Mikkel Aaland

"It's All An Adventure"

Production of Perfect Sweat started in July 2017 in Helsinki Finland. Currently, as of early 2021, seven episodes are in post-production. Learn more about the  series at the official web site, www. Perfectsweatseries.com




Everyone sweats. It’s one of the most elemental things a human body can do. But when its pursued intentionally, like eating, drinking or making love, it’s also one of the few natural experiences that can rejuvenate us and bring spiritual and social reconnection to our lives.


Our ancestors understood this and have ritually practiced various forms of intense sweating since the beginning of time.


Today, all over the world, people still seek out the banya, steam room, sweat lodge and hammam. The question our program seeks to answer is why? The motivation can vary by region, culture, country and tradition. Each episode will be a journey exploring the root of that question and seeking the answer. The program will be less about the act of physically steaming and more about the story behind it.


We are in search of the perfect sweat!




Inspired by the book “Sweat” by Mikkel Aaland and starring a host of characters, our series will take the form of an exploratory journey to every corner of the world.


Each episode will take place in a new location that can be anything from a Navajo sweat lodge in Monument Valley to a gigantic Turkish bathhouse to a Swiss sauna inside a mountain gondola dangling high above the peaks.


Within that there are three goals for each show:


a) To visit someplace fascinating

b) To understand why people have historically sweat in the location we are visiting and why they continue to do it today

c) To meet some incredible and entertaining people along the way


Each episode, we will learn something about how others live their day to day lives and how the art of sweat is intertwined within that specific culture and tradition. For example:


- An Inuit in the Northwest Territories might sit in a sweat lodge for spiritual reasons.

- A South Korean might go to a steam room / Korean Bath because that’s what their mother did, their mother’s mother did and their mother’s mother’s mother did. It is part of a regular bathing routine for them and always has been.

- A Finnish person might sauna every day because they are physically addicted to the healthy benefits of steaming.


Health, spirituality, culture, sexuality, vitality, history: these dynamics are found in each character and story.




MIKKEL AALAND will appear during the show as a traveling host/guide. Aaland is one of the world’s leading experts on this topic and has written widely popular books on the subject. He’s extremely well connected and his authority on the matter will help open many doors for our production. A “master of steam,” if you will, Aaland brings wisdom, philosophy and a zest for life to our show.


LOCAL GUIDE / CO-HOST: We will see a different guide/co-host in each location. In Finland our co-host is Samuel Arnio, a young Finn who lives and works in the high tech and entertainment business in Helsinki, Finland. He is a certified sweat fanatic. Recently he made a weekend trip to Berlin with friends and squeezed in 16 sweat sessions at 16 different saunas!


In Russia our host is Anna Artemyeva, whose banya blog, NUDE, reaches thousands of banya enthusiasts all over the world, and who probably knows more about the St. Petersburg banya scene that anyone.


Episodes Currently In Post Production:


FINLAND – Finnish Sauna

RUSSIA – Bania

TURKEY / INSTANBUL – Islamic Hammam

CENTRAL EUROPE -- Sauna Aufguss (Infusion)

JAPAN – Mushi-Buro

U.S.A –Burning Man Festival

NORWAY– Nordic Innovation






We travel to an exotic, amazing, or historically profound sweat in a foreign land and meet the characters who run it and those who use it. We are privy to his or her reactions (good/bad/happy/sad). We’re flying, driving, biking, training, hiking, exploring, eating, and sweating… meeting people along the way. It’s a journey… never quite satisfied, we keep searching for the perfect sweat.



In each show we’ll feature an internationally-known celebrity or personality. We will seek out this person and have them show us their own sweat-related ritual and place, and talk to us about what sweat means to their health and life.



We’ll discover the hottest sauna in Finland, the most modern banya in London, the most elaborate hammam in Turkey, the most elegant steam room in Japan, along with the strange: a phone-booth sauna in Helsinki, an underwater sauna-in-a-submarine, and a ridiculous wearable-portable sauna (that works).



The modern day sweat movement is directly related to an international trend towards healthier lifestyles and back-to-basics thinking. We’re sharing philosophies about health, medical benefits, and how-to techniques on this ancient art.



Human cultures have been after the perfect sweat for over 10,000 years. The Romans had “thermae” capable of holding 3,000 bathers at once! The sweat lodge has been a prominent feature of Native American culture. In every country we visit, we’ll find the ruins and origins of ancient sweathouse practices and bring them to life



WHO WE ARE (Partial List)





Bray's Run Productions is a Seattle-based independent film production company founded by Greg Moga that specializes in exploring culture, history and travel through the prism of charismatic people across the globe. We open doors into aspects of culture that traditional media has overlooked.





Mikkel Aaland is an award-winning photojournalist and the best-selling author of fifteen books. Aaland's best known book is the 1978 classic best seller 'Sweat, The Illustrated History and Description of the Finnish Sauna, Russian Banya, Islamic Hamman, Japanese Mushi-buro, Mexican Temescal and American Indian & Eskimo Sweat lodge.' Aaland, who leads photography workshops around the globe, is comfortable both in front and behind a camera.





Mika Hotakainen is a Finnish director and writer, known for the critically acclaimed films, Steam of Life (2010), Freedom to Serve (2004) and Ristin tie (2016). Mika is the director for the first Perfect Sweat segment, the Finnish Sauna, which began filming on July 25th 2017.





Alina Rudnitskaya is an award winning film director and producer. She is a 2001 graduate of St. Petersburg University for Arts and Culture, Department of Film Directing, where she started her career in the St. Petersburg Documentary Film Studio.  Rudnitskaya's films have been shown worldwide and received critical acclaim and prizes in festivals in Leipzig, Madrid, Oberhausen, Zagreb, Berlin, Belgrade, Moscow, and St. Petersburg. Rudnitskaya's films always have a characteristic original perspective; she is interested not only in depicting the facts of life but also in exploring the internal worlds of her characters. She succeeds in painting a vivid image of modern society while maintaining a very personal and humanistic approach to each one of her stories.





Wolfgang Ettlich is an award-winning German documentary film maker – specializing in long-term observation. In 1985, Ettlich founded Mediengruppe Schwabing (MGS). In 1995, he received the Grimme-Preis for his film “Ausgerechnet Bananen” and in 1999 he received a nomination for the German Film Award for his film “Wir machen weiter”. In 2017, he was the first documentary director to receive the prestigious film award from the City of Hof.





Doug Pray has directed a number of highly acclaimed feature-length documentary films about subcultures and maverick characters. His work includes, “ART & COPY” which won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Arts and Culture Programming and “SURFWISE” about legendary surfer and health guru, Dr. Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz. Doug’s other films include the critically acclaimed and internationally distributed “HYPE!” “SCRATCH,” “BIG RIG,” “INFAMY,” and “LEVITATED MASS.” Doug won his first Emmy Award for an HIV-AIDS awareness campaign he shot and directed in El Salvador for Viacom. In 2012, he won international awards for “WAKE UP THE TOWN,” a series of shorts for Phillips filmed in the world’s northernmost village. He has directed a Spike TV program for Dr. Martens called “VEER,” and “FEEL YOUR HEART RACE” for ESPN about auto racing. Clients include Google, Budweiser, IBM, Samsung, Ford, PBS, Microsoft, Mobil, Kodak, Adidas, Nike, Sprite, Guinness, and the Canadian Government. He is currently executive producing, writing/editing a 4-episode docu-series for HBO called “THE DEFIANT ONES.”





Samuel Aarnio lives and works in the high tech and entertainment business in Helsinki, Finland. He is a certified sweat fanatic.  He writes: ““I am a young guy who just loves the sauna. I use it for everything - to relax from busy days, to plan my travel locations, keep up health and maintain a low stress level, for creativity, cardio, self medication, meditation and to meet new and old friends.” Recently he made a weekend trip to Berlin with friends and squeezed in 16 sweat sessions at 16 different saunas.





Anna Artemieva is a 25 year-old interior design journalist and public relations specialist, representing cutting-edge architects, brands and dealers. Burkina's creative design company is called the Shum (which means 'noise' in Russian) Agency. Anna is a dedicated blogger whose posts about the banya culture are followed by over 10,000. She calls herself a "banya addicted girl' who is hooked on the healthy living communal aspects of the traditional bathing culture of Russia.




Christine Rose was introduced to the modern Aufguss Sauna culture after moving from her native Germany to northern Italy. While bathing at Cron 4, a public sauna center in South Tyrol, she experienced a “romantic sauna dance” where the Aufgussmaster executed a unique sauna ritual with dancing movements, music and natural oils which were put on the ice-balls on the sauna stove. Afterwards, Christine and her partner Maria Santini and friends, founded the Italian Aufguss Association, AISA, dedicated to bringing the Aufguss culture to Italy and Europe through contests and education.


Christine is a highly ranked Aufguss contestant and has successfully participated in several national Aufguss preliminary contests, as well as the International Aufguss-WM Finals, with 500 participants.  Christine also works as a volunteer for the Italian Sauna Association with its 400 members.





Mika Hotkanen, director

Julle Takanen, producer

Sampo Johansson, cameraman,

Jan-Niclas Jansson, cameraman

Sami Rehmonen, cameraman

Jukka Uitto, soundman

Petri Kettunen, soundman

Ilona Tolmunen, production assistant

Jenny Nyberg, production assistant


With additonal help from:

Sebastian Kahakorpi (Villa Upinniemi), Johanna Sandborg & Saara Louhensalo (Sampo Sauna), Ilmari Absetz (owner of sailboat), Risto Elomaa, Tommi Ullgren, Lasse Eriksen (Farris Spa), Jose Rikonen (Helsingin Sanomat), Flyboard Helsinki, and Meeko electric scooters, Helsinki.





Alina Rudnitskaya, Director

Anna Artemieva, guide and co-host

Anastasia Lobanova, Production assistant

Alexander Filippov, Director of photography

Alexey Matveev, DOP Assistant

Alexander Berdeev, 2nd DOP

Augil Musina, 3rd DOP

Sergei Rybnikov, Sound engineer

Vladimir Mikhailov, Video engineer

Vitaliy Karpovich, Drone operator

Andrey Romanov, Driver


VAARA Productions, Helsinki

Julle Takanen, Producer

Mika Hotakainen, Co-producer


With additonal help from:


Ulla Simonen, Risto Elomaa, Tommi Ullgren, Jarmo Lehtola, Vasily Liakhov (Moscow), Alex Migoushov,  Mikhail Brodsky, Bryon MacWilliams, Lasse Eriksen, Vera Barsuk, and Evgenia Shepeneva.




©2021 Mikkel Aaland

All Rights Reserved