character. Secondly it was the time. We wrote the scripts in four months. Two scripts a month! But it worked. I’m not much of a ponderer, so it was fun writing fast.

Filmmakers such as Shane Meadows, with “This Is England,” manage to balance characters who make bad choices, while allowing the audience to still care deeply for them. Your characters also make bad choices, but have many of the same needs as all of us to connect, to have fun, to care for something. What were your key references?

Not particularly Meadows, but yes, filmmakers like him. I watched a lot of Spike Lee films like “Clockers,” “Do The Right Thing,” and so on. “La Haine,” “Trainspotting,” ·The Wire,” Lucas Moodysson films. “Spun” by Jonas Åkerlund had a great impact on episode 5. Those are obvious, but to break with the obvious I checked out some Japanese films as well. Like Destruction Babies, which is insanely good. There you have a character just walking around beating up random people. And it dawned on me that as long as characters are entertaining you’ll love to watch them. What will they do next? We’re too worried about likability. But after maybe 90 minutes, it’s interesting to put their behaviour into context. Both for the audience and for yourself, as a writer.

A lot of energy comes from the soundtrack being woven in and out of scenes. Did you have certain tracks in mind when writing the series? 

Yes, all of the tracks are in the script. Most scenes are written for those specific tracks. The music comes first, then the idea for the scene. “KIC” wouldn’t exist without those tracks. Music is why I make films, I wouldn’t work without music. We had many challenges getting tracks licensed, cause of the low budget, and because it’s hard to track down old ravers from the 90’s. Either the label is dead or the artist is dead. And somehow all of them are Italian. Anyway, we had to replace some of the tracks in the script cause of this, and it was a pain in the ass for me. It ripped my heart out every time we had to replace, cause the scene existed because of that particular track. But, to my great surprise, most of the time the outcome was even better! Like the second track 666 – Supadupa Fly, was supposed to be another track, but Supadupa is way more iconic.

Aesthetically you chose to mix in camera technology of the time, why did you want to do this?

I wanted the cartoon-ish wide lense to be contrasted with the realistic VHS home video look. It’s comedy versus reality. It’s the cool world of crime, as the characters see it, contrasted with how dark it actually is. The whole dogma of “KIC” is one word – ambivalence. We wanted the audience to laugh while having pain in their guts. It’s fun, but it’s also serious as well. One wouldn’t work without the other. Plus, every time we shot a scene on VHS the whole energy on set changed. It was electricity in the air. Everyone was looking in the monitor saying WTF!!, feeling that they we’re looking at something illegal. So we ended up using VHS a lot more than planned.

Kids In Crime Courtesy of Einar Film