Why did you decide to make a documentary about hygge?
There are a few questions that always get asked during the Q&A after we screen Finding Hygge. One of those questions is, “Why did you decide to make a documentary about hygge in the first place?“ In order to answer that question, we have to do a little bit of history on 12 Stars Media, the team behind the film.
A little history…
In 2007, my cofounder, Zach Downs, and I started 12 Stars Media to help people create and share stories using video. Like the world around us, a lot has changed over the last decade since we started the company. We grew from two to twenty team members and from producing videos within a ten-mile radius to internationally. To date, our team has visited over a dozen countries, including Morocco, Denmark, Iceland, and the Philippines.
As we’ve grown, we’ve always looked for new ways to live out the convicting Spider-Man mantra, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” That sense of responsibility is what ultimately led us on our journey to produce our first-ever feature-length documentary to share an amazing story that we believe can help change the world.
Every year at 12 Stars Media, we establish a theme. In the beginning, we didn’t know what the theme was until the year was over. Our first three years in business were: “Do anything for anybody,” “Do certain things for anybody,” and “Do certain things for certain people.” Today, we establish our themes in advance and use them to shape the path we take as a company throughout the year.
2015: Our theme was “Be the best at what we do,” and we kicked off the year by taking our team (a dozen at the time) to Disney World for a best-in-class experience.
2016: We focused on our organizational structure and processes to “Be the best at how we do what we do.”
2017: “Be the best in believing in why we do what we do” helped lead the way to our team’s decision to create Finding Hygge.
Visiting Denmark for the first time…
In 2016, Zach and I visited Denmark to meet with a few clients and potential clients. Right away, we noticed some differences between Denmark and America, beyond the architecture and language. Everything and everyone seemed less busy. In the middle of the workday, people were taking breaks in the park and lying in the grass soaking up the sunshine, not their smartphones. When dining out, a server will almost never bring you a bill until you ask, encouraging you to stay as long as you like.
This trip is when I learned about the word hygge. Although hygge is often translated as coziness, less than half of Danes believe hygge can be translated at all (according to Meik Wiking, author of "The Little Book of Hygge"). This concept stuck with me as a back-burner musing for months until our team members advocated for a documentary as a way to celebrate our company’s 10-year anniversary. The two streams of thought came together instantly, and the idea of producing a film that explored the concept of hygge was underway.
Some initial debate…
There is another fun fact that we never have time to share during those rapid-fire Q&A sessions. There was some initial debate about whether or not our crew should be seen in the film. As in, should this film actually be the story of how our team was trying to find the true meaning of hygge for ourselves? Or should we be invisible? Who is the main character going on a journey of finding hygge?
Ultimately, we decided that our team should fade into the background. Sure, you hear the occasional question being asked or if you listen very closely you might hear a laugh or two from our crew, but the one searching for hygge in the final cut of the film is you, the viewer. We wanted that to be as clear as possible without coming right out and saying it. I felt if we were featured as characters in the film, it would put the viewer into a position of viewing from the outside, and, perhaps, not experiencing the journey for yourself in quite the same way.
The deeper meaning of the title, Finding Hygge…
The explosion in popularity, all of the books written on the subject, all of the blog posts and hashtags - they were all saying something, but the definition of hygge still remained elusive. One of my favorite quotes from the film comes from TED presenter and happiness expert Nic Marks. He says, “Hygge is a balancing force. It’s saying something to us. The very fact that everyone’s so interested in it is saying to us that, actually, we’re out of balance. This is why this is so appealing.” So, one thing I always try to be clear about is the order of our priorities when it came to the message of the film: pinning down a clear and concise definition of hygge was second to making the point that finding hygge, like everything else in life, is more about the journey than the destination.
The only thing more interesting than defining hygge was looking deeper into the reason why people were so interested in it to begin with. But that’ll be my next post. Be sure to sign up for our email list so you don’t miss it!